MADRID (Reuters) - Thousands of illegally built coastal homes and hotels face demolition under a government plan to protect Mediterranean and Canary Island shorelines, Spain’s environment ministry said on Monday.
The Socialist government plans to use compensation and expropriation to clear illegal developments along 776km (482 miles) of coast, or an eighth of Spain’s seaboard.
The 5 billion euro ($7 billion) plan has targeted over 3,000 illegal properties and aims to prevent the future destruction of some of Europe’s most popular beaches, which are a vital source of tourist income, the ministry said.
“The aim is to protect the coast and guarantee public access,” an Environment Ministry spokesman said.
Key to the plan’s success is support from local councils, which hold huge power in urban planning.
Environment Minister Cristina Narbona meets with heads of regional governments on Wednesday to try to hammer out details of the plan.
Environmentalists applauded the initiative but said the government of Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero was still far from reaching an agreement with local councils.
“At last they’re presenting an ambitious plan, but it’s still short on details and remains very vague,” said Maria Jose Cavallero, head of Greenpeace’s Spanish coast protection campaign.
Environmentalists blame corruption and incompetence among local authorities for the destruction of Spain’s coastline which is disappearing at a rate of three soccer pitches a day, Greenpeace said.
Around 1,000 km of Spain’s total 8,000 km of coastline has already been built over, according to the government.
Under the environment ministry plan local authorities would negotiate compensation with owners of houses and hotels built on beaches and public seashore before laws to protect the coast came into force in the 1980s.
Houses built illegally after that date would face demolition with no compensation.