What is an opening or activity license?

In this entry we will define the opening and business activity licenses.

Entry published by:

Francisco Joaquín Jiménez González. Registered architect. Know more

Published on 26/03/2022

What is an activity license?

The activity license, opening license, operating license or responsible declaration of activity are various names for the administrative procedure necessary to start a business.

In reality it’s an urban license, so it always needs review by the administration (city council, autonomous community, sectoral administration, etc.).

This license will ensure that the business and the premises in which it is established comply with all applicable regulations depending on the activity and the premises.

What are the differences between an opening license and an activity license?

To be clear, there is no difference between the two names.

They are different names for the same procedure. We will see later the different names that the different licenses will have.

However, the opening and activity license are the same procedure, only that each city council names them differently according to its own criteria. For this reason there are different names, which often causes a lot of confusion in the citizen.

What kind of activities are there?

As with the name, the activities and their classification depend on each autonomous community.

Mainly the difference is found in the amount of waste and noise generated by the activity. Depending on this, it will have one classification or another and, consequently, it will be more complicated, or not, to obtain authorization.

Based on that, two different types can be established:

  • Harmless activities. These activities will be the simplest, those that don’t generate waste, noise, damage or inconvenience (at least in theory). These activities will be most of the commercial activities that can be developed in the urban environment (commercial stores, offices, services, etc.).
  • Classified or qualified activities. This type of activity will be, a priori, polluting of some type or of a certain size. They will be the activities that generate pollution, either acoustic (discotheque, pubs, dance halls, etc.) or at the waste level (industries, mechanical workshops, etc.) or have great electrical power (motors, air conditioning, etc.).

Types of procedures for opening and activity licenses. What types of procedures for activity licenses exist?

Urban planning licenses in Spain changed notably as a result of the implementation of the Law 12/2012, of December 26, on urgent measures to liberalize trade and certain services.

This law introduced the concept of “responsible declaration” in the field of planning licenses and allowed licenses to be “granted” at the time of presentation.

But let’s go to the important thing, these are the licenses that exist:

  • Responsible declaration of innocuous activity. This type of license is the simplest. It does not have a waiting time for its concession, so it enables the start of the activity as soon as it is presented at the town hall. But you must present all the documentation requested. In addition, it does not exempt the town hall from reviewing the license and carrying out an inspection of the premises.
  • Responsible declaration of qualified activity. There are also activities that, without being innocuous, and being classified as polluting, can be established by responsible declaration. But they will require more documentation and ensure that they meet strict requirements, regardless of when the license is granted.
  • Activity license. The activity license would be for those qualified or “polluting” activities, in this case large or with some especially delicate aspect. In this case, the city council will have to give express approval of the license and normally, approval is needed from other administrations (environment, industry, etc.)

What is a responsible declaration of innocuous activity?

The responsible declaration of innocuous activity is a type of urban planning license that enables the development of the activity from the moment of its presentation.

It can be framed for the simplest activities, mainly dedicated to retail trade or services that don’t “contaminate” the environment or that do not have special sanitary requirements.

What are the requirements for a harmless activity?

Each Autonomous Community has its own legislation and regulations to define its classification of activities. However, they do not usually differ much in detail. We will see here the requirements established in the Region of Murcia.

  • That the activity generates little noise, less than 70dbA or less than 75dbA, provided that the place where the activity takes place is insulated.
  • Do not have motors or electric motors with power greater than 6.6kW.
  • Do not have air conditioners located outside with power greater than 6.6kW.
  • Do not have electric ovens with power greater than 5kW and the total sum does not exceed 6.5kW.
  • There are no emissions of gases, vapors and dust into the atmosphere, ionizing radiation, discharge to the sewage system, or handling of dangerous substances, pollutants, or generation of hazardous waste.
  • That there is no risk of legionellosis production.
  • The weighted thermal load of the premises is less than 1000Mcal/m2.

As you will see, there may be certain activities that, even though they do not generate significant waste, do exceed a certain electrical power or some pollutants regardless of the amount.

Therefore, in general, most activities will be framed within innocuous activities, but it also depends on the place where the activity is implemented.

What requirements must a place meet in order to have a license for an innocuous activity?

Once we have seen the requirements for an activity to be determined innocuous, we are going to see the requirements for the premises.

This list is generic and typically minimal. Thus, we see certain general criteria:

  • Installation of emergency lighting. The emergency lights must be placed at the evacuation exits, turns in the evacuation route and on the electrical panel of the premises.
  • Fire protection At least one ABC-type portable fire extinguisher with efficiency 21A-113B must be installed. You must have access to a fire extinguisher at a maximum distance of 15 meters. In activities with a high fire load or large dimensions, other fire protection methods may be required.
  • Accessibility for people with reduced mobility. Ramps, stair lifts or elevators must be installed to allow accessibility to all types of people. There are exceptions to the rule, if your premises have difficulties of this type, contact us.
  • Toilet room for clients/showers for employees. Depending on the capacity of the premises and municipal regulations, there is a minimum for a unisex toilet, two toilets per gender or a toilet for people with reduced mobility.

