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23/06/2009 - Mayor to legalise inhabited properties

How can a town like Marbella have so many demolition orders and so little demolition work going on? The answer can be found in four letters, the PGOU (or Plan General de Ordenación Urbana), which this week has taken a step closer to approval. For the time being every time the Andalusian High Court annuls a building licence that was granted illegally in the GIL period and orders literally the "reinstatement of legality"(in other words, demolition), Marbella Town Hall responds by applying to have the order suspended until the new urban development plan, the PGOU, has been finally approved.

It makes sense: many of the properties in question look set to appear as legal on the new plan in exchange for compensation from the developers. No one wants to see a property knocked down if construction on the land is to be permitted in a few months' time.

According to municipal sources the Town Hall has put off more than a hundred demolitions affecting residential estates, blocks of flats, villas and even industrial warehouses. Now it seems unlikely that many of them will actually come down.

Step forward On Friday last week the latest version of the PGOU document was officially delivered to the Town Hall after various changes had been made since its first provisional approval and public consultation period. The compensation scheme has led to the legalisation of some 18,000 irregular properties but there are still some 500 inhabited homes, on three developments, and around a thousand empty properties that have been excluded from the latest version of the document.

The 500 inhabited homes include the 300 apartments in Banana Beach. This development carries the stigma of being the most famous of the illegal buildings put up during the GIL years, always offered as the typical example of Marbella's planning chaos. The others are a group of houses in Río Real that were built on archaeological remains and some 30 properties in El Alicate.Fear of social outcryOn Tuesday the Mayor, Ángeles Muñoz, announced that the Town Hall would now make the necessary modifications to the new PGOU to include these three developments before approving the plan again. "The demolition of these inhabited buildings would create social outcry and cause a loss of confidence in the authorities", said Muñoz.

The new PGOU still excludes around 1,000 more properties that, unlike the others, are not occupied. Once the plan comes into force the Town Hall has promised to follow the text "to the letter". This means anything that does not appear as legal will then either be demolished or used as a public facility. These include the unfinished hotel near the Costa de Sol Hospital, among other buildings.

Now, once it has made its new modifications, the local authority has to give the new plan its second provisional approval. Then the ball will be passed into the Junta's court, who will have the final say before the PGOU comes into force.  Meanwhile the Andalusian High Court continues to deal with the illegal licence cases that have built up, issue demolition orders and suspend them until those famous four letters - PGOU - have been finalised