What can you build on rustic land in Andalusia?

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Since 2002, building in Andalusia has been restricted, and in some cases it was even impossible. The old law, the LOUA, limited the building to either agricultural use or tourism use. For twenty years, locals and foreigners have endured difficult times, trying to make their wishes come true. However, in December 2022 the legislation changed. The new law, the LISTA was approved and opens up possibilities. In this guide you will find all the information you need to know about what you can build on rustic land in Andalusia.

What is rustic land?

Rustic land is basically all the land that is not in town. It is also known as suelo rústico or suelo no urbanizable in Spanish. Rustic land in Andalusia can be classified into various types. Roughly there are 4 types:

  • Suelo No Urbanizable Común. Rustic land with a rural and natural character and no special protection.
  • Suelo No Urbanizable Diseminado. Rural settlements forthcoming out of a rural function.
  • Suelo No Urbanizable con Protección. Rustic land with special protection. For example, land of archaeological, environmental or historical importance.
  • Suelo No Urbanizable Preservada. Highly protected land that cannot be touched. Areas that fall under this category are natural parks or land adjoining rivers, lakes or the sea. Also land with specific agricultural use. 

If the land is classified as ‘Común’ there are more possibilities than when there is some kind of protection. In Natural Parks or areas close to rivers, lakes or the sea, building is still out of the question. 

The best and quickest way to know what type of rustic land you own, or would like to purchase, you can check your municipality’s website or make an appointment with the urban planning department. 

What can you build on rustic land?

The new law, The LISTA, distinguishes between regular use and extraordinary use. Under the extraordinary use it is now foreseen that also private residences will be allowed to build. Naturally, this will only be permitted when certain conditions are met. 

  • Regular use (usos ordinarios)

Creating new buildings directly related to the use of the land, such as agricultural, livestock, forestry, hunting, mining etc. is allowed. All infrastructure necessary for this exploitation including houses and barns can be approved. It is requested to justify the necessity of the building. This can be done by means of a proyecto de actuación, a proposal that needs to be approved by the authorities. With an approved plan you can ask for building licenses.

Presenting a proyecto de actuación was also a possibility under the old law the LOUA. An important consideration for approval of a private residence has always been whether you could prove it was absolutely necessary to live on the land to perform the activity. Building a luxury villa for leisure use was and is still not considered valid.

  • Extraordinary Use (uso extra ordinario)

If the purpose of the building has nothing to do with the characteristics of the land it is called extraordinary use. Under this category, the LISTA allows the build of private residences. Furthermore, buildings related to tourism or other activities are also allowed. 

In order to go through with this kind of project, you have to justify that the project will contribute to public or social interest and rural development. Private residences could be approved here as long as no new settlements are created. A pre-approval of the project is necessary, before you can apply for the building license. To give some examples, it seems that with the right justification you could ask authorization to build:

  • A residence
  • A building for tourism (hotel, restaurant, B&B, holiday villa)
  • An industrial or office building

Since the use is going to be ‘extra-ordinary’ the municipality will ask for an extra compensation, next to the costs for the license and may limit the time of use. We recommend you to speak  with the urban department to discuss the following topics:

  • What would they be willing to approve?
  • What will the compensation be?
  • Will they limit the time of use?

What are the guidelines to build a house on rustic land in Andalusia?

Specific regulations are published that offer the guidelines for building a home on rustic land in Andalusia. We have outlined the most important requirements for you below to give you a rough. We urge you to check the specific regulations applicable to your specific situation. 

  • The minimum size of the land is 25.000m2 on rustic land with no protection and 50.000 m2 on forest land.
  • You will be allowed to build a maximum of 1% (0,5% on protected land) and this includes all building.
  • The house has to be at least 25 m from the boundaries of the plot.
  • The house has to be at least 100 m from other residences.
  • Per plot, 1 house is allowed.
  • Segregating a larger plot into plots of 25.000m2 to build will not be allowed. Segregation must be justified by the agricultural use, or specific legal issues with ownership.
  • Creation of new hamlets, or communities on rustic land will not be allowed. The density is specified.
  • The plot of land needs to have a flat area to build the house. You will be allowed to move soil, but not for more than 30% of the slope.
  • You have to show you will have access to water and electricity. The town can never be held responsible to provide you with this.

If your project complies with the regulations you can present a plan, the proyecto de actuación, in the townhall for pre-approval . With the pre approval you can then apply for the building license.

Next to the cost for the building license you will be obliged to pay an extra 10% over the quoted building costs, as a compensation to the town hall, allowing you this extraordinary use of the land.

Is it allowed to build a pool?

Pools are not specifically mentioned and are therefore expected to be allowed as part of the total build. This is expected since they are also allowed for buildings related to tourism. It is advised to include this in your pre-project. For agricultural or industrial use a pool won’t be allowed. 

Restoring a ruin in Andalusia

Can you build on rustic land if the land has a ruin on it? This is the dream of many: finding a beautiful old ruin of a Cortijo to restore it bit by bit, bringing back its old glory and adding today’s details of quality to live in comfort. We are afraid that those days are over. 

If the ruin is registered in the cadastre and the land registry, you will have some possibilities, as long as the ruin is still ‘habitable’. By habitable, we mean it needs to have a roof and the main walls are still up. If this is the case, you can apply for a license to restore what is there. If there is no other building on the land and the ruin meets the afore mentioned regulations, you can follow the same procedure as for a new build.

Can I extend existing buildings on rustic land in Andalusia? 

Whether you can extend existing buildings on rustic land is not entirely clear just yet. After having spoken to different architects, they informed us about the procedure they follow: 

  • The existing house needs to comply with the before mentioned regulations and needs to have been granted the license of the first occupation. 
  • If the build size including the pool is under the 1% rule you should be allowed to extend your house.  

Please note that this is merely a guideline. It gives you an indication of the possibilities and restrictions. Before starting a project, we strongly advise you to involve an architect and a well-informed lawyer on rustic land, who can check the classification of the land and the attitude of the municipality towards the approval of private residences.

Danielle Ernstsen | 13th December 2022