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Marbella Plan for Illegal Homes Approved
03 February 2010 @ 12:01

In a decision with far-reaching implications for Spain’s property business, Marbella’s plan to legalize more than 17,000 illegal homes along the Costa del Sol was approved by a regional commission last week.

Marbella, which bills itself as Spain’s version of Monte Carlo, was the poster child for corruption and backroom deals in the go-go days. In the wake of the scandals, tens of thousands of homes were found to have been built illegally, including an estate owned by homegrown hunk Antonio Banderas.

Years in the making, the Marbella town plan is something of a bellwether for the country. If implemented, it could provide a framework for other regions to move forward, without destroying people’s homes.

Of course, Marbella, to say the least, is a unique market, even for Spain. The clientele is a swirl of Middle Eastern royalty, Russian oligarch-wannabes and good ol- fashioned Brit nouveau riche.

Here’s how British professional celebrity Piers Morgan recently described Marbella for the Daily Mail:

“Before going there to film an ITV1 documentary, I assumed it was a rough, tough Costa del Crime kind of town where villains hung out with boozed-up glamour models, hookers and footballers, snorting cocaine and avoiding the police,” he wrote. “And to a certain extent it is. But there's another, quite extraordinary side to Marbella--one of staggering wealth and discretion that acts as a fabulously opulent secret haven for super-rich Saudi princes, Hollywood stars, European royalty and billionaire tycoons.”

The huge number of illegal homes found in the area provides stark testimony to the level of corruption that flowed through Marbella and the region. Mid-level bureaucrats were living like sultans. Outrageous proposals for oceanfront condo towers sailed through the system.

The town’s plan, known as the PGOU, is considered a key step for Marbella’s return to the land of the respectable. Not only does it specifically address the illegal homes, it creates a specific guideline for project development--a rarity in many regions.

But the plan has been controversial. Many local critics believe the amnesty program gives developers a free pass for building blatantly illegal projects. Environmentalists charge that the projects have consumed acres of protected public land, especially on the waterfront.

The beachfront condo projects left out of the plan should be demolished, the regional government argues. But Marbella has fought for the legalization of the remaining projects, a battle that includes legal actions by the owners of the condos, including the 297-unit project known as Banana Beach. Typically, the owners had no clue the fully-permitted development was illegal when they bought their units.

“This could drag on for years, maybe even decades,” writes Mark Stucklin of Spanish Property Insight. “That will be little consolation to elderly owners at developments like Banana Beach.”

Source:  International Property Journal

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