Do I require planning permissions?

This is a typical question that people often ask me. Obviously the answer depends on the type of works that it is intended to carry out.

Let me first tell you as a general rule that in Spain most building works require a building licence and even more so now, with this existing tax collection quest by all local authorities due to the economic crisis, so most probably you will find the friendly local policemen eagerly looking for any illegal building works to be sanctioned.

Let us first explain that a building license is the pertinent authorisation granted by a Town Hall which allows the carrying out of most building works. There are two types of building licences; “Obra Mayor and Obra Menor” (Mayor or minor building licences) the first type would require a previous consent from the Local Authorities and would require an exhaustive project to be prepared by a qualified architect.

The latter would not require projects or previous consent from the Local Authorities just a written application presented at the Town Hall would suffice. There they will tell you the amount of taxes payable and that is it.

Characteristics of mayor building works.

The exact characteristics of what is recognised as mayor building works depends of each town hall but normally they are the following:

  • Division of any land into individual saleable plots.
  • Earth movements. (Here I add that by earth movement it is normally consider large earth movements that may change the topographical configuration of any site or plot).
  • Construction of any new buildings. 
  • Any structural works or any works that may change the external appearance of any existing building. 
  • Works which involves the modification of internal layout of any building regardless of its use. (This is a tricky one, because changing an internal partition would imply changing an internal layout? Normally the answer to this one depends on the interpretation given by local technical civil servant) 
  • Before you move into a brand new built house you would require what is call “Licencia de primera ocupación” or  First use licence. (This only item has been sufficient to write a complete article in fact I have written three, please refer to Procedures to follow before you buy a property in Spain (Part I, II and III published on CBN you can find it on my web page).
  • The covering up of any balconies or terraces and any installations in general. (On installation here I interpret this as any new installation such as a complete rewiring or complete water installation in a dwelling not the changing of a tap for example).
  • Construction of any underground parking facilities or any other use built underground.
  • The demolition of buildings.
  • Placement of advertising posters visible from public roads.
  • Cutting down any trees within the town boundaries.  Any other acts which may be contemplated in the local planning regulation.

Minor building works.

Licencia de obra menor” Minor building works are normally understood as:

Any works that not change any external wall openings, walls, structure, roofs or the interior layout of any building. These works are not subject to a prior license with a project but as mentioned above it does require to be communicated to the Town Hall and pay its correspondent fees.

It is considered to be minor works generally any which it is considered as such due to its simplicity and does not involve the modification of any structural element, changing the external appearance of its façade or the internal layout any building.

Planning permission.

Planning permission it is usually sought in Spain when it is requiring changing the use or the planning category of any land.

The legal attributions to classify any land in Spain falls in the responsibility of the Autonomous Regions and not the central government, having said that there are three different types of land: Urban land, buildable and none buildable land.

It shall constitute urban land that which is already transformed by overall planning and classified as such by:

(a) Having road access supply of essential services such as sewerage, drinking water electricity supply, and must have these services installed and suitable to serve the existing or envisaged buildings established in the previously approved plan.

(b) It is consolidated by buildings in an amount exceeding two-thirds of the site suitable for it, according to how it is established in the approved plan.

Also it will be considered as urban land sectors which, in implementation of the approved planning, are being urbanized in accordance with the approved plan.

Not buildable land.

1 Not buildable land will constitute any land which it is protected by the current planning laws or it is protected from the property development process, being subject to a specific protection regime incompatible with its urban transformation, in accordance with the instruments of regional planning, or the management of natural resources because of its scenic, historic, archaeological, scientific, environmental or cultural values.

Buildable land.

It will constitute the buildable land any land which does not fall in any of the two other categories i.e. the rest of the land. The owners of this type of land shall have the right to use, enjoy and dispose of their lands in accordance with its nature and characteristic and to obtain its planning transformation by making a planning approval application to the local and/or Regional Authorities. 

