1. Planning Laws to Protect the Tourism Industry
Over the last decade, various laws have been brought in to protect the tourist industry in Gran Canaria - potentially to the detriment of the Gran Canaria property market. However, many of these laws did not have the impact hoped for, since in order to be effective, they required a level of investment that the tourism industry was not willing, or able, to make.
For this reason, it became necessary to overhaul the planning system to ensure that any new buildings constructed in areas designated as “touristic” would be restricted to use for this purpose. It was purely on this basis that such buildings received planning permission, and indeed, the most sought after or privileged areas were restricted to building for touristic use.
All of the above was contained in Law 2/2013 as modified by Law 9/2015, and which amongst other things, states, in Article 3(c): “Avoid, and where necessary correct any residential use of buildings in areas of touristic use.“
This is of considerable relevance to anyone planning on buying property in Gran Canaria.
2. New Modernisation Plan
The Town hall of San Bartolome De Tirajana is in the process of modernizing the entire area zoned for tourism (including Bahía Feliz, San Agustín, Playa Del Ingles, Maspalomas), but it has come across apartment buildings that are being used not for tourism purposes, but rather for long-term rentals (hotel employees, restaurants, mixed-business) or homes used by their owners.
There are buildings that require extensive refurbishment, and despite the laws that have been approved to improve these touristic areas, the result is one that was not expected. Despite the fact that Law 17/1967 does not establish that the use of Gran Canaria property can be affected by future planning regulations and that those buildings that were constructed before 1996 were not subject to any restriction for use as residential properties.
Law 2/2013, Article 75(12) renders as a serious infraction, “use for residential purposes and therefore non-compliance with a planning restriction that designates an area as for touristic use solely”.
3. Buying Property in Gran Canaria: sanctions
Upon failure to comply with the established use intended by the original planning approval, Gran Canaria property owners may be sanctioned to the extent permitted by Law 2/2013 and, where the planning approval permitted mixed residential and touristic use, such owners may be required to adapt their facilities in order to comply with the building quality standards that reach an excellent and eco-efficient level, as proposed under the legislation.
The preamble to Law 9/2015 expresses it as follows:..”the necessity that the planning process promotes the correction of the process of conversion to residential use in touristic zones, on the one hand, declaring the requirement to adjust to touristic use, being the use that the planning approval was originally conferred to many buildings, that have converted in practice, and without authorisation, to residential complexes: and on the other hand, establishing the criteria by which the most optimal and privileged zones are restricted to touristic use, additionally regulating supposed compatibility exceptions, permitting and facilitating the reconversion of specific residential buildings, with due authorisation, into villas or any other tourism product that will enhance those specific destinations."
As a result, all those who are not in agreement with the content of the new Planning Guidelines and who consider that their rights are infringed by the approval of the new Urban Plan, should present their allegations at the PGOU, before September 30th, 2015.
This is the current situation and we will see how matters progress after the ‘public hearings’ phase. However, the Town Hall has stated that Gran Canaria property owners should not be alarmed, that they do not wish to take anything away from private owners, though the plan is approved and nothing can be ruled out.
That said, they are required to apply the law, and if a complaint is received by a Tourist Operator, they would be obliged to act. If planning on buying property in Spain, and Gran Canaria in particular, great care should be taken, and legal advice sought before handing over any money to estate agents or vendors.