The parts of Spain’s coastline developers would most like to get their hands on

Greenpeace report identifies 53 unspoiled areas of Spanish coastline at risk of future development

For many people, the first image that springs to mind when they think of the Spanish coastline is that of the crowded beaches of popular tourist resorts such as Benidorm, or the more built-up areas of the vacation island of Mallorca.

Apartments for sale in Benalmádena (Malaga).
Apartments for sale in Benalmádena (Malaga).García-Santos

But some stretches of Spain’s 7,880-kilometer coastline have been spared by the decades of rampant development spurred on by both mass tourism and property speculation. It is these remnant areas that Greenpeace warns could be the target of a possible new “golden age of property” in Spain.

In a new report looking at coastal development in the country from 1987 to 2011, the environmental group has identified 53 areas it believes are the most “desirable” for builders, calling for greater protection for these housing-free zones before the bulldozers roll in. The Balearic and Canary Islands are included, and no province is spared, although the list is heavily weighted towards the country’s south and east.

We have to look at these areas really closely and treat them with care Pilar Marcos, Greenpeace

The areas selected by Greenpeace as being most at risk all share several features in common. They are stretches of coast that border protected areas, have good road links and are easy to access. They also enjoy either only limited environmental protection or no safeguards at all.

“We have to look at these areas really closely and treat them with care,” says Pilar Marcos, who is heading Greenpeace’s “Protección a toda costa” (Protection at any cost) campaign, which aims to boost the environmental safeguards for those areas it believes are under threat.

Among the group’s demands is that at-risk coastal areas currently managed via the European Union’s Natura 2000 environment protection network be reclassified as protected spaces as per Spanish law. This would see them be subject to more stringent environmental safeguards.

The new Greenpeace report identifies the Andalusian provinces of Cádiz and Málaga as the greatest victims of frontline coastal overdevelopment. It notes that areas including the coastal stretches encompassing Chipiona-Sanlúcar and Barbate-Zahara in Cádiz, as well as Vélez-Málaga in Malaga, are among the five most-at-risk zones in terms of future development.

Greenpeace wants greater protection for the interior of the Balearic Island of Formentera.
Greenpeace wants greater protection for the interior of the Balearic Island of Formentera.Gonzalo Azumendi (Age)

In the hugely popular province of Alicante, Vila Joiosa makes the Greenpeace list, while in Valencia province, the area around Denia – popular as a beach destination for people from Madrid – is included. The environmental group also highlights the Ebro Delta area in Catalonia as being at risk.

In the Balearics, the interior of the island of Formentera and the southwest of Ibiza are included. Seven zones in the Canary Islands are considered under threat including the north of Gran Canaria, while at the other end of the country, the Galician areas of Boiro and Finisterre have been put on the watchlist.

The Greenpeace study, based on an investigation of 21,000 land plots nationwide, also shows that 31.8% of publicly owned land in Spain has been built on. In terms of the 10 kilometers closest to the coast, Barcelona province heads the rankings with 31.7% of public land in that zone having been developed. In second-placed Alicante that figure is 21.9% while in Malaga it is 20.5%.

Huelva province, in Andalusia, has the most protected coastline with a total of 61.5%, while Tenerife is second with 59.7% and Las Palmas is next with 51.6%.

English version by George Mills.

A total of 61.5% of the coastline of Huelva province is protected.
A total of 61.5% of the coastline of Huelva province is protected.Santiago Bañón

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