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1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >

Programmes for Improving the Urban Environment in Malaga (Spain)

Para consultar la versión castellana de este documento, pulse aquí.

Reference Date: 26-07-98

Experience selected in the 1998 Dubai Award for Best Practice, and catalogued as DUBAI AWARD 1998. ( Best Practices Database.)
País/Country: Spain

United Nations Region: Europe
Ecological region: coastal
Activity: city/town
Partnerships: Local Authority. Private Sector

Themes = Urban and Regional Planning: urban renewal

Main contact:
Council of Malaga (Local authority)
Pedro Marín Cots
Avda. Cervantes, 4
Tel: +34 952 13 59 42
Fax: +34 952 13 54 20

Council of Malaga (Local authority)
Pedro Marín Cots
Avda. Cervantes, 4
Tel: +34 952 13 59 42
Fax: +34 952 13 54 20
Partner One Support Type: Financial Support

Town Planning Department (Local authority)
Julio García Vilanova
C/ Palestina, 7
Tel: +34 952 13 57 55
Fax: +34 952 13 57 15
Partner Two Support Type: Technical Support

Malaga Historic Centre Association (Private sector)
Francisco Martín Rojas
Especerías, 5
Tel: +34 952 21 97 91
Partner Three Support Type: Other/Private Business and Company Organization

Financial Profile:
Total sum for the investment for 1995-99: Pesetas 9,400 million.
Contribution from the associates: Malaga City Council: 50%
Town Planning Department: 50%


As from 1960, Malaga grew rapidly, with its population doubling in 20 years.

This rapid development took place without control and without the proper levels being established for infrastructures, urban facilities and green areas.

At the same time, growth spreading to the outside of the city caused the marginalisation and deterioration of the historic city centre.

When the city's growth stabilised in the early 1990s, the main objective of the municipal authorities was to achieve balanced levels for infrastructures for drainage, town planning, green
areas and community facilities, whilst incorporating questions regarding the treatment of effluents and recycling of waste.

The programmes for improving the urban environment began in 1995, with the end of their first phase being envisaged in 1999. They consist of putting Malaga up-to-date as a modern city, which will
repair the deep wounds caused to it by the economic boom of the 60s and which is committed to the recovery of the historic centre, in which works for infrastructures, urban decongestion,
refurbishment of dwellings and improvements in social services and facilities.

Works have been carried out in the city as a whole for waste water treatment, for the collection of solid waste with a waste treatment plant, the renovation or construction of 5 parks, the preparation of a map of noise in the city for detecting the most problematic areas in order to modify and prevent sound pollution, as well as a
campaign to make the citizens aware about environmental questions.

Key Dates

Historic Centre: Social and economic Rehabilitation and Revitalisation.
Water: 100% treatment Solid wastes: Treatment and recycling of 95%, 500,000 tons/year.
New green areas: 1,080,000 m2.


1. Situation prior to the start of the action

The city of Malaga, located in the South of Spain on the shores of the Mediterranean, maintained a moderate population in the first half of the century, as well as in the scope of its surrounding territory. As from 1960, the economic model for Malaga was aimed almost exclusively towards the twofold objective of tourist and construction services. Which led to a great expansion of the city, with its population doubling in 20 years (1960: 250,000 inhabitants, 1980: 503,000 inhabitants).

The rapid growth in the supply of tourist services, which over time came to be known as the "Costa del Sol", attracted a population originally employed in agricultural work who wanted to increase their low level of income. Physically they settled in the central areas in slum dwellings and on the outskirts of the city, which grew greatly and chaotically, with huge problems of shanty towns and the breakdown of the environment.

The heavy dependence on exogenous elements for the economic development of the area, such as tourism, acted in a twofold manner on urban planning and growth. On the one hand, it made it possible to improve the income level for the population and create stable employment. On the other hand, the expansive development model used paid no heed to the environment, which, over time, was to become a burden for the present-day city.

The considerable growth of the metropolitan area spread outwards, with the historic city centre being marginalised during the process for transforming the city. This area, formed by the segment covering the old Nazari city wall and the working-class neighbourhoods adjacent thereto, has remained practically unaltered in its morphological structure right up to the nineteen nineties.

The scant public and private investment in the historic centre produced a state of physical, environmental and social breakdown that was clearly negative when compared to the rest of the city. At the same time, the process of marginalisation and isolation of the city centre as an urban part of the city has caused not just the loss of population (8,968 inhabitants in 1981 and 6,251 in 1995) and the physical deterioration of its streets and squares, but also the abandonment of its functional and symbolic capabilities as the central area of the city.

