The arrival of multinational retail giant Primark in Marbella, which has been on hold since 2014, can go ahead now. A change in a local planning regulation that was approved in the last council meeting of 2018 means that La Cañada shopping centre can at last increase the surface area of the retail unit previously destined for the Irish-registered low-cost clothing company, and so meet its requirements for as much space as possible.
Four years ago, La Cañada reached a deal with Primark for it to open in Marbella. An especially large store unit, at the far end of the mall near Zara and Marks & Spencer, was set aside where there was once a gym. Some neighbouring shops were also moved out to expand the space.
However, that still wasn't enough surface area for what the brand needed, so a new mezzanine floor covering 2,000 square metres across the unit was planned plus 121 square metres on the upper floor.
The project would have created 200 jobs but it was blocked by Marbella town hall as councillors said it did not comply with the rules of the PGOU master town plan of 2010 that was in force at the time. The shopping centre started the work without a building licence, which the town planning department subsequently stopped.
La Cañada then went on to launch a legal appeal, saying that the permitted surface area of the mall hadn't been exceeded and so the mezzanine could be added. However the courts upheld the town hall's decision.
As a result, Primark's attempt to open in Marbella at the time was frustrated, and the unit has stayed empty ever since. The chain also has large stores in Malaga city and Fuengirola but it has still maintained its initial interest in Marbella.
The regular council meeting last month approved a modification to the current valid town plan, the PGOU of 1986, that allows a surface area to be increased as long as it doesn't alter the external shape of a commercial building and is meant to maximise usage or modernise it. (The entire 2010 Marbella town plan was ruled invalid by a court in 2015).
The rule change opens the way for mezzanines to be added to industrial units and shops on retail parks in Marbella.
According to the mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, the measure was put before the council for a vote following requests from business owners in the units on industrial estates in Marbella, Nueva Andalucía and San Pedro.
Although the 1986 PGOU plan had undergone a temporary, urgent modification last summer before a new master town plan is drawn up, this change had been left off that agreement, despite businesses requesting it be included.
The new rule means the work stopped in 2014 at La Cañada can now be carried out, according to town hall sources. The owner of La Cañada, General de Galerías Comerciales Socimi SA, would need a fresh building licence, which so far hasn't been requested, said the same sources.
Other sources have confirmed that four years after the initial disappointment, Primark is still interested in opening in Marbella and the only retail space that meets its requirements for easy access and parking space is at La Cañada.