Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia finally gets building permit

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BUILDING PERMIT: After 137 years.
BUILDING PERMIT: After 137 years.


ARE you by chance looking to build in Spain and need that all-important building permit? Well fear not. After 137 years, 10 architects, and millions of euros of administrative costs, Barcelona’s modernist masterpiece Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia has finally been granted one!

In what has been satirised as the ultimate tale of sluggish bureaucracy, Barcelona City Hall gave the belated go-ahead for ongoing work on the basilica, expected to be completed in 2026.

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Now this has to be some sort of record: has the Guinness Book of Records been consulted? But seriously, how could the approval cost so much? Either it needed approval or it didn’t; surely a simple matter requiring just one meeting and discussion.

Just as well that all the outstanding buildings of the past – the ancient Wonders of the World – were constructed before planning controls or red tape!


While it was Spain’s King Carlos I who invented the system of tying official documents with red tape in the16th century, it was his son, Felipe II, known as ‘El Rey Burócrata’ or ‘El Rey Papelero’ for his monomaniacal obsession with paperwork, who really took Spanish bureaucracy to another level. Every country’s got its share of bureaucracy, right?

Here in Spain over the centuries, though, it’s been taken to a high art form.

Take tourism, for instance. A report on the situation of, and prospects for, Spain and tourism highlighted how much it costs in Spain to obtain a licence for a bar or restaurant and what it costs, for instance, in Germany (considerably less!). Not to mention, the length of time it takes to obtain that same licence in Spain (over 60 days) compared with other parts of Europe (usually less than one week in the UK). 


For many, Barcelona wouldn’t be Barcelona without the Sagrada Familía. For them, this UNESCO World Heritage Site IS one of the new Wonders of the World.

Maybe just as well, then, it’s not dealing with a British council planning department which would have probably ordered its complete demolition…

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