General Plan of1997. The Decrease and Fragmentation of the Green Belt. Edge Open Space Configuration

Municipal urban development strategies and policies changed from 1991 when, for the first time, right-wing governed Madrid municipality. With the economic boom Madrid becomes the Spanish core of the neoliberal urban model. The system collapsed with the economic crisis and the bursting of the housing bubble. The keys of this model were analyzed by, among others, Burriel (2016), Romero et al. (2015) and Naredo (2013). In summary, 1997 General Plan summaries the will of urbanization, an urban growth until the limit of urban capacity without temporal period of development (Rodriguez Avial 1997). This will be traduced in scarcely 36% of lands were catalogued as non-developable land (Ayuntamiento de Madrid 2012a, 23).

The municipal government proposal of urbanizing the whole municipality of Madrid was implemented in two stages. Firstly, the increment of the lands under the category “Developable Lands” through one-time modifications and the subsequent drafting of the Plan. This increment was achieved at the expense of the remaining “rustic land” and declassifying a large area of protected lands by the General Plan of 1985. Thus, from 1991 to 1997, 3344 ha were illegally got for new residential developments (Brandis 2014). The second stage started after approval of the Land Law of Madrid (9/2001). This law deals the regulations laid down in the State Land Law of 1998. For the first time, all the non-urban and non-protected lands were considered developable land. As a result of the former, Common Non-Developable lands in 1997 General Plan (almost 1250 ha), became Non Sectorized Developable lands with the exception of areas protected by different codes. In other words, these lands could be converted into urban land with a zoning plan even if the General Plan had not foreseen their development (Calvo et al. 2007, 229).

A large part of residential areas, a total of 21 on 9000 ha, were planned on protected land by the General Plan of 1985 because of their natural or agrarian values. Among these areas are six of the eight great urban developments designed in the General Plan of 1997. In total, more than 110,000 housings on 4400 ha. Their construction, as well as the construction of the 13 remaining developments, has been troubled by the ecologist groups and municipal opposition appeal to the Court. It has been 19 years since the annulment of the reclassification (2003) and four additional legal proceedings, sentences, until the final resolution. In 2012 municipal government reviewed in detail the planning, arguing in each case, the reclassification of protected lands into developable lands. In 2016, a definitive sentence has endorsed that review and unblocked the enforcement of the new neighborhoods, preventing from recovering large open spaces for the city.

Due to financial and economic crisis house building sector had stopped and no urban development work has started in large city areas of the Southeast of the city.

However, although the preservation of these areas is not possible, the reality shows that in large part of these areas, especially at the Southwest of the city, the development works have not started yet. Not only because of the slowness of legal process, but also because of the economic crisis.

Increasing urbanization of this period was possible because of the emergence of right-wing into the municipal and regional government. Madrid Autonomous Community has been a driving of this expansion, through the construction of road infrastructures and helping the immediate land occupation (Mata Olmo 2007). During economic boom the highway M-45 was built, and the M-50 has been finished, among other new radial highways. New urban developments are located between M-40, M-45 and M-50, and over the empty spaces between the different highways built since 1999 (Gomez Mendoza 2013, 23).

The final result cannot be bleaker. Not only for because of the created scenery, but also because of the lost opportunities. Madrid urban planning has not really promoted the open spaces creation, and their current total area is scarce compared with the initially proposed area. Furthermore, the current pieces of open spaces have neither the connection nor the reforested image that was expected at the beginning. It clearly seems that there has not been a political will for their enforcement, therefore, the needed strategies or tools for their development were never created (Fig. 5).

There has been an alliance between all the urban agents, public authorities, land owners, banks and property developers which has allowed an indiscriminate and excessive construction in the city of Madrid. Even the citizens have not shown any worry for the lack of parks and green areas, except in specific and late periods. Only the preserved areas (formerly monarchy properties), are currently the dreamt large extent of forests as a kind of Green Belts for the city.

Green Belt concept has lost its significance in the last project of “Forest Green Belt of Madrid” designed in 2009. This new and perimetral Green Belt is a discontinuous narrow ring band, which is made up of already existent parks and small protected areas located on both sides of the M-40 highway. These areas are completed with 100 new hectares adjacent to the highway or isolated by the roads (Ayuntamiento de Madrid 2012b, 68).

Schematic representations of the structures of the successive Green Belts

Fig. 5 Schematic representations of the structures of the successive Green Belts

Since the 1970’s as a mitigation measure, municipal governments have promoted the tree planting on pavements, boulevards, central reservations and other pedestrian spaces. Through these actions Madrid, after Tokyo, is the second city of the world in number of trees on its streets (Calderon et al. 2009, 12).

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