Three rulings by Spain's Supreme Court have left the owners of more than 16,500 homes built in Marbella since 1986 in legal limbo by declaring planning regulations void.
In a series of decisions, the country's highest court has declared null and void Marbella's urban planning regulations that were passed in 2010 and which legalised thousands of homes constructed since the previous town plans, dating back to 1986, were approved.
In response to appeals against previous Supreme Court of Andalusia rulings, the rulings all arrived at the same conclusions, namely that the Town Council does not have power to retroactively declare legal properties that have been built illegally as that rests with the courts, nor to alter land classifications, nor legal liabilities.
According to Mark Stucklin of Spanish Property Insight it is bad news for the local property market, which was one of the few real estate bright spots in Spain until now. ‘It drags Marbella’s reputation back into the dirt by reminding people of its corrupt past, whilst the uncertainty will put off buyers and investors,’ he said.
He pointed out that the decision could mean no more new building licences for the foreseeable future, plunging the residential construction business back into crisis just when it looked like recovering after more than a decade of downturn.
Ricardo Arranz, president of the National Association of Urbanisation Developers, said the decision was right and expected. He explained that the industry welcomes the demise of the 2010 revised plan.
‘It was an unmanageable plan, absurd in every way and had started to scare off investors. It was done in a hurry by architects who knew absolutely nothing about the needs of Marbella and its property market. And it was all supported by a public administration that had the grave responsibility of approving a plan they knew perfectly well was good for nothing,’ he added.
But he pointed out that while the revised plan was a disaster, coming up with a new plan that works for Marbella will be complicated and problematic given the current political reality of a town hall governed by a coalition of four different parties.
The good news is that recent legislation in Madrid now ensures that buyers in good faith have to be compensated before any Spanish homes are demolished. ‘Purchasers have the protection of the articles we have managed to introduce – no demolition without compensation for good faith purchasers,’ said Gerardo Vazquez, a lawyer and activist fighting for property rights in Spain.
Marbella's Town Council and the regional government of Andalusia will be studying the rulings closely over the next few days to determine the implications and come up with solutions, according to the current mayor, José Bernal.
Marbella now has to go back to the drawing board for a new town plan, which could take years and hang like a cloud over a market that would otherwise have some of the best potential in Spain.