Since, in 2013, the Government of Mariano Rajoy (PP) allowed the almost automatic extension for decades of the occupations that were going to expire in factories, beach bars or walkways on the coast, 346 of these permits have been extended “unjustifiably”, according to qualifies the European Commission.
The Government finalizes the regulation to prevent houses, restaurants or factories from occupying the coast for a century
Brussels opened a file on Spain last Wednesday for lack of transparency and impartiality when choosing occupations on the coast. The Commission considers that “the possibility of extending existing concessions without justification is against the rules.”
The 346 extensions without public competition under the 2013 rule include everything, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. From a house, to a beach bar, a catwalk or the ENCE paper factory whose license was extended by the Rajoy Executive thanks to its reform of the Coastal Law and while in office. The Supreme Court has just revoked the suspension of the permit issued by the National Court.
After the opening of the infringement process, in Ecological Transition they understand that “the extension provided for in the 2013 law would constitute an automatic renewal for its current owner, which gives it a competitive advantage.” In other words, someone else might be interested in taking advantage of that occupation, but if the process is carried out without public participation, that possibility is nullified.
Disorder on the coast
In fact, the third vice president, Teresa Ribera, as soon as the legislature began in 2020, warned that “there is a lot of disorder on the coast”, to anticipate that she was proposing to modify the coastal regulations.
A little later, when the climate change law was approved, Ribera explained that the Popular Party had “particular concern” about deactivating the article that deals with the vulnerability of the coast: “They were concerned about the situation of Ence and asked us to include a reference that, in some way, would deactivate the process of judicial control to which the authorization is subject.” Then came the Supreme Court ruling.
Finally, the Ministry has modified the General Regulation of Coasts so that the norm makes reference on numerous occasions throughout the articles to restrict the total term of the occupations to a maximum of 75 years with all the extensions that could be obtained. It is considered that it is the key to close, in theory, the door to concessions that could last even a century.
This regulation ends the automatic successive extensions. But it is also in charge of creating “a regulation that modulates and targets the decision on the granting of concessions and extensions and their duration.”
In other words, the problem of the lack of “transparency” and “impartiality” when granting and prolonging occupation licenses in the maritime-terrestrial public domain that the European Commission is now talking about had already arisen. The new regulation, published in the BOE only in August 2022, indicates that “the decision to grant or deny a concession or an extension cannot, therefore, be arbitrary and must be carried out in accordance with objective criteria contemplated in national regulations. and international”.
The maritime-terrestrial domain is the strip of the coast that, once declared, marks the land and the assets that must be protected to “guarantee the integrity of the coastal and marine environment and its use and public enjoyment”. An area safe from urbanism.
The Spanish Constitution explicitly recognizes it in article 132 and declares it “inalienable, imprescriptible and unseizable”. Ecological Transition details that in that area the “prohibition of new constructions, homes or hotels of any kind” is established.
Although he also adds: “It is not so much a question of prohibiting activities on the coast, as of ensuring that they are sustainable and respectful of the environment.” The occupation concessions are the instrument to reconcile both things.