Marbella's plan has a silver lining
The shock of the unexpected annulment of Marbella’s urban development plan (PGOU) has given way to a situation that appears to contradict itself. To begin with projects backed by regulations that suddenly were no longer valid were halted, but as the weeks went by developers started to shake the dust off other schemes that had been blocked by the 2010 plan but could be carried out with a reform of the 1986 regulations, now back in force.
One of the most critical voices of the annulled plan, the president of the Federation of Andalusian DevelopersRicardo Arranz, has stated that the situation now is by no means worse than it was prior to the Supreme Court ruling.
Of a similar view is the president of the business association CIT Marbella, Juan José González, who shares the criticism of the document that has now been rendered void. He points out that while there are projects that have been affected by the annulment of the former Plan, the ruling has found a way out of an impasse for other land that was reserved for services or green zones or which had been affected by the compensation system. It is this system, introduced in 2010 to make up for the construction excesses of the Gil regime, that the Supreme Court has overruled.
It’s difficult to tell which is greater: the number of projects whose development has been halted by the ruling, or those that have been revived. Christopher Clover of the real estate firm Panorama - one of the oldest in Marbella after 46 years in the town - believes that more have suffered than have benefited from the situation. However, he does agree that the annulled plan did pose difficulties, to the extent that real estate firms had to resort to specialists to calculate the charges to be applied to each property under the compensation system so that buyers knew the risks they faced before they signed on the dotted line.
The annulment of the 2010 PGOU, which according to the council could only affect 15 per cent of properties in Marbella, has not slowed down the recovery of construction activity, he said, and affects more landowners or people with projects under way than current buyers.
Sales, he stated, grew last year at a slower rate than the previous year, something he put down to the massive influx of buyers between 2012 and 2014 after they had been waiting for six years for prices to hit rock bottom.
More demand than land
Fausto Martínez, of FM Consulting, has stressed that investor interest in Marbella has not fallen since the annulment of the 2010 PGOU and while he admits that sometimes there is more demand for land that the 1986 document can provide, activity is far from coming to a halt.
“Our perception is not a negative one,” he said. “More and more investors are contacting us and are still interested in Marbella.”
One of the most significant indications of a recovery is that off-plan transactions are going through again, something that hadn’t happened since the beginning of the financial crisis. Above all, now the stock of unsold properties left behind by the crisis, which came early in Marbella due to ‘Operation Malaya’ and the dissolution of the local council, has practically disappeared and new construction is needed to meet the demands of buyers.
According to Fausto Martínez the property market has been more active in the last few months with buyers of a variety of origins - Arabs, Russians, Germans, Belgians and also Spaniards - and is centred on the high end of the market, with demand not only for villas, but also for apartments with a modern rather than traditional design.
In the opinion of the majority of professionals consulted, the recovery is being held back by the slow process of obtaining planning permission from the council. Clover believes that this could be due to the meticulous attention paid by the council officials, a possible legacy of the traumatic years prior to the approval of the PGOU in 2010.
The president of CIT shares that opinion, adding that the process of applying for licences should be made faster so that the Town Planning Department does not become a bottleneck slowing the whole process down, especially now that properties are being sold off-plan.
The uncertainty caused at first by the annulment of the 2010 PGOU has given rise to another situation in which “with a bit of common sense”, the 1986 Plan could be the better of the two, according to RicardoArranz, who adds that legal guarantees for buyers are essential.
Martínez, however, is convinced that the legal issues have been overcome. “What greater legal guarantee is there than a Supreme Court sentence that tells us exactly what we have to do?” he said.source surinenglish