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Comentarios: 30
  • #1

    Margaret Ricketts (domingo, 05 agosto 2018 06:30)

    I have been searching the internet to try and find out about the law in Spain regarding fencing rural land and erecting a field shelter for horses.
    I have bought an old casa in Galicia and would like to keep my horses there. The buildings are classed as part of the village, but the field for the horses is rustic land.
    In order to get a license to keep horses I need a fence, a shelter and water. I spoke to local Concello architect last year and she gave me a list of the information I needed to submit and a form to complete called Licencia Urbanistica. I have now sent the info into them by email as I'm in the UK at the moment, but they have replied saying I also need a proyecto.
    The fence is wooden posts and wire, the shelter a wooden construction without foundations. Do I really need to employ an architect for something so simple, or do you think a detailed plan of the proposed fence and structure would suffice?
    Any advise would be greatly welcome. Thank you

  • #2

    Juan Pacheco (lunes, 06 agosto 2018 18:48)

    Dear Margaret,
    The reason why the town hall architect requires a Project is independent of the simplicity or complexity of the project but to be able to first; determine exactly the amount of land you will be able to cover with a roof. i.e. a plan with areas and measurements must be produced together with sections and elevations as each plot is allowed a percentage of covered construction that you may or may not have used up already, so that requires to be determine with an exact drawing.
    The specific construction will require to be determine together with its structure of some sort together with the rest of the shell of the building (shed) and someone need to take responsibility for in case it collapses and kill or injure anyone and that person must be a qualified architect.
    Don’t forget that although the shelter will be for horses, people will also use it. A priced build of quantities must also be included in the project so that a building licence tax can be calculated.
    The fence need also to be specified and quantify to see that if complies with the current building regulation of your village. There are limitations as to the height, materials to be used etc. and added to the bill of quantities.
    I hope I have through some light on your question.

    Best regards

    Juan Pacheco

  • #3

    caroline graham (lunes, 20 agosto 2018 09:59)

    I live on an urbanisation where many villa have private pools, the houses on my street have pools but the houses backing on to ours have not, if a pool is built within these gardens would only be a few feet away from mine, is there laws regarding how close a pool can be built to mine

  • #4

    Juan pacheco (lunes, 20 agosto 2018 17:27)

    Hi Caroline,
    Thank you for contacting Pacheco & Asociados Architects.
    The distance of the pool (the water plane, not the edge) to the boundary wall are normally 1m and 0,5 for the filter system is buried under ground., Having said that this distance may vary from town hall to town hall. So the best is to enquiry there for more exact reply.
    I hope that this has been of help.

    Juan Pacheco

  • #5

    S Lawson (lunes, 25 febrero 2019 10:09)

    Can you tell me if i can ask the townhall to provide a list of what cobstitutes a minor buikding worls licence and major . We understood ie if you put a perhola which is movable , no foundations needed , a minir licence woukd suffice . However the person in the technico office is saying we would need a proyecto . They will not supply details of works that are considered minor ie painting balastrades or major

  • #6

    Juan Pacheco (jueves, 07 marzo 2019)

    Dear mr Lawson,
    Further to your question as to whether a pergola would fall under a minor building licence, As I have explained in my article, the following can be considered building work which require prior building licence:
    Any structural works or any works that may change the external appearance of any existing building.

    ..............It is considered to be minor works generally any which it is considered as such due to its simplicity and does not involve the modification of any structural element, changing the external appearance of its façade...........
    If you are installing a pergola the town hall may interpret that you are changing the appearance of the façade.
    Let me quickly add that this may be a strict manner of interpreting such regulation.
    I hope that this helps you.

    Juan Pacheco

  • #7

    David T (sábado, 13 abril 2019 23:00)


    We are looking to buy a plot of land that has planning permissions agreed. Does that planning permission in Spain (Malaga area) have an expiry date? Or a date when you would have to reapply for planning permissions?

    A response ASAP would be amazing.



