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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