Source AP ©

Spain to sacrifice illegal constructions for restoring natural look

A fifth of Spanish coastline will be cleared of overdeveloped concrete jungle to create a more natural state.

The 5 billion EUR(US$7.2 billion) plan, which would affect about 700 kilometers (435 miles) of coast, was approved by the government in Cabinet last week and is due to be presented to regional authorities Wednesday, an Environment Ministry spokesman said.

For the measure to succeed, the government must push regional and local planning authorities - who have direct control over construction - to reach agreements with illegal property owners, the spokesman said.

Spain's coasts have for decades acted as tourism and property development magnets, offering Mediterranean and Canary Island seaside locations to which northern Europeans - and Spaniards - have flocked for sun-drenched holidays.

A real-estate boom has seen housing developments, golf courses and holiday complexes spring up along many of the once largely unspoiled coasts.

Property-related corruption scandals - in which permits to build on public land have been exchanged for illegal cash payments - have rocked many coastal city governments.

Under the plan presented to cabinet by environment minister Cristina Narbona, local authorities would be pressed to negotiate with owners of property built illegally near beaches and other public land.

Compensation would be offered and should settlements not be reached, properties would be subject to compulsory purchase, the spokesman said on condition of anonymity in keeping with ministry rules.

Construction and related industries make up 18 percent of Spain's economy, which has posted 14 straight years of growth.

Building accounted for a third of the jobs created last year in the euro zone.

The European Parliament has been critical of the impact tourist construction has had on vulnerable Mediterranean environments, especially in the eastern regions of Murcia and Valencia.

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