The Spanish government approved today a controversial change to the Coastal law of 1998, condoning the presence of homes built on public coastal lands for another 75 years. The homes had been destined to be demolished on the basis of the previous legislation. The plan for the law - opposed by environmental groups - was illustrated by the government's second ranking leader and spokesperson, Soraya Sanz de Santamaria, at the end of a cabinet meeting Friday. The reform would make it so that structures built less than 100 meters from the sea could not be razed for the next 50 years; it would give consent to the government to suspend agreements with municipalities against the legislation; it would establish four-year concessions for beach bars called ''chiringuitos'', and modify the administrative boundary of the public domain.
According to the government, the changes ''will better protect the coast from urban planning excesses, generate more economic activity and be an effective tool to protect the coast, ensuring security for citizens and businesses.'' The reform is strongly opposed by ecological and environmental protection organizations, according to which an extension of concessions for 75 years will bring severe environmental damage. They also charge that the legal changes amount to amnesty for construction.
There are currently 10,000 homes built on public land, according to figures from the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and Environment, most of which were erected prior to the Coastal Law of 1998. On at least 1,100 of these, the concession to remain is due to expire in 2018, forcing them to face demolition.
In addition, there are 23,000 non-residential structures on Spanish coastal land, including bars, restaurants and industrial buildings, that ''generate an elevated employment volume'' that the new reforms aim to save. The new norm will also modify beach use, with a zoning regime that differentiates between urban tracts, tracts contiguous with urbanized soil and tracts that are natural, near protected and rural soils. The latter should see ''a higher level of protection than those currently enforced.''