Blending the old with the new in Spain

Following the launch of our international insights map, we interviewed Madrid-based director, Ricardo Pariente Villasur, about his experience of permitting in Spain…

Q: How does Madrid compare with the rest of Spain?

A: In Madrid, we apply for permits online by filling out a ‘Declaración Responsible’ (Statement of Compliance). Although this is common in most cities across Spain, I’ve found that response times tend to be quicker in Madrid because permit agencies are involved. Previously, we had to seek approval directly from Madrid’s City Council and it could be difficult to secure face-to-face meetings.

Projects in the centre of Madrid have a higher level of protection and we are expected to send details of any planned works to the heritage commission, even for new buildings with no historical importance. That said, it’s even more complicated in locations such as Barcelona where you must consider the ‘urban landscape’ i.e. whether or not a building blends into its surroundings, as well as historical aspects.

Q: In your experience, do you feel that Spain is more or less bureaucratic than the rest of Europe?

A: It’s difficult to say, as there are different types of processes depending on what kind of project you’re dealing with. For example, responses can vary depending on whether you’re working on a retail or a residential project. Spain belongs to the south of Europe and I believe that this makes us more bureaucratic by nature. I’ve found that the permitting process in Spain is very similar to that in France and Italy. In contrast, countries to the north of Europe tend to be more pragmatic and open to negotiation.

Q: Can you recall a particularly challenging permitting situation in Madrid?

A: Whilst working on a project for one our luxury retail clients, we sent a proposal to the heritage commission showing a white marble stone façade for the store. Due to the historic nature of the surroundings, our proposal was denied, and this decision had the potential to set the project back significantly. Once a decision has been made by the heritage commission, it’s very unusual to reverse it. However, after some careful negotiation, we were able to convince them to change their minds and this was extremely satisfying as this does not happen often!

Looking for your next project location? Visit our interactive map for tips and insights into local planning regulations, in over 20 countries across Europe!