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Spatial Planning in Spain

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Jorge Martinez Chapa 


July 2001

Greenstructures and urban planning - Green areas in Spanish urban legislation

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After 1978 when the new Spanish Constitution was approved, the urban competencies were transferred to the Autonomous Communities. There are Seventeen  in Spain.

Almost all of them have their own urban legislation. Even in those Autonomous Communities  with  regulation of their own about this subject, such regulation arises from the State legislation.

Present State legislation


The present State legislation in relation to green areas planning, is ruled in the "Ley sobre Régimen del Suelo y Ordenación Urbana" (  Land use planning  and Urban Ruling Law), approved in 1975, and the "Reglamento de Planeamiento para el desarrollo y aplicación de la Ley sobre Régimen del Suelo y Ordenación Urbana" ( Planning regulation for the development  and application of the Land use planning and Urban Ruling Law ), approved in 1978, that develops the contents of the previous law .

Both laws are prior to the approval of the Constitution, and are applicable to  those Autonomous Communities without a legislation of their own.   

The general legislation applicable in all the Spanish territory is the "Ley sobre Régimen de suelo y Valoraciones " ( Land use planning and Appraisal  Law),  approved in 1998 , therefore after the approval of the Constitution, but this Law, due to the State not having competences to legislate in relation to urban subjects, only regulates as its name indicates,  other aspects not urbanistics of the land.



Types of Plans according to the State legislation 


Regional Plans

Master Plans ( Planes Generales de Ordenación Urbana Municipal, P.G.O.U.M )

Partial Plans ( Planes Parciales)

Special Plans


Regulation of the green areas by de planning, according to  State legislation


The State Law of 1975 and its Planning Regulation of 1978, establishes the following reserves of green areas on Master and Partial Plans:

- Municipal Master Plans ( Planes Generales de Ordenación Urbana Municipal) should assign not less than 5 m2/ per inhabitant  to green areas.

- Partial Plans ( Operational urban development ) that develop the Municipal Master Plans in new urban areas ( land in development ), meant for residential or industrial use,  should assign not less than 18 m2/per dwelling  or   every 100 m2 built (with a minimum of 10% of the total surface of the Partial Plan ), to green areas in the case of  first use ( residential ), and not less than 10% in the case of the second use ( industrial ).

These quantities should be increased ( in residential areas ), according to the amount of housing contained in the Partial Plan. The previous asignment for residential use applies only to less than 500 dwellings. If the amount is higher than that, the reserve should be not less than 21 m2/ per dwelling or every 100 m2 built, with a minimum of 10% of  the total surface of the Partial Plan.


The Municipal Master Plan

It is the main instrument and the whole planning for the township. Its scope includes the complete surface of the municipality, and it is carried out  by  the Town Council itself, or by a  private planner commissioned for it by the Council.

When Master Plan refers to Metropolitan areas, its scope covers the main city that constitutes the focus of the urban aglomeration as well as the rest of councils  integrated within the Metropolitan area.

In Spain although only Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Sevilla and  Bilbao, are considered Metropolitan areas, while the Central Area of Asturias, Málaga and the Bay of Cádiz are considered urban aglomerations, at present only Barcelona has a real Metropolitan Master Plan ( 27 councils). The Master Plan of Madrid includes only  Madrid and the former councils incorporated to the capital some years ago.

The Master Plan is an integral Plan that establishes:

- The Land Clasification ( Urban, Land to develop, and Land not to develop )

- The regulation of the uses of the land and the intensities of the edification.

- The general and organisational structure of the territory ( System of communications). 

- The General System of open spaces ( parks and green spaces), and community services ( educational , cultural, health assistance, sports, churches, cemeteries, etc ).

- The programming for the development of the Plan.


As indicated above, the rate established by the State Law  for the Master Plans is 5 m2/ per inhabitant.



The Partial Plan

It establishes in detail the regulation of the Sectors of Land to develop, according to the Master Plan. It can be developed by the Local Administration (Council),  or by Private individual.


The scope of the Partial Plan comprises a Sector of Land to develop, and it must specify:


- The regulation in detail of the use of the land as well as the intensities and kinds of the edification.

- The setting of the local comunication systems  ( streets, places, etc ).

- The local System of green and sports areas, and public equipment.

- The economic valuation, and the development plan.



The State regulation establishes two kind of requirements about green areas:

Concerning quantity:


- Less than 500 dwellings: 18m2/per dwelling or per each 100 m2 built.

( minimum 10% of the surface of the Plan).

- 500 or more dwellings: 21 m2/ per dwelling or per each 100 m2 built.

( minimum 10% of the surface of the Plan).

- Industrial  or non residential Plans: 10% of the surface of the Plan.




Concerning quality:


The green areas may be public gardens, children areas or pedestrian areas.


- The public gardens must have a surface not less than 1.000 m2, capable of  inscribing a circle of 30 metres diameter.


- The children areas must have a surface not lower than 200 m2, capable of  inscribing a circle of 12 metres  diameter.


- The pedestrian areas must have a surface larger than 1.000 m2, capable of inscribing a circle of  30 metres diameter.



Other Plans

The rate of green areas in other kind of plans ( Regional or Specials ), is not regulated by the legislation.


The Special Plans can develop urban pieces of land with different options ( to obtain new public spaces in very compact areas, to restore impoverished areas, to protect  interesting architectural areas, etc ).

Master Plans can stablish, the rate of green areas in some of the Sectors object of the Special Plans.  


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