The last revision to Coastal Law pretends to achieve an economic use of the coasts sustainable over time and respectful with the environmental protection. The changes introduced give more legal certainty and clarity and solve some short-term problems created by the previous legislation, but in practice, they reduce the chances of preserving the coastal strip.
The Coastal Law was adopted in 1988 and assumed significant changes in relation to the former regime. Nevertheless, the legislator was very cautious and therefore decided that the legal changes should not immediately entry into force but be delayed over the time. This has led to a conflicting application of the rule and even to its retreat: the law of 1988 failed to defeat the established social realities and that is actually why the government decided that it should be corrected. On the other hand, this law of 1988 created significant legal uncertainty that caused the resolution of the European Parliament in 2009, asking the Spanish authorities to “urgently review and, if necessary, modify the action of the Coastal Act to protect the legal rights of dwelling property owners and those who own small plots in the coastal areas, which do not adversely impact on the coastal environment … “.
Let’s analyze the key amendments of the reform:
1 – Clarification and specification of the concept of marine and coastal public property and improvement of the procedure of demarcation of boundaries:
The littoral is legally defined as the strip where the sea meets the land. The Spanish Constitution establishes that the littoral (including the coastal zone, the territorial sea and the beaches) will always be in any case public domain. Thus, it is important to recognize how far this common property extends, especially when we consider that the Spanish coast is the most densely populated area in the country and it concentrates the most strategic economic activities of the nation, such as tourism and fishing.
The law states that the coastal protection zone will be the land strip within reach of the biggest waves recorded during strong storms. This recording depends on technical criteria that should be created to give more confidence, reliability and stability at the borders.
The main innovation introduced in relation to the protected coastal zone is to reduce the width of the legal easement from one hundred to twenty meters, but only in settlements which were not classified in 1988 as an urban area although they had the characteristics of such. This reduction also applies exceptionally in the upper shores of the rivers, sensitive to the ebb and flow, in order to avoid that at sites far away from the river mouth, this easement of100 metershas to be respected.
Carlos Prieto Cid – Lawyer