Insight & Analysis

A Familia problem?

Published: Oct 2018

Even a world heritage site needs planning permission. Barcelona’s iconic Sagrada Familia has fallen foul of the city’s planning drones. It must now pay €36m in building permit fees, some 130 years after the fact.

Antoni Gaudi’s famous basilica has been a work in progress since March 1882. It’s creators foolishly never sought official oversight or a permit from either the local council or regional government.

As such, it is not listed in the city’s property registry. Since 1995, the instantly recognisable UNESCO World Heritage Site has been registered as an empty plot belonging to the diocese of Barcelona, according to Spanish newspaper, El Pais.

In 2015, the construction board and Barcelona Mayor’s office began negotiating to regulate the building and licence payments.

Between now and eventual completion in 2026 (only 100 years after Gaudi’s untimely death), revenues from the building will fund improvements to public transport and access to the monument, as well as assisting the local neighbourhood.

The lack of oversight on the construction of Sagrada Familia has seen some unforgivable transgressions of local planning law in the past. Worst of all came in 2007 when eight columns were found to have been built up to 50cm across the pavement.

Despite these errors, Sagrada Familia still attracts up to 4.5m visitors annually, an average of 12,000 people per day. Last year, Fitch Ratings affirmed the City of Barcelona’s Long-Term Foreign and Local Currency Issuer Default Ratings (IDRs) at ‘BBB+’ with Positive Outlook. The city, it said, has a “diversified and wealthy economy and benefits from strong tourist activity”. A key tourist site without planning permission has somehow failed to bring the city into disrepute.

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