In 2018, your property by the beach will be taken from you, demolished and the site left to nature. That was the effect of the original act of 1988 in the spirit of the 1978 constitution, which expressly declared coastline as public domain. It was then largely forgotten or ignored for 20 years until people began to realise that the end of the 30 year dispensation for occupation of the coastal land would be upon them very soon. Obviously, some people with influence were to be affected and so changes to the law are being considered to give the properties at least another 75 years; although they are going to have to pay a fee for that (the country needs the money!). Then it will be somebody else’s problem! Also some areas are less or not affected and, according to El Pais, about 10,000 properties are excluded altogether. The complaints of owners whose properties have already been demolished and neighbours who are being less laxly treated will no doubt carry on for years.

The original idea in principle is excellent, where the first 100 m back (now down to 20 m in some areas) from the high tide line cannot be built upon, the next 6 m is reserved for a walkway and the next 30 m should only be used for leisure related development. (If global warming raises the high tide line it’s going to add another interesting item into the discussion!). No private beaches and the coastal views and sea available for all, to show that the country had learned from the damage of the excesses of the 1960s and 70s. However, over the years it became ignored and developments were carried out with no respect for the law. During the last six or seven years this has gradually changed so that many owners have found that their purchases ‘in good faith’ (though everyone should have known the law was there) are now under threat of demolition. Whether these are all included within the 10,000 exemptions will depend upon individual investigation. Certainly, properties within the protected zone cannot be added to or enlarged, but now they can be repaired and improved with confidence and even sold, which previously was not permitted.

There are also many detail changes, some of which have caused considerable concern to environmentalists. For instance, the law allows different treatment of urban beaches and those adjacent to protected areas. Ignorance should no longer be a problem in that the law has to be recorded in all property boundaries. It also gives guidance on Chiringuitos and, less welcome, some advertising on the beach.

It has to be stressed that the law amendment has not yet been passed and no doubt there will be considerable discussion and argument on its finer points before that happens. However, the basic principle is the same in that before you buy a property fronting onto the sea or a river estuary make sure that it’s at least 106 m from the high tide line and ideally more than 130. We all know of many that are not and they are still in limbo until final decisions are made, if that ever happens.