The reform of the Coast Law recently announced by the agriculture and environment minister, Miguel Arias Cañete, is advancing inexorably through parliamentary channels. As was expected of it, it is going to pull the rug out from under the existing law, approved in 1988, which attempts to reduce the pressure of property speculation on the littoral.
The bill prepared by the present government leaves no room for doubt. The numerous structures built on public seacoast land, which according to the previous law were expropriated, although allowed to remain in private hands for a period of 30 years, (extendible to 60) are now going to enjoy a far longer period of grace: 75 years.
According to the text of the new bill these properties — which under the existing law are, in theory, doomed to demolition starting in 2018 — can also be sold, or inherited on the decease of the owner. Meanwhile the numerous chiringuitos (beachside bars, restaurants, etc.), being structures of an essentially dismountable, temporary nature, are to be regulated on a basis of four-year permits (at present they are one-year), and for larger surface areas.
The prospects are so favorable for certain businesses, that some entrepreneurs are already planning chiringuitos as large as 1,000 square meters, and placing on sale the last patches of virgin land adjacent to the already over-exploited Mar Menor (a large salt-water lagoon on the Mediterranean coast in the region of Murcia).
From a business standpoint these are common-sense reactions, logical enough in view of a legislative move that returns public land to the private speculation and property development sprawl that has so much degraded our coastlines in recent years.
Exercise in hypocrisy
It is true that the government’s bill maintains the principal groundwork of the Coast Law of 1988, respecting the concept of mere concession (rather than actual private ownership) of coastal land, and setting an end-by date for this concession; but this postponement — which puts off the problem of the end of the concessions — is a very bad sign, a relaxation of a law which was always difficult to enforce, and which, if it needed anything, needed precisely firm determination, once the end-by dates of the concessions begin to fall due.
Especially insulting (though hardly surprising, in view of the authorship of the bill) is the hypocrisy with which this reform is being presented as a measure necessary to achieve just the opposite of what it in fact foments.
The text refers to the “legal insecurity” caused by the existing law, even as it introduces further insecurity; and proclaims that the change is being made in order to improve the protection of the coastline. And then, in a real monument to cynicism, the bill bears the title “Law for protection and sustainable use of the littoral.”