Monday, October 29, 2007

Spain to demolish illegal coastal homes: report

Reuters: Spain plans to demolish illegally built homes and hotels along an eighth of its coastline to halt rapid destruction of its Mediterranean and Canary Island beaches, the El Pais newspaper reported on Monday. The 5-billion-euro ($7-billion) plan aims to reclaim 482 miles of coastline and put an end to illegal urban development that threatens Spain's tourism industry, one of the country's biggest sources of foreign cash, El Pais reported.

The Socialist government will present the plan to regional authorities on Wednesday and promote it as a means to attract wealthy tourists who seek natural beauty rather than concrete resorts, the newspaper said. "Without the agreement of regional governments and town halls it will not be possible to implement the plan," said Antonio Serrano, head of land and biodiversity at Spain's Environment Ministry, in comments published in El Pais.

Environmentalists blame corruption and incompetence among local councils for the destruction of Spain's coastline which is disappearing under concrete at a rate of three soccer pitches a day, according to Greenpeace. Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Under the environment ministry plan, local authorities would negotiate compensation with owners of houses and hotels built illegally on beaches and 100 metres of public land behind them, El Pais said. Properties would be expropriated if settlements were not reached, the newspaper said.

The European Parliament has condemned the impact of tourist development on the Mediterranean environment and traditional communities, especially in the Valencia region. Even Spain's tourist bosses say the industry faces competition from cheaper, less spoiled destinations. While low-cost flights have kept arrivals high, the length of stays and the amount tourists spend in each visit has fallen. About 1,000 kms of Spain's 8,000 kms of coastline has been built upon, El Pais reported.

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