Environment minister Miquel Mir in parliament on Tuesday. | MDB

On Tuesday, the Balearic parliament gave its approval to a government decree law on urban planning that is designed to "contain" urban growth on the islands. Environment minister Miquel Mir said that the law was necessary because the islands are "fragile, vulnerable territory with a high index of human pressure that compromises their natural resources".

Under the decree law, there is to be a declassification of land available for development on so-called rustic land. There has long been a distinction between rustic land that can be developed and that which cannot. It is the former that the decree law addresses and prohibits building except of a certain type and under certain conditions. Building for agricultural purposes will be allowed as will be the building of social housing.

Municipalities will not be permitted to give permission for the building of homes on this declassified land if they have 15% of existing developable urban land available - the majority of municipalities have this amount of land - while the decree places an emphasis on "rehabilitation, regeneration and renewal actions" in respect of existing development.

Related news

The view of opposition parties was summed up by Sebastià Sagreras of the Partido Popular, who said that the government has a "bad habit" of urban planning legislation by decree and without taking account of the wishes of town halls. Urban planning, he insisted, must be done "through consensus and dialogue". "The decree goes against the autonomy of the municipalities." Moreover, it will "aggravate" the housing problem.

The property developers' association Proinba and other business groups have been highly critical of a decree that they believe will only lead to a further increase in house prices because developable land is being limited.

Marc Pérez-Ribas of Ciudadanos stressed that the decree "will not solve the most pressing problems", while he argued that "building professionals of the 21st century take sustainability into account and come up with solutions". After eight years of the Armengol government, he was of the opinion that Balearic society has now recognised the "failure of housing policies that are interventionist, populist measures which blame foreigners".