When, at the beginning of the eighties, the city stabilised its growth rate, the main objective of the municipal authorities was to achieve balanced levels in infrastructures for sewage, town planning, green areas and community facilities. These first needs for the improvement of the urban environment in the city, were to be extended in the nineties with works for water treatment and for the recycling of solid wastes.

Municipal interest in the overall remodelling of the city (and especially of the historic centre) was demonstrated by the General Plan for Urban Planning in 1983 and the Special Plan for the Historic Centre in 1990 and by the Regional Plans for Services.

In the middle of the eighties, the Town Planning Department was created which was to mean financial and technical support for the City Council in the task of refurbishing the city. Since the beginning of this decade, a private association of shop owners and businessmen called the Historic Centre of Malaga has been collaborating within the scope of the historic centre.

2. Preparing information and classifying priorities

Although in the initial period, the City Council
paid for the costly tasks of rebuilding the city's
infrastructures with its own funds, its joining of different programmes co-financed with funds from the European Union made it possible to establish two lines of priorities: a) the recovery of the city's historic centre, b) the provision of modern environmental services throughout the metropolitan area capable of setting the bases for environmental sustainability: complete

treatment of waste water, recycling and composting of wastes, new
green spaces and a decided emphasis on making citizens more aware.

3. Drawing up of objectives, strategies and mobilising resources

In the Malaga of today with 560,000 inhabitants, the objectives of the programmes for improving the urban environment were prepared and financed mainly (with the contribution of 45% from the EU) by the City Council and the Town Planning Department, with support, in the case of the historic centre, from the private association mentioned above. The main objectives are:

A) Rehabilitation and revitalisation of the historic centre, with a cost of Pesetas 5,100 million. It consists of a number of physical actions for the recovery of broken down areas (area around the streets called Camas and Alcazabilla), clearing of congested areas (S. Julian and Pozos Dulces Squares) and the creation of open spaces. The reform of the infrastructures and buildings are an essential aspect in improving the quality of life in the area, both for its resident population and for those who normally travel to it for commercial or tourist reasons.

On the other hand, the development of the economic fabric was strengthened by promoting private enterprise in the modernisation of the production capacities of the small businesses located in the area. A plan was prepared for the colour of the centre, in which the buildings were ordered according to the historical period (baroque, eclectic, contemporary and modern) and their level of preservation, subsidies were set up for refurbishing the fa.ades which would also make it possible to improve the buildings.

Social care and investment in facilities in an area with very specific pockets of begging, prostitution and immigration is one of the most important aspects of the intervention in the historic centre.

B) Programmes for urban sustainability.

  1. Treatment of waste water, this action meant the construction of a waste water treatment plant in the Eastern area of the city which backs the one that was built in the West of the city. Until now effluent was poured out in an important tourist area where the most popular beaches in Malaga are located. The treatment plant will allow the effluent to be completely treated, with a capacity for 50,000 m3 per day, covering 220,000 inhabitants.

    A network of main sewage collector drains is also envisaged in different neighbourhoods and the channelling of streams in the area for the widening the city. Cost, Pesetas 2,950 million.

  2. Treatment of solid wastes in the city using a waste treatment plant which uses two different processes, one for the recovery of inorganic elements (plastic, glass and cardboard, etc) and another for the production of compost with the organic part for subsequent use as fertiliser. At the same time and parallel to these actions, a number of intermediate size neighbourhood centres are planned, with an average surface area of 2,000 m2, spread around the different neighbourhoods in the city. Cost of Pesetas 1,510 million.

  3. Recovery or natural spaces and improvement in the urban environment through the renovation or construction of five large parks, which involve 1,080,000 m2 of green areas. Two of them, Gibralfaro and Morlaco were located in the city centre though theywere not used due to the bad conditions. The park of Huelin serves a heavily populated neighbourhood. The parks called Concepci.n and Virreinas, to the North of the city, have urban perimeter characteristics for closing off the city. Cost, Pesetas 1,250 million.

  4. Preparation of a noise map for the city to detect the most problematic spaces and times which will allow noise pollution to be modified and prevented.

  5. Campaign for making citizens aware about environmental questions, mainly in secondary and primary schools. Environmental bus which travelled around the different neighbourhoods in the city, promoting citizen participation and joint responsibility.

