Urban sprawl (1) Seseña

Spain was subject to a first wave of “modern” sprawl during the 1960s and 1970s, during a period of strong economic growth and arrival to the city of rural populations, in which enormous extensions of housing developments appeared around Madrid and other big cities, with multifamily buildings from 3 to 8 storey which, in a context in which formal planning was still in its first moments, location was chosen more often than not according to the low real estate costs and nothing else. These neighborhoods differ from other built around the same moment in Europe due to their almost entire composition by owned homes (rented housing had very small share overall) and a certain lack of public facilities, and also by the fact that some took 20 years to complete streets and urban services networks. This probably had a subconscient effect on the perception, around the middle of the 2000’s of what is now described.


Seseña has become for many in Spain an example of what is wrong with the urban planning system. The municipality, 40 km south of Madrid, has suffered several irregularities in the management of private developments for housing. Those willing to know the case in more detail can read the Official Bulletin of the State (in Spanish). Maybe the most curious thing, having witnessed how the polemic grew in Madrid, is that the origin of the case was not sprawl, but landscape. On the limit between the provinces of Madrid and Toledo there is already a clear trend towards a low density sprawl, usually around the traditional villages.

Here the polemic comes from an urban growth separated from the village with seven storey buildings, that can be seen from the surrounding freeways; with 13.508 homes to be built between 2007 and 2017 according to the enacted plan, and a density over 70 homes per hectare (over 140 per acre), some sprawl problems can seem solved, but the location and the land use mix (nearly all apartments) make the thing problematic. This led to critics to the planning model in the regional law, and to further investigation that showed that there were also mismanagement issues in other developments in the municipality.

In 2011 (year in which the parliament report is published) there were already permits issued for 5.096 homes, and in 2012 the national statistics show that there were already 3.589 people living in the area. With the real estate crisis the home prices have gone down, and sales continue.


See it on google maps

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