New Urban Planning Ban to Protect the Mar Menor

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New Decree Law Enacted to Safeguard Mar Menor - A Vital Step Towards Environmental Protection Image: Shutterstock/ David Palao Andres

THE regional government of the Autonomous Community plans to approve a new urban development ban for the Mar Menor through a decree law. This moratorium aims to protect the fragile ecosystem of the lagoon and will maintain the same exclusion areas for new developments as those specified in the existing law of protection and recovery for the Mar Menor.

The need for this decree-law arises from the urgency of preventing the Mar Menor from being left ‘unprotected’ as the current three-year moratorium, approved in 2020, is set to expire today August 3. To ensure continuous protection, the moratorium will be in force until the initial approval of the Land Management Plan for the Mar Menor. Although the plan is reported to be in an advanced stage, no specific date has been given for its completion.

The decree law, approved by the Governing Council, will come into effect immediately after its publication in the Official Gazette of the Region of Murcia (BORM). The ban on new urban developments will apply to areas that do not have initial approval before the enactment of the existing law for the protection and recovery of the Mar Menor.

The situation leading up to this decree-law was caused by a misunderstanding in the Regional Assembly, where the Popular Party (PP) voted against the extension of the moratorium proposed by the PSOE. However, the Popular Party clarified that their opposition was due to technical errors in the PSOE’s proposal, which could have left the Mar Menor unprotected if approved.

The new ban will suspend the granting of authorisations for various developments, including housing and industrial projects, with the exception of photovoltaic plants. Commercial, logistics, storage, hotel, and other tourist accommodations, restaurants, tertiary recreational uses, and any construction on flood-prone land will also be affected.

Consolidated urban land extensions, which refer to land already classified as urban or sectorised urban land next to consolidated urban areas, will not be impacted by the moratorium.

The decree law will need to be ratified by the Regional Assembly within 30 days to become permanent. Some changes in the wording will be made to address interpretative doubts raised by the Legal Council of the Region of Murcia. These changes aim to clarify the terms used in the law and increase legal certainty. The temporary exclusion areas will be precisely defined with georeferencing.

In addition to the ban on new developments, the decree-law will require all ongoing projects to incorporate sustainability measures and nature-based solutions.

Furthermore, the local councils will be restricted from initiating new planning instruments until the land-use plan, overseen by the Regional Ministry of Development and Infrastructures, receives its initial approval.

The regional government, led by President Fernando López Miras, emphasises that the protection of the Mar Menor is a top priority saying ‘In the face of this blunder by the PSOE, the Government of the Region of Murcia continues to protect the Mar Menor. I said it, I say it and I will continue to say it: not one step backward in the protection of the Mar Menor. That is why tomorrow, on the 3rd, when this urban planning moratorium comes to an end, it will be the Government of the Region of Murcia that, by decree, will extend the moratorium and the protection of the Mar Menor until the initial approval of the Plan de Ordenación Territorial de la Cuenca Vertiente del Mar Menor” (Land Management Plan for the Mar Menor catchment area).’

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Written by

Catherine McGeer

I am an Irish writer who has been living in Spain for the past twenty years. My writing centers around the Costa Cálida. As a mother I also write about family life on the coast of Spain and every now and then I try to break down the world of Spanish politics!