4. Process

The projects were started in 1995. In the case of those jointly financed by the European Union, there had to be prior approval from the programme in which they were to be included (URBAN, POMAL, FUTURES).

The incorporation of the neighbourhood centres for the selective collection of solid urban wastes was initially met with great opposition from the neighbours, since they considered them to be mini rubbish tips, when in fact they were clean points, a question that was demonstrated using the first centre built as a pilot experiment. The development of the rest of the actions did not have any particular problems, apart from the painstaking administrative procedures for contracting the works.

5. Results achieved

At the present the degree of execution for the projects planned stands at 68%, with 30% of those initially planned being completely finished. The level of monitoring of the programme is check quarterly using financial, physical, impact and employment indicators which show the value performed according to what was initially scheduled.

For example, in the reform of the Historic Centre, in the works for which the object is to subsidise the refurbishment of dwelling, the number of buildings renovated is shown as an indicator (as of 31-12-97: 70), which means 71.43% of the buildings scheduled. At the same time, the investment pumped in by the private promoters of the works stands at Pesetas 2,720 million, 80% of the forecast, and the environmental improvement has a ratio of 39 of the 70 forecast, which means 55.71%.

The development of the programmes has modified the internal mechanisms for municipal management by modernising them in their day-to-day work which means meeting some of the objectives within a time scale.

6. Sustainability

The concept of sustainability will mean an improvement in the landscaping and aesthetic quality of the main thoroughfares in a city which inherited serious lacks of environmental infrastructures from the financial boom which harmed its quality of life.

In the field of water treatment and the recycling of waste, it was intended to reach 100% and 95%, respectively in the recovery of resources, by maintaining the development of the projects after the initial investment with public funds from the municipality and the involvement of the private sector.

Within the scope of the Historic Centre, the same as wit the city's parks, the maintenance of the investment made in infrastructures would be paid for by the city council though the main efforts for the recovery of the buildings was to be privately funded. Value is added to the historical, cultural and tourist area through the programmes, though the problems of sustainability as regards social marginalisation still represent a question that is very difficult to solve.

On the level of the city as a whole, the idea of sustainability must mean urban development that is to be harmonious and aimed at the quality of life of its inhabitants. The drought suffered by Andalusia between 1992 and 1996 caused much lower water consumption than usual, so the city did not have to resort to restrictions. This example may be used as an idea for inculcating amongst the population the sense that each work that is carried out in the urban environment should take into account not just measures for the quality of production or services, but rather changes which will favour sustainability in the urban design, in the construction of dwellings, in the infrastructures or in the control of transportation and traffic.

7. Lessons learnt

The programmes for improving the urban environment are the technical and especially economic realisation of some proposals made on a planing level in which Malaga was a pioneer, since it won the national prize for Town Planning in 1985.

In 1995, the Malaga Green Charter was approved, which contains an Agenda 21 in the sense that was proclaimed in the Rio de Janeiro Conference in 1992. The Charter has been ratified by over 150
institutions, companies and groups in the city.

Recently, Malaga received the 2nd European Prize for the Sustainable City of 1997 awarded by the Council of Municipalities and Regions of Europe for the Malaga Green Charter. At the present time the city is preparing its candidacy for the environmental network in the URB-AL programme.

Along these lines, the influences received cover a wide cultural spectrum, renewed by the recent ideas for a sustainable city and the experiences from Habitat I.

8. Transfer

Though Malaga had a classic European urban development, the fast and chaotic economic and urban growth contains elements of dependent development that are so usual in developing countries or areas. For this reason, the similarities with the processes undergone in Malaga may perhaps be of greater use on an overall city level in Latin America, Africa or Southern Europe.

The projects for the renovation of the Historic Centre, mainly the level of scale of the works, or the treatment of the colour of the buildings according to their historical period may have a general application as may be seen in the network created in Vicenza by the URB-AL programme.

9. References

See Press Dossier

Este documento se ha editado a partir de una versión inglesa.
Revisado por Gloria Gómez Muñoz.

1998 Spanish Best Practices selected by the International Jury >
Ciudades para un Futuro más Sostenible
Búsqueda | Buenas Prácticas | Documentos | Boletín CF+S | Novedades | Convocatorias | Sobre la Biblioteca | Buzón/Mailbox
Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Grupo de Investigación en Arquitectura, Urbanismo y Sostenibilidad
Departamento de Estructuras y Física de la EdificaciónDepartamento de Urbanística y Ordenación del Territorio