Planning and environmental issues


Which government authorities regulate planning and zoning for real estate development and use in your jurisdiction and what is the extent of their powers?

In general terms, planning and zoning powers are shared between autonomous communities and local governments. The former legislate on territorial planning, the latter on urban zoning. Meanwhile, the Spanish state is responsible for establishing the basic legislative framework regulations (see Royal Decree Law 7/2015).

What are the eligibility, procedural and documentary requirements to obtain planning permission?

Issuing planning permission falls within the competence of local governments and the process thus may differ significantly depending on relevant local regulations and the type of works to be performed.

In general terms, the process is initiated through the submission of a request accompanied by details of the technical project. The administration will then gather all relevant governmental reports and will generally issue a decision within one to three months. The process takes about six months in total. If this period elapses without a final decision being issued, this generally means that a planning permit has been denied.

Can planning decisions be appealed? If so, what is the appeal procedure?

An appeal against denial of a planning permit may be lodged within one month of notification of the decision. The appeal, which is heard by the same authority that issued the decision, will be decided upon within one month. 

The applicant then has an additional two months in which to appeal this decision to the administrative courts. Once the claim is admitted, the court will summon the administration to submit a statement of defence. A trial will then be held, unless the court and the parties consider this is unnecessary in light of the facts of the case, in which case the court will issue its judgment directly.

What are the consequences of failure to comply with planning decisions or regulations?

Breach of planning regulations may result in demolition of the building or the application of economic sanctions. Exceptionally, the administration may authorise the works, provided that this is in the public interest and the works are not located in a special protection area. The consequences may vary, depending on the classification of the land on which the works have been performed.

In this regard, land in Spain is generally classified as follows:

  • urban land;
  • non-urban land; or
  • land that is designated to become urban land.

What regime governs the protection and development of historic and cultural buildings?

Buildings of historic and cultural interest are subject to a special protection regime. As a consequence, no works can be performed on them without previous and express authorisation from the competent body.

Government expropriation

What regime applies to government expropriation of real estate?

Government expropriation is regulated by the Law on Forced Expropriation of December 16 1954.

What is the required notice period for expropriation and how is compensation calculated?

Expropriation commences with notification to the property owner with a view to establishing fair compensation; following payment of such compensation, possession will be taken of the property. The owner thus knows about the procedure from its initiation.

Compensation can be determined in three different ways:

  • through an agreement between the owner and the administration;
  • through a proposal by the owner or the administration which is accepted by the other party; or
  • as a last resort, by decision of the provincial expropriation jury.

Environmental issues

What environmental certifications are required for the development of real estate and how are they obtained?

Although this is not always required, most development projects should incorporate a geotechnical report on the land on which the works are to be performed and a plan for waste collection management.

What environmental disclosure obligations apply to real estate sales?

As far as environmental disclosure obligations are concerned, it is only necessary to provide an energy performance certificate issued by a private technician and a technical inspection of buildings certificate, where applicable. In the event that a piece of land has been declared and registered as contaminated or that a potentially contaminating activity has been carried out on the land to be sold, the vendor must include a declaration in this regard in the purchase deed.

What rules and procedures govern environmental clean-up of property? Which parties are responsible for clean-up and what is the extent of their liability?

Environmental clean-up of land is regulated by European and national rules under civil, criminal and administrative law, especially Law 22/2011.

The applicable regulations provide that the party which actively contaminated the land and the owner of the land at the time of contamination are primarily responsible for the clean-up. Nonetheless, if the land is sold, the new owner will be considered vicariously liable.

Are there any regulations or incentive schemes in place to promote energy efficiency and emissions reductions in buildings?

The central government and some autonomous communities have offered in the past ‒ and presumably will continue to offer ‒ grants to make existing buildings more energy efficient. These grants are temporary and thus may vary throughout the year.

With respect to regulations, the most important is Royal Decree 56/2012, which implemented the EU Energy Efficiency (2012/27/EU) and other complementary regulations.