Valencia promises to overhaul land grab law

A promise by authorities in Valencia to overhaul the region's controversial 'land grab' law is unlikely to stop the notorious practice, a leading Spanish property expert claims.

The news that Valencia has apparently bowed to pressure from the European Parliament and agreed to address the notorious law that allowed developers to expropriate land from private owners and build on land that did not belong to them, might be not much more than a gesture.

José Ramón García Antón, Valencia's minister for public works, transport and town planning, said the matter would be addressed immediately and all laws would be co-ordinated.

In 2006, the Valencian government replaced the original 'land grab' law, known as the Ley Reguladora de la Actividad Urbanística (LRAU), with its present town planning law, called the ley Urbanística Valenciana (LUV).

But the LUV still allows unscrupulous developers, in collusion with local politicians, to propose planning schemes on land that doesn't belong to them. 'Owners have been forced to give up land at a fraction of its true value and contribute tens of thousands of Euros or more to the cost of urbanising the land lost,' explained property expert Mark Stucklin.

'Many victims of the laws have lost their homes and been financially ruined by greedy developers and politicians,' he added

The European parliament has condemned Spain three times since 2003 on planning law issues. The EU has no jurisdiction over national planning laws so it attacked the LUV, and its predecessor LRAU, for violating EU public procurement procedures.

'The chances are that any new law introduced by the Valencian government will do the minimum to comply with EU directives on public procurement, whilst allowing the so called land grabs to continue,' he concluded.

These laws have been copied by other regions, such as Andalucia and Murcia, where similar problems are starting to emerge.