As a specialist company dedicated to the project management of developments ranging from individual luxury villas to entire apartment complexes, gated communities, commercial premises and also student accommodation, dealing with building licences is our bread and butter. While this doesn’t present too much of a problem in the surrounding towns and municipalities, unfortunately in Marbella it is a rather more complicated process.
It has been known for some years now that even the best made plans and investment proposals fall foul of long waiting lists and slow processing procedures for Marbella planning approval and building licences. Now this is a process that could do with streamlining the world over, but where in Benahavis it is dealt with swiftly and efficiently – and can be finalised within a few short weeks – in Marbella one can wait for up to two years or more…
By national comparison, in Madrid the wait is 4-5 months, in Barcelona 8 months and in nearby Estepona somewhere between the two. So why does it feel like urban planning in Marbella is an on-going challenge that appears beyond the local authorities to fix – and why does it sometimes feel like the town is moving not forward, but backwards? More people have been added to an already large staff count in order to deal with the problem, but if anything, it seems to be getting worse.
In 1998 a new planning directive for Marbella was introduced, known locally as a PGOU (Plan General de Ordenación Urbanística). It set out to mark out previously non-urban land as buildable and legalised developments that had already been constructed in such areas, but was later rejected by the Junta de Andalucía (Andalusian Regional Government). The new 2010 PGOU for Marbella followed the same path in 2015, when it was cast out by Spain’s Supreme Court.
This meant a return to the drawing board, which after half a decade has not resulted in a new PGOU for Marbella – though it is expected in the course of 2021. In the meantime, the town has by default reverted to the 1986 PGOU, according to which many existing properties are illegal and it is hard to acquire approval for new ones. Altogether, the situation does not make for an efficient process that facilitates inward investment and job creation – quite the opposite.
And so Marbella continues to hurt itself, allowing more flexible and efficient municipalities such as Estepona, Benahavis, Ojén and Mijas to reap their just rewards and become the beneficiaries of the bulk of new investment, development and job creation in the area. It goes without saying that the COVID situation hasn’t aided the process anywhere, but in Marbella it has made an already precarious situation even worse.
For now, all eyes are set upon the new plan intended to be submitted for approval in 2021. Let’s hope it finally brings the resolution Marbella’s developers, architects, project managers, investors, builders and labour force have been hoping for.