Supreme Court Places Thousands Of Homes In Legal Limbo

1 July 2016 – Expansión

The town plans for Gijón, Vigo and Marbella are the latest to join the long list of projects that the High Court has declared null and void, placing thousands of homes into legal uncertainty.

The real estate bubble is still causing problems years after it burst. In the last five years, the Supreme Court has ratified the annulment of several general town plans (PGOU) all over Spain, decisions that have continued in the last year with the High Court bringing down the plans in three other places, specifically, in Vigo, Marbella and Gijón.

These rulings make thousands of homes illegal, given that they were constructed in accordance with PGOU guidelines that are now considered null and void. What will happen to them now? Although the risk of demolition exists, it is minimal and the next step for the municipal companies is to draft and approve new PGOUs that include a process to normalise these buildings, which currently find themselves in a kind of legal limbo.

However, that is not the only negative consequence of this escalation in litigation, as reflected in the round table organised by two partners at Ontier, Jaime Díaz de Bustamante and Jorge Álvarez, together with Susana Rodríguez, Managing Director at the consultancy firm Aguirre Newman, and Antonio Pleguezuelo, Director of Town Planning at the same firm.

“The cascade of PGOU annulments is generating a considerable lack of legal certainty”, said Díaz de Bustamante, who insisted that this situation “deters international investors, who cannot afford to allocate their capital to an urban development plan that is subject to unstable regulation”.

But, what are the reasons behind all of these rulings from the Supreme Court, which are nullifying PGOUs all over the country? According to the experts consulted, one of the main reasons is the lack of communication and coordination between the different administrations involved in the preparation of the urban plans.

In this sense, Jorge Álvarez and Antonio Pleguezuelo requested greater coordination between autonomous communities and the central Government when it comes to defining the rules that are going to be applied, as that would result in greater certainty, in their view.

Delays in the process

Nevertheless, more concern and unease in the sector is leading to delays in the approval of urban plans, which, in some cases, is even resulting in changes in government.

For this reason, the experts at Ontier and Aguirre Newman insist on the importance of reducing the regulations relating to PGOUs. “The bureaucracy surrounding these plans need to be reduced so that they can be approved more quickly and adapted to the social reality”, explained Díaz de Bustamante.

Not surprisingly, most of the PGOUs that have been declared void by the Supreme Court in recent years had defects relating to the processing of the different reports required or to the sectoral processes, almost all of which are provided for by state law.

Original story: Expansión (by Laura Saiz)

Translation: Carmel Drake

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