Analysis of Decree-Law 9/20 on urgent territorial protection measures for the Balearic Islands

On 25 May, Decree-Law 9/20 on urgent territorial protection measures for the Balearic Islands was published and took effect.

The Decree Law is divided into two chapters, each referring to different types of land.

  • Chapter I deals with provisions concerning urban development land in which measures are adopted for unconsolidated urban land, land for development and non-programmed land for development.

A moratorium or suspension of administrative procedures is being considered for unconsolidated urban land, whereas a real declassification is underway for programmed and non-programmed land for development.

This moratorium and declassification policy should not prevent or influence prospective developers from making appropriate decisions in this regard within the existing legal constraints.

  • Chapter II deals with measures for rural land.

A summary of the provisions is provided below and their specific articles should be referred to for further details and information. 

I. Considerations for urban land with unconsolidated development

The provision provides for a suspension of procedures for development planning, administrative means, and the granting of any permit or license for all urban land with unconsolidated residential, tourist, or mixed use that meets all of this article’s requirements, which shall remain in effect until December 31, 2022 or until final approval of the adaptation of the planning.

This is land that has the status of urban land under current plans, but does not have the urban services established in the Balearic Islands’ zoning laws, and therefore, according to those laws, should not have the status of urban land.

Its purpose is to adapt these areas to the current regulations which may lead to their classification as land for development or their declassification, becoming rural land.

For this purpose, the relevant Island Authorities and the City of Palma are responsible for implementing this new zoning or adaptation which must be initially approved before December 31, 2021. Otherwise, the Balearic Government would assume jurisdiction.

This moratorium on the adaptation of certain unconsolidated urban land only affects those areas that meet all of this article’s requirements, which are:

  • Urban land thus classified for residential, tourist, or mixed use which does not have urban services.
  • The general municipal zoning is not in line with the Island’s Territorial Plan.
  • An area or local development area must be defined in order to provide urban planning services. It does not affect unconsolidated urban land where the land owner can complete the urban services it lacks by means of a service provision project, but only those needed to create a “future development”.
  • No work has been started.
  • If they are not within the completion deadline.
  • They are not surrounded by more than 2/3 of fully developed land.

Therefore, its purpose is to suspend all procedures on this type of land until the relevant Island Authorities or the City of Palma, where appropriate, adapt the planning with the power to zone it as land for development or rural land.

II. Re-zoning land for development

Unlike the moratorium on unconsolidated urban land, when it comes to programmed land for development and non-programmed land for development, there is a real declassification.

a) Regarding land classified by the zoning plan as NON-programmed land for development, it will be declassified if it is more than 8 years old and the Urban Development Plan has not been initially approved. Therefore, it becomes common rural land.

For this type of land, it is not necessary to meet the requirements concerning land for development, but only the deadline having lapsed and the lack of initial approval. There is also no distinction based on use.

b) Land for development or suitable for development intended for residential, tourist, or mixed use that meets certain requirements will also be automatically declassified, becoming common rural land.

The requirements for the declassification of this land for development are:

  • The general municipal zoning is not in line with the provisions for land for development in the Island’s Territorial Plan.
  • No physical construction of the new development has been started.
  • The deadlines for completion have expired.

The first transitional provision states that the classification of urban or land for development will be maintained for land that is processing its adaptation to the Island’s Territorial Plan when the Decree-Law takes effect, on the understanding that it must have received initial approval no more than three years after the last essential act in its processing.

This would be an exception to the previous rules since the adaptation process required by the rules has already begun.

III. Rural land regulation

With regard to rural land, a series of measures have been adopted that reduce certain building standards which can be summarized as follows:

  • Impossibility of building new single-family homes on land included in areas where there is a risk of erosion, landslides, fire or flooding, unless they are associated with agricultural activities.
  • Reduction of building standards for rural land in the Island’s Territorial Plan:
  • On a maximum buildable area:
    • Xarxa Nature Land and Rural Area of Scenic Interest (ARIP). – 1%
    • Other rural land. – 1.5%
  • Maximum percentage of the lot that can be occupied by the building and other construction items:
    • Xarxa Nature Land and ARIP. – 1.5%
    • Other rural land. – 2%
  • Maximum volume of the entire building in all categories of rural land. – 900 m3.

Notwithstanding the above, municipal or urban planning could be more restrictive.

  • When applying for new buildings and complete renovation of existing ones, except for agricultural and livestock farms, a technical project must be submitted that includes certain environmental and natural landscape integration measures that may affect land reclamation, keeping cultural and ethnographic aspects, reducing the impact of light pollution, traditional enclosures, etc.
  • The current water measures consist of rainwater collection and reuse and for residential single-family use, only one swimming pool can be built per property with a maximum water mirror of 35 m2 and a maximum volume of 60 m3.

These measures are not applicable if the latter has approved a modification or revision of the Island’s Territorial Plan in the two years prior to this Decree Law’s approval.

Nor will it affect permit requests made for rural land prior to it taking effect if the request is fully documented.