The Sagrada Familia in Barcelona is a UNESCO world heritage site as a result of its unique architectural style, which combines the Gothic and curvilinear Art Noveau forms. It draws a whopping 12,000 visitors per day. However, prior to his works commencing in 1883, Antoni Gaudi - its creator and architect - failed to get local council approval for his plans. As such, construction on the site has proceeded without the necessary permission for a number of years. The unfinished landmark is therefore not listed on the Spanish property registry and is simply marked as an empty plot belonging to the Diocese of Barcelona.
Some 136 years after building work started, 93 years after Gaudi died (he was killed on his way to confession) and around seven years before the building is finally due for completion, negotiations for a deal to regularise the situation have been successfully concluded between its owners and the council after a two year period.
The authority will collect around £31 million in overdue building and licence permits, which it will channel back into improving local public transport (including accessibility for people with limited mobility) and carrying out street upgrades and maintenance work.
In exchange, by next year the status of the building will be fully regularised, paving the way for registration by the land registry. It has not however been reported how the council and owners have resolved issues of infringement where the basilica has protruded around 50 cm outside its curtilage and onto the street.
Had the iconic building been located in the UK, its owners might have escaped such a huge bill, if they could have brought the building within the exclusion for buildings ‘controlled by other legislation’ which would dis-apply the Building Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2214) and Building (Approved Inspectors etc) Regulations 2010 (SI 2010/2215).
Presumably, in creating his masterpiece, the brilliant Gaudi had far more important things on his mind than licences and permits. If only we all had such genius as an excuse…