Permit Power

Permit Snag Hits Century-Old Project



Permits can stall or accelerate a construction megaproject. A permit issue is even affecting a century-old project—the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain. The project launched in 1882, though less than a quarter of the execution phase was complete when its famed architect, Antoni Gaudí, died in 1926. Project progress has gained momentum over the past two decades, and the church (which sees 4.5 million tourists a year) is slated to be complete in 2026.

But now city authorities argue that neither the late architect nor the construction board of the nonprofit La Sagrada Familia Foundation filed the right project permits to build the structure—and that money is owed to the city for that permitting oversight. The board argues a permit was obtained from the town of Sant Martí de Provençals when the project began, while the city maintains that paperwork should have been refiled when the town was absorbed by Barcelona. As a result of pressure from the city, the board has agreed to pay US$41 million to regularize the building's legal status. That settlement will be used to fund future projects, including transportation work, to improve public access to the finished project.



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