Law on the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Coastline: Adjustments and Refinements for the Management of the Spanish Shoreline 

November, 2013 - Administrative and Planning Law Department and Planning and Zoning Department

The European Parliament’s Auken Report made it clear that Spain is coming up short as far as protecting its coastline is concerned. Application of Coastal Law 22/1988, of July 28, 1988, fast-tracked in recent years, not only brought with it no little confusion for all concerned, it also failed to contribute to the protection of the coastline, which clearly leaves a great deal to be desired along certain stretches of the Spanish coast.

The fact of the matter is that the Spanish coast comes under confusing and contradictory pressure, from development and economic uses in the more developed areas to key areas of land and marine ecosystems along the less built-up stretches.

This confirmation –at both national and European level­– that the coastallegislation has not been taken on board by the public at large and that there is obvious room for improvement, even in terms of protecting the coastline, has led to the enactment of a new Law, which amends the most controversial aspects of its predecessor, clarifies the system for land and property owners and draws a distinction between coastal areas that are open to economic development and natural conservation areas.

In this respect, Law 2/2013, of May 29, 2013, on the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Coast, amending Coastal Law 22/1988, of July 28, 1988 aims to qualify the definition of the public domain coastline, restricting its scope in comparison with the previous situation and excluding areas previously included under the former legislation. It also aims to extend the maximum term of public domain coastline concessions, now set at 75 years (subject to regulation­), and provides for the possibility of transferring concessions under all types of inter vivostransactions.

Protecting the coastline is based on drawing a distinction between the rules and uses applicable to urban beaches and those applicable to beaches in natural environments, as well as providing for special payments to concession-holders or owners of properties borderingthe coastline to perform protection and conservation works.

The new Law introduces sufficient new features in the coastal regime to trigger renewed interest in coastline management. It will, however, be a case of waiting for the Regulations (which will probably appear next quarter) in order to draw a clear picture of the new coastline protection system.


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