There seem to be different stages of approval for building here in Spain. The first stage is where the local town council prepares a plan for development which is debated in council sessions. The plans then have to be considered and approved at regional level.
Whilst the town will have considered the impact of their plans on the town and its growth, the regional authorities have to take into account other factors such as environmental impact, the demographics of the region and the supply of services such as water and electricity.
Where towns have tried to grow too quickly they have also faced problems providing services such as refuse collection, policing and street cleaning. This is because there is inevitably a delay between the completion of houses and flats and taxes being raised from them. At the peak of the construction boom this delay could have been two, three years or more as the relevant authorities struggled to keep up with the paperwork involved.
As I understand it some towns, rather than wait for final approval went ahead with their plans assuming that they would eventually be passed. Where there were issues that might cause a delay, they expected these to be resolved. In the boom years no town wanted to be left behind allowing their neighbours to develop at their expense. In other words they gambled on final permission to be granted retrospectively. In many cases the gamble paid off and everyone was happy.
In the latest saga, it seems that the City council of Formentera del Segura allowed the construction of 300 flats in their town plan SAUR 1 instead of the 100 bungalows they had full permission for.
According to the Dirección Territorial de la Conselleria de Medio Ambiente, Agua y Urbanismo y Vivienda in their official publication (BOP) published on the 19th of January, permission was granted for houses of one floor with a maximum height of 6.6m built at a maximum of 25 houses to the hectare of land. Instead three story blocks of flats with cellars were built some of which are now occupied.
The City council approved the planning file in their plenary sessions on the 4th of February 1999 and the 3rd of May 2001, but the Territorial Commission of Urbanism decided to suspend definitive approval until some deficiencies in the plan were corrected. In 2003 the resolution file was still pending.
Quite what happens now is anybodies guess. Sadly, in many cases like this, it is the buyers who suffer as they wait anxiously for a definitive decision to be made. In Cox, for example, the people who innocently bought illegally built properties face years of wrangling before their situation is finally resolved.