The Axarquía region is eagerly awaiting the law change. / SUR

Regional MPs approve landmark law to speed up planning permits

The Andalusian parliament voted on the new LISTA legislation, which should also help some owners of 'illegal' homes to regularise their properties

SUR MALAGA.

In a landmark vote last week, the Andalusian parliament approved a new, milestone land planning law for the region that has been eagerly awaited by business leaders and local town halls.

Regional ministers hope that the new, more flexible rules on building permits will provide an important economic boost for Andalucía. However, opposition parties have accused the regional government of opening up the countryside to speculation and hurrying it through before regional elections next year.

The new law - officially known as Ley de Impulso y Sostenibilidad del Territorio de Andalucía, or LISTA for short - should help speed up planning applications and make it easier for individual municipalities to get their master town plans approved.

Attempts to replace an out-of-date 20-year-old regional planning law had been ongoing within the regional government and parliament for several years.

The LISTA will now be fleshed out into specific rules and regulations by the Junta de Andalucía over the next year. Malaga province is potentially the main area to benefit in the region, due to the level of construction and number of development plans in the pipeline.

Among the benefits will be faster completion of reports needed for planning permission, as the information required, such as for environmental impact studies, is simplified. Different official bodies will be required to work together more to smooth the process.

Town hall master plans

Many town halls are eagerly awaiting the new rules to begin or finish off their own updated master town plans, known until now as PGOUs. Many of these don't meet old regional planning law or have been thrown out by courts - as is the case of Marbella and more recently Torremolinos and Benahavís, paralysing local investment.

Municipal PGOUs will now become two separate documents - a strategic one and a detailed one - to make amendments easier.

Mayor of Marbella Ángeles Muñoz said that the LISTA will mean "town planning will stop being a stumbling block in Marbella", adding that it will allow many under-used or irregular buildings to be put to better use in the resort.

Easier to build in rural areas

The new regional law opens the door for more construction on rural land that is not directly linked to farming or other economic activity on the land. Providing the rules are met, it should now be easier for private homes to be built in the countryside.

Disagreement between parties over this aspect had been one of the main obstacles. In reply to Socialist party complaints, regional minister for Development Marifrán Carazo said, "Allowing standalone homes on rural land isn't going to mean paving over the countryside, not at all - it is a response to a real need."

In Malaga province, the Axarquía area especially was looking forward to the new law in order to help local mayors to legalise many of the more than 20,000 homes built in the countryside in the last three decades without falling within existing regional legislation. Across the whole province, some 50,000 homes are in this position and some 300,000 across the region.