  • #8

    Juan Pacheco (lunes, 15 abril 2019 09:31)

    Hi David,
    Thank you for contacting Pacheco & Asociados.
    Planning permission are normally granted based on the General Plan. That is, the town planning plan that governs the whole municipality of a particular town. Theoretically. the government of that town (local elected politician) has the right to change the plan every four years, however this exercise implies a large expenditure taken the complication of elaborating an approving a complete planning of a the entire municipality so unless there is a specific need i.e. a large industry wants to establish itself in the municipality,a boom in construction and therefore a large demand por new land with planning permission this is not done. There are small towns that has had the same town planning for over twenty years.
    If you tell us which town you are referring to we might do further research and advice you in more detail.
    I hope thi is of help to you.

  • #9

    Sally Hirst (jueves, 25 abril 2019 21:24)

    There months ago I applied for a minor license to change the steps outside my village house. This resulted in a meeting with the technico and Secretary as they clearly couldn't decide who owned the small area of land; me or Publico. I was asked to provide my escritura and they took a copy. Since then I have heard nothing, despite emailing regularly. Does my application now fall into the 'automatic three month' rule I have heard about? Thank you.

  • #10

    MELVYN FOWKES (martes, 07 mayo 2019 13:39)

    Hi I am going to put a set of external metal stairs from my duplex down to my apartment one floor do I need planning of any sort THANK you mel

  • #11

    Juan Pacheco (jueves, 09 mayo 2019 18:53)

    Hi Melvin,
    Thank you for contacting Pacheco & Asociados.
    Yes indeed, you do need a building licence (Licenca de Obras) from your local town hall because you are installing a structural element and because you are changing the view of you façade.

    I hope this is of help.

    Juan Pacheco

  • #12

    rose stott (martes, 14 mayo 2019 19:13)

    Do i need a lisence to change old windows in my 5th floor apartment - it does not change the appearance of the building

  • #13

    Juan Pacheco (miércoles, 15 mayo 2019 17:19)

    Hi Rose,,
    Thank you for contacting Pacheco & Asociados.
    You do need a building licence (Licenca de Obras) but it is a Minors building licence (Licencia de obra menor). You go to your local town hall to Urbanismo Department and tell them what you are going to do, they normally fill in the paperwork for you and you pay the tax that they calculate taking into account the number of windows and their sizes, normally the tax is about 4% of the cost of the windows.

  • #14

    William Andrew (martes, 11 junio 2019 17:06)

    I want to build a stone and mortar wall around our 16.000 M2 plot to secure.
    Their is a small boundary wall around our plot but needs to be replaced and built up
    The wall would be 6 foot in height and 1 foot wide
    What licence would i need ?

  • #15

    Juan Pacheco (miércoles, 12 junio 2019 18:29)

    Hi William,
    I would first contact the local town hall as I have my doubts that the y will allow a 6 feet high solid wall. Normally they allow a 1 m. solid wall and the rest up to 2 m with a perforated type of fence such as wired,sluts or a green hedge.
    You need a building licence for a fence (LIcencia de obra para un vallado).
    I hope that this is of help.

  • #16

    Rita (domingo, 14 julio 2019 00:40)

    Hello I am having a wall built around my property, it is the same as the next door neighbours, the builders have said it is fine, but someone else has said that I need planning permission as It is quite high and it could be knocked down.Please can you advise before it goes any further.

  • #17

    Juan Pacheco (miércoles, 17 julio 2019 12:34)

    Hi Rita,
    The reason that you neighbour may have a type of garden wall built doesn't necessarily mean that it complies with the local building regulation.
    Having said that; the general norm in Spain is that the garden solid walls should be around 1m tall and from there to about 2m should be built of a non-solid materials such as a trellis, slats, or green hedges.
    Best option is to ask at your local town hall before you proceed blindly.

    Better safe than sorry!!


  • #18

    GUY DE SAINT-CYR (martes, 23 julio 2019 23:53)

    HELLO, i HAVE 16000 SQUARE METERS RUSTIC Forestal in Marbella Sierra Blanca.
    Any idea what can I DO WITH IT?

  • #19

    Juan Pacheco (miércoles, 24 julio 2019 10:13)

    Sell it!!

  • #20

    Nicola (sábado, 27 julio 2019 10:11)

    I have a shed in my garden that needs replacing, I'd like a larger on to replace it, done need any permission to do this please?

