What you should know about town planning in Spain | Part 3

Following the second part of this article on town planning we will explain the different stages of the main planning laws in Spain and its hierarchical structure. For that purpose I have selected the region of Murcia as an example, but to all purposes it could be applied to any regional community in this country.


As we described last week it is the Ley del Suelo (The Land Law) the national first, and the regional Land Laws second, the corner stone of all planning instruments and therefore any General Urban plan or Partial Plan must not contravene these laws and hierarchically any Detail Study must not change any General Plan or Partial Plan.


The main planning instruments used in any Town Hall (TH) are in order of importance:

  • Plan General de Ordenación Urbana (General Urban Plan)
  • Plan Parcial y Plan Especial (Partial Plan and Special Plans)
  • Estudio de Detalle or (Detailed Study)

Before these planning mechanisms are implemented they need to be approved and it is important to know the process because it is during this process when citizens can object and put forward proposals that may consider relevant or just to defend they private interests.


In case the TH disregard those proposal a door has been opened to take the matter to court if required. Let us start with the General Urban Plan which is where residents are informed whether it is allowed to build or not on any zone of the borough. In case that it is permitted, it would also notify of how many square meters are permitted and will lay down the conditions of what it is allowed to be built.


After the General Urban Plan is prepared is presented in a TH Plenary Session where it may be granted initial approval and then is ready for public information for a period of at least two months, this fact should be advertised in the official regional gazette known as (Boletín Oficial de la Región de Murcia, BORM) and published in two major regional newspapers to let citizen to attend to the TH and analyse the Plan and present any claims they think fit. Due to its relevance on the locality information on approval of a General Urban Plan are published and commented on local newspapers so it is advisable to be kept updated by consulting regularly local news papers.


Simultaneously the TH will obtain from the various public bodies those reports that are prescribed by law. They will need to grant a hearing to the neighbouring municipalities and the Regional Directorate General responsible for urban planning who should carried out a report within two months.


In view of the public information input obtained, i.e. demands presented by citizens, reports obtained from the various official regional departments the TH Plenary Session will approve the amendments provisionally if they consider it fit. If the changes which have been put into practice meant a substantial change to the plan initially approved, it will open a new period of public information, of one month, before presenting it for approval.


To this end, substantial change means altering the pattern of the urban development, but no specific alterations of its components.

The TH refers a complete dossier to the Regional Department for Public Works, Housing and Transport to attain the final approval being this body the regional authority the one to finally approve the Plan.


The General Directorate of Planning, would be technically and legally advised via a report prepared by the Planning Coordination Committee, within three months since receipt of the complete file from the TH.


The General Directorate of Planning could propose one of the following procedures.

  • Final approval of the Plan.
  • Final approval, could be subject to the correction of some deficiencies found, (this is normally the most common resolutions) where there are some changes to be made and those changes are of little relevance
  • A final approval of the plan, is suspended on some specific areas, provided that the approved Plan is mostly consistent, independently of the future solution provided by the TH to the areas that are not approved.
  • Approval is suspended due to important deficiencies, specifically if it breached the Land Law or for any reason affects the regional plan model. In that case the TH, would require to set off through the process of new public information procedure when rectification has been completed.
  • Any denial of approval of the Plan by the General Directorate of Planning can only be based on finding elements contrary to planning legislation or regional planning instruments, which if corrected would change the plan to such an extent that would make nonsense of the presented plan.

One of the main reasons for these many public publications is due to past court cases where no publication has been made and individual citizens have been able to obtain court sentences making a town General Urban Plan illegal since he has had not been informed and therefore been not able of defending his interests. Hence the long periods it takes for General Plans to be finally approved.


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