If I remember correctly, it was 2009 when dread of the Coasts Law and the Costas Authority prompted hoteliers in Playa de Muro to stage a protest. What had happened was that the Costas were taking an interest in areas “influenced” by the sea.

In Playa de Muro, the existence of ancient wetlands provides a major clue as to this influence. Albufera partly comprises salt water. In the area are plants with the nickname of “friends of the salt”. There was salt mining in one zone of Playa de Muro until as late as 1979. Mostly all of Playa de Muro is influenced by the sea - the presence of salt. Playa de Muro was developed on a coastal strip. It doesn’t extend far inland; a Coasts Law definition of influence by the sea refers to a distance of 500 metres inland.

The Coasts Law, passed in 1988 and amended ten years ago, states that in these areas of influence local authorities must, among other things, limit the height of buildings. This was a reason why hoteliers, and not only hoteliers because of a couple of quite tall apartment buildings, were getting agitated. Another reason was the easement area, namely the band heading inland in which building was not permitted. There were developments within this band, the understanding of which must take account of where it starts, as this isn’t the water’s edge.

While we commonly refer to the Costas Authority, its title in Spanish is Demarcación de Costas. Demarcation for beaches and coasts is public maritime domain from the water’s edge. Basically and normally, this domain means the beach (plus dunes). The other zones - influence and easement - start where the demarcation line is drawn.

Above all, the 1988 law was introduced in order to prevent abuses of the kind that had happened in the past. Next to Playa de Muro is Can Picafort, where the front line and promenade were partially built on what were once dunes. The previous Coasts Law, 1969, plus older laws dating back to earlier in the century, had given dunes protection. Dunes were state land, public land, but then public land could always be subject to decisions taken by public authorities. And were.

So, a major reform of the 1969 law was required in order to prevent “aggressive construction” on coastal land. The public domain was redefined and, in principle, rights to ownership were to be forfeited, except where land had been defined as urban for development by 1988 and properties were legal.

In Mallorca, the 1988 reform didn’t create the sort of controversies that were to arise in respect of the building of some residences in other parts of Spain, the Costa del Sol in particular. While businesses, authorities and individuals were clearly aware of its provisions, the impact seemed a long way away. Well, thirty years weren’t that long way away. Thirty-year concessions for use of properties liable for demolition started to draw closer. By 2009, the Costas Authority, its delegation in the Balearics, was taking keen interest.

The 1988 law was fundamentally a good law. Its 2013 revision - the Law of Protection and Sustainable Use of the Coast and Amendment of the Coasts Law - was also purposeful in that it took account of something that the 1988 law hadn’t, namely the impact of climate change. The thinking was sound, but the 2013 revision, included in which was an extension of the thirty-year period to 75 and which wasn’t definitively approved by Congress until January this year (yes, I know that may sound strange), indicated that not all provisions had been satisfactory. And this wasn’t really a political issue, as the 2013 revision of a 1988 law introduced by a PSOE government was presented by a Partido Popular government and then definitively approved by a government with a PSOE prime minister.

The concession period hadn’t been satisfactory, and certain other aspects of the law and its amendments have also been unsatisfactory, especially with regard to situations where public opinion overwhelmingly feels that the law is an ass and where authorities have struggled to make a convincing case that it is not. Strict interpretation of the law does indeed mean that, for instance, the El Bungalow restaurant in Ciudad Jardín, Palma shouldn’t be there. But what good purpose can be served by it not being there after all the years that it has been? Likewise, what good purpose is served by denying terraces at beachside restaurants in Playa de Muro that have existed for decades?

These are cases that do not represent abuse, not of the character that the 1988 law had in mind. Nor, except by the most zealous of interpretation, can they be said to constitute an environmental degradation consistent with principles of the 2013 amendments with regard to coastal erosion. And as the public perceive that common sense is not being applied, so public support ebbs away both for a law designed to prevent abuse and for the authority (or authorities) charged with applying the law. Meanwhile, the type of ballyhoo that was generated in 2009 by all that influence of the sea stuff just seems to have faded into nothing.

Will a transfer of Costas Authority responsibilities to the regional government make any difference? That’s doubtful. The law hasn’t changed, only the authority.