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Unfortunately Spain is well known for its notorious
laws - but to explain exactly what land grab is, we need to look at building land designations.
In the first instance it must be remembered that Spain is split into 17 autonomous regions
or communities all of which have their own laws upon which any land grab actions are based,
besides the national laws which don't affect these actions.
Here are the three Spanish Land Classifications:
Urbano (Building) Land:
This is clearly designated as such in or near villages and towns. Usually smaller plots
than other classifications and is more expensive than land in the Rustico class. Property
within this designation cannot be subject to "land grab" if it has been fully urbanised.
This is all land not classed as Urbanised. Rustic land is the largest land classification
in Spain. Rustico land can be re-designated as Urbanisable at any time. This is likely to
happen in high development potential areas such as those close to the coast or, a popular
town inland. If the Rustico Land is re-classified as Urbanisable it is at this point
that "Land Grab" along with all the liabilities for the cost of new infrastructure could
This is land that was Rustico but where the designation has been changed.
It is actually the transition period between the land being Rustico and Urbano.
At this stage a buyer or owner of property in the affected area can inherit a significant
liability, as a property owner, to contribute to the new infrastructure works. The works
could mean the installation of street lighting, utilities and services (water electricity etc)
and the cost to an occupant whose property is included is very high indeed. If the road
has to be widened, then the occupant will also have to give up some of his land for this
purpose and if your house happens to be on the requisitioned land - then a demolition order
may follow. The urbanized cost - that is "contributing" to the infrastructure is based on
your land area and although contributions vary from area to area a sum of 40€/m2
of land owned would not be unusual.
The Urbano plot may have a project and license to build or you may apply for permission to
build a home of a given size without any problems. Building plots range in size from 600m2
to 2,000m2 depending on the conditions applied to the urbanization plan
(Plan Parcial). Usually urbanizations comprising individual houses are made up of plots of
800-1000m2. As a general rule, a building may not occupy more than 20% to 30%
of the area of the building plot.
Rustico plots (Suelo no urbanizable) Building is permitted although this varies throughout
all the different communities. In many areas on a plot of 10,000m2 a building of
no more that 2% will be allowed as a ground floor with a maximum total house size of 400m2
(max 2 floors). The 400m2 is the house size and a cellar; terraces and pool can
also be added. Rustico plots are generally much cheaper than Urban, but remember that you
may have no water or electricity on the land and it is expensive to buy a water share. Many
rustic or "campo homes" only use solar, wind and generators for power and the water is only
Building & Restoration Regulations in Spain - Important changes to the rules
It is quite common practice these days for people invest in an old run-down finca, barn or
even a total ruin with a view to restoring it to a habitable dwelling. Until very recently,
it was possible to restore and extend a ruin in a rustic zone to occupy an area equivalent
to 2% of the plot size, without having a minimum 10,000m2 plot. Sometimes an
insignificant heap of stones on a small plot was interpreted as being an existing building
by some town halls in order to get around the rules. However, this loop hole has now been
closed by the regional authorities and planning applications to extend the building beyond
its original size with less than 10,000 m2 of land will be rejected.
The General rules are:
The ascetic appearance must always be maintained; for example if the existing building is
built of stone then the restoration must be the same. Large PVC patio doors and other
modern fittings visible from the exterior are not allowed. Permission would almost certainly
be refused for the addition of such features as circular towers or turrets.
Extension to or expansion of the existing building is limited to a maximum total constructed
area of 2% on each floor. Therefore an existing ruin with a constructed area of 120m2
on a plot of 10,000 m2 could be extended to 400m2 in total with a
maximum ground floor area of 200m2. A plot of less than 10,000m2
would only permit the building to be restored or repaired but not extended beyond its
EG plot size 10,000m2 x 0.2 = 200m2 per floor.
Maximum two floors = 400m2 (Total constructed area.)
Portugal is quite different to Spain as Portugal has some of the strictest planning laws
in Europe which have been introduced to ensure sustainable development and to enhance and
protect green open spaces. Perhaps they are determined not to go the same way as Spain and
allow vast over-development that has taken place there.
There are five different classifications for land:
(Protected) There is an almost zero chance of any development on Reserve status land.
A forest or woodland areas. New fire regulations have made it difficult to secure planning
permission on this classification
If land within the local published Local Development Plan designated areas - planning
permission is usually granted.
Mainly agricultural and planning permission is unlikely to be approved although a building
such as a timber frame unit would be favoured as it would not be viewed as a permanent
dwelling The Plano Director Municipal (PDM), which governs this classification, is updated
regularly and gives clear definitions of any changes to land classification in all areas.
Land designated for commercial use in industrial areas.
There is a huge difference between traditional masonry construction methods and Timber
Frame modern methods of construction. The two cannot be compared for quality, speed of
occupation, cost and of course comfort and ecological ratings.
Every timber frame house built
saves about 4 tonnes of CO2 (a similar amount produced by driving 14.000 miles in a 1300 cc car).
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