  • #21

    Juan Pacheco (viernes, 02 agosto 2019)

    Hello Guy,

    Technically you do. Best thing is to visit you town hall building licence dept. (Licencias de obras) and ask. They may allow you to carry out that work with a minor's building licence (licencia de obra menor) and therefor you may not need a project for that.
    It will depend on the size of the shed.

  • #22

    Lisa wilson (martes, 10 septiembre 2019 22:14)

    Does a bolt together structure with bolt on roof panels , no foundations necessary . as it is possible to unbolt and remove at any time does this require permission ?


  • #23

    Juan Pacheco (miércoles, 11 septiembre 2019 09:41)

    Hi Lisa,
    I am afraid that you provide us little information....
    When you talk about a structure you don't specify what type of structure. Is it for a dwelling, a garage, does it have an enclosing shell, what will it be used for?

  • #24

    Lisa wilson (miércoles, 11 septiembre 2019 17:51)

    The structure will be galvanised metal posts which bolt together with special brackets similar to scaffolding . This would be situated between a garage wall and a brick wall with metal fencing along the top , meaning that only a roof will be added. No walls or enclosing will be added . The roofing would be dark brown corrugated bitumen sheet . The roof is to cover an area of 4m x 2 meters . The roof would cover a pool pump which happens to be there but the main purpose is to help protect building materials from the weather while the house is being reformed . Hope this helps you understand .

  • #25

    Juan Pacheco (jueves, 12 septiembre 2019 10:15)

    Hi Lisa,
    Anything that is covered with a roof will need building licence I am afraid.
    From your description I would also take care that the future structure must keep a distance from the boundary wall. This distance depends on the location of the house in the municipality. It can range from 3 to 5m in the inner side of a town to 15 to 25m in rural areas.

  • #26

    Andy Taylor (domingo, 15 septiembre 2019 17:36)

    Hi, we have an existing pool which, due to my wife’s disability is hard for her to get into via the metal steps.
    We have spoken to a builder who can build in some steps and put in a handrail at the shallow end, however the pool will have to be extended by 1 m2 to accommodate the stairs. Would I need planning permission for this?



  • #27

    Juan Pacheco (lunes, 16 septiembre 2019 09:42)

    Hi Andy,
    In theory you need a building licence, but the work required is so small that you could apply for "minor building licence" (Licencia de obra menor) which you do not need a project, only a description of the works and a contractors quote.
    Having said that, wouldn't be more economical to use a disabled lift?
    We all, are not getting any younger and it is something that you probably will have to install in the future so why not install it now and leave the pool as it is.
    I enclose a couple of links so that you can see what I mean.
    I hope that is of help.

  • #28

    Norberto (miércoles, 23 octubre 2019 22:49)

    Good evening,
    I came across your blogs and I'm wondering if you could point me in the right direction.
    I would like to buy a land with water, electricity and gas(Tierra/suelo urbanizado), to erect apartament building afterward.
    My question is, how do I look for " Tierra urbanizada", since most of online property agencies don't state if the land has water and electricity. I will appreciate advise on the subject.
    Kind Regards

  • #29

    Jimmy Banks (domingo, 10 noviembre 2019 15:38)

    Hi, Thanks for your time and knowledge on these various issues.
    I would like to install a wood burner in my basement. The chimney would go through two floors then exit on the master bedroom balcony.
    Do i need planning permission for this or do I just need to be sure that it fits within building regulations/ fire prevention. Would i need to have it inspected upon completion?

  • #30

    Juan Pacheco (lunes, 11 noviembre 2019 10:51)

    Hi Jimmy,
    Theoretically you would require a "Minor building Licence" (Licencia de obra menor) which is obtained on the same day in the planning department (Departamento de Urbanismo) of your local town hall. You just tell them what you are going to do they value it and depending on the town you pay around 4% of the total cost of construction without VAT.
    No inspection is required, but we strongly recommend that you use a "certified" installer and you get a guarantee from the company.
    I hope that this is of help.

    Juan Pacheco