The conversion of farm buildings for alternative use, making tourist accommodation available in the countryside or new buildings for agricultural use are both opportunities and dangers for Menorca. The College of Architects and GOB have had a series of meetings to try to analyse positive proposals and control potential undesirable effects.
In the last few years, the sale of properties in rural areas has increased greatly. A large part of the new investments has interest in maintaining or reactivating agricultural life, while wanting to recover the architectural heritage from the marriages of well-established familes, farm workers and others.
This new trend, although it can help reactivate some activities in the Menorcan countryside, is not exempt from the danger of escalating building speculation working against appropriate conservation of rural areas. With this in mind, meetings are proposed between a delegation from the Menorca College of Architects and GOB.
Both parties are agreed on some objectives. It is considered extremely necessary to keep up agricultural activities and advisable to maintain buildings that have architectural merit. It is also hoped to make the most of this wave of investment for activities of general interest while avoiding building speculation in the countryside.
Based on these themes, work has been done to propose criteria suitable for the revision, currently being carried out, of the Pla Territorial Insular (the island planning permission). The basic ideas would be, roughly:
- Complementary uses – only within houses and their immediate surroundings
These uses would be to complement agricultural activity and take place in those old buildings with architectural merit within their own surroundings. Surroundings would be defined as within a maximum radius of between 100 and 200 metres from the main house of the farm.
- Buildings of architectural value
Change of use would be permitted in buildings constructed before January 1960 with the following characteristics:
- Walls of sandstone blocks, or cemented stone walls, or dry stone walls.
- That have wooden beams and sandstone slabs
- Roofs covered with pantiles over the largest part of the building
- Limit on tourist accommodation
Rural hotels and agrotourism ought to maintain farming activity. It is proposed to define the maximum number of accommodation places for public use, in such a way that the rest of the buildings can exist for serving agricultural use. In any case, a percentage of the constructed volume of all the farm is to be maintained for agricultural use keeping in mind the buildings constructed before 1960 and situated outside the radius defined in point 1. At least 40% of existing non-residential buildings should be reserved for agricultural use.
- Residential use
New residential use would be permitted in part of the whole of a building with architectural merit, if located within the radius defined in point 1. The building area and the type and size of the auxiliary buildings will be frozen where there is to be a change of use.
- New buildings for agricultural use
Disused buildings should always be prioritized before deciding to build new ones for agricultural use. If reutilisation is not viable, then uses should be defined with a timetable either for their rehabilitation or, on the contrary, for their demolition and the restitution of the land. In any case, buildings, constructions and new plant facilities erected for agricultural use ought to be left and should be shown on all corresponding registers.