One of the main concepts that should be understood about Spanish planning that would help us not to make expensive mistake at the time of buying a plot of land to build a home is the Classifications of land known in the town planning jargon as Clasificación del suelo.
The land is classified in Spain in three main categories:
Urban land, land able to be urbanized and land forbidden to be urbanized. (Suelo urbano, suelo urbanizable y suelo no urbanizable).
There is fourth classification that is not much used but it is the land where the infrastructure is located, i.e. roads, water treatment plants etc that should comply to a minimum standard specify in the planning norms.
What is urban land (Suelo urbano)?
For a land to be fully classified as such it must comply with any of the following:
Must have roads, drinking water, sewerage services and electrical supply with sufficient capacity to serve the existing buildings and for those planned in the future.
Any zone which two thirds of its area allowed by planning law is consolidated by existing buildings.
These concepts are important to be understood because a plot of land purchased and can be verified that comply with any of the above descriptions the town hall should give planning permission to any project presented if the project complies with the local planning regulations.
What land is allowed to be urbanized (Suelo urbanizable)?
This land becomes apt to be built once that planning consent has been granted and complies with all the regulations and charges instructed by the planning regulations and is called “Suelo urbanizable”.
Normally this category of land has to have a (Plan Parcial and Proyecto de Urbanización) designed and approved by the local authorities before is permitted to build. The Plan Parcial is where the planning regulation for that area is stated, blueprint of roads are set and in fact the whole residential lay out is planned. The “proyecto de urbanización” is more technical type of project where the full specifications for roads, water, sewerage, drinking water and electrical supplies are set out although all designs must comply with the local and state norms and regulations.
In this land no buildings are allowed and no planning permission should be granted until all the planning duties are fulfilled and the necessary infrastructures have been built.
Some times building licences are granted if the infrastructure is built simultaneously in this case the Town Hall must obtain a bank guaranty based on the cost of the infrastructure total costs.
It is in this type of land where most of the problems occur, well because all the planning procedures have not finished or the necessary infrastructure is not completed.
It is always advisable to obtain a planning certificate from the town hall before you venture in purchasing any plot of land or homes in such a situation.
How much land is needed to go through the process of obtaining planning approval?
There isn’t a minimum specified by law, but should be sufficient to as to ensure "technical and economic independence," or, if this is not possible, at least, to "ensure the equitable distribution of planning benefits and charges among those affected. In short, the area of the proposed action is free, provided that the proposed model assumes its own urban charges i.e. sufficient to provide park areas, spaces for public buildings, necessary infrastructure and to ensure equal distribution among all owners etc. All this is clearly specified in the planning regulations.
What land is not allowed to be urbanized (Suelo no urbanizable)?
Any of the land which doe not fall in any of the above categories is land without planning permission or “Suelo No Nurbanizable”. In this category of land constructions are normally not allowed by law but in certain conditions a building or a house is permitted if the plot has a minimum size normally 5.000m2 if the land has water available for irrigation and 15.000m2 if not, however these sizes varies depending of the local regulations.
As a general rule the only buildings that have been admitted have been single-family homes for the proper care of agricultural, forestry and livestock of the area in question, provided no additional buildings are built around so as not to constitute an urbanization.
There is a sub category in this type of land and that is land with special protection (Suelo de Protección Especial), normally in this type of land no planning permission is granted and exceptionally a construction is allowed but it has to be proven that the construction of such building is will mean an improvement on the environment and/or a benefit for society, for example a skiing station at the top of a special protected area.