IT has only taken 137 years and €4.6 million but now Barcelona’s iconic (and as yet unfinished) Sagrada Familia basilica has finally been given planning permission.
In a process that old hands in Spain might recognise (things are different now after a string of corruption cases led to a tightening of regulations) building of the Barcelona landmark started in 1882 – a full three years before a construction permit was first requested.
But then things seemed to go a little quiet when it came to the legalities. Building work carried on at its own leisurely pace as finances allowed, and no-one worried too much about the paperwork. After all, it had been applied for, so “just carry on building until someone tells you stop,” was the message given, one all too familiar to people in Spain in the past.
Over the years the basilica grew and grew, and eventually became the Catalan city’s biggest tourist attraction.
But eventually it was realised that although the application may have been made, no one had any record of permission actually being given to construct the massive church.
This was a tricky situation, so Barcelona City Hall decided that the application had to be processed. After all, halting construction, or even ordering demolition was hardly an option.
So the permit has now been given but it will cost the foundation that is carrying on construction work millions.
It has agreed to pay the city council €4.6 million in fees for building permits that will last until 2026. This should be enough to complete the present phase of works. One of the central towers to be completed in this time scale will make La Sagrada Familia Europe’s tallest religious structure at 172.5 metres tall. The original architect, Antoni Gaudi, envisioned 12 such towers – one for each disciple – but it is unlikely they will all be completed.
Some 4.5 million tourists pay up to €50 each for a guided tour of the edifice each year, with a further 20 million estimated to see it from the outside, according to the city council.
At least now they know it is not yet another of the ‘illegal builds’ that are so common in Spain.