Once we have seen these simple requirements, let’s see the documents that are normally requested to obtain the responsible declaration of innocuous activity.

Documents requested for a responsible declaration of innocuous activity

If we begin to see the different documents that can be requested to open an innocuous activity, we enter into possible chaos, since each city council can request the ones it deems appropriate.

Fortunately, as in the previous case, we also have regional regulations that establish the general documents in each case. In this case we will see what is established again in the Region of Murcia (article 72 of law 4/2009). They are the following:

  • Certification issued by a competent technician, duly identified by name and surname, degree and national identity document, certifying the suitability of the installation for the activity to be carried out, and compliance with the requirements established by sector regulations. of application. The certification will include an express statement on the installation’s compatibility with urban planning and regulations.

Documentation that proves compliance with the applicable regulations, whether it is a report or a technical project, signed by a competent technician. This document must contain the following, as a minimum:

  • Location blueprints of the premises.
  • Blueprints of dimensions and surfaces of the premises.
  • Textual and graphic description of the electrical installation of the premises.
  • Textual and graphic description of the fire protection installation.
  • Description of the activity to be carried out.
  • Registration of the document in the corresponding Professional College or college accreditation.

In addition to this, in general they will ask us for the following documentation:

  • Proof of payment of the fee associated with the procedure (in some town councils this fee has been eliminated, check with your technician or in the town hall itself).
  • Receipt of the IBI or descriptive consultation of the Cadastre.
  • Deed of ownership or lease of the property.
  • If the license is submitted on behalf of a company: deed of incorporation of the company and proof of representative status.
  • If the license is presented on behalf of a natural person: ID of the owner.

What is a non-safe or qualified activity?

An activity that is not innocuous or qualified is defined as one that produces moderate contamination of some kind. Although this is the general concept, an innocuous activity but with a considerable size can also be of this type.

Among the pollution generated are not only waste, but also noise or light pollution.

What are the non-safe or qualified activities?

Although all the Autonomous Communities have competence in matters of urban planning and activities, in general they follow the following parameters:

  • High noise generation. Higher than 70 dbA and in need of acoustic insulation to comply with the applicable regulations.
  • Contracted electrical power, motors, electric motors, air conditioners or electric ovens with a power greater than 6.5 kW.
  • Emissions of gases, vapors and dust into the atmosphere are produced.
  • Ionizing radiation is generated.
  • Waste is generated and discharged into the public sewage system, requiring its treatment or management prior to discharge into the sewer system.
  • There are no equipment that can produce legionellosis.
  • The thermal load is high, greater than 1000Mcal/m2, requiring fire protection measures to be taken.

However, it is usual that with these data there are doubts and it is not clear whether the activity to be implemented would be harmless, qualified or would need an activity license.

Let’s look at some examples:

Examples of non-safe or qualified activity

There are many activities that are classified as not innocuous or qualified, let’s see the most general:

  • Cafeteria-bar-pub with live music/piped music:
  • This type of activity generates noise, so acoustic insulation, the surrounding environment and the city’s noise regulations must be taken into account to set the maximum pollution limit.
  • They may request an acoustic study to verify compliance with the regulations of the municipality.
  • Depending on the capacity and the surface, it will be necessary to meet certain requirements for low-voltage installations or fire protection.

Disco or dance hall:

  • Disco or dance hall:
    • It is obvious that noise is generated. In this case, the acoustic requirements are very high, both due to the hours of operation and the level of noise generated. Both insulation and double insulated access door are required, among many other requirements.
    • Not only must compliance with general requirements be checked, but also whether the activity can be implemented in the area according to urban planning.
    • Depending on the size and layout of the premises, evacuation routes, self-protection manual against fires, metal structure insulation, etc. are required.
    • Fire protection installations, emergency lighting and the electrical installation must be certified, maintained and registered in the corresponding industry delegation.
    • Depending on the Autonomous Community, the approval of the file by the environment may be required, delaying the granting of the license.
  • Mechanical or vehicle repair and maintenance workshop:
    • This activity is called a light or moderate intensity industry. Therefore, the permitted uses must be taken into account depending on the planning.
    • The premises will be classified as an activity with risk of fire and explosion. Therefore, you will need, in all cases, an electrical installation project that contemplates the explosive atmosphere. The electrical installation must pass the inspection of an Authorized Control Body (OCA).
    • In addition to fire-fighting requirements, waste may not be dumped into the public sewer without a grease separating sump and acoustic requirements must be taken into account.

In general, when we are about to open an activity that is not safe or qualified, the process becomes complicated and not only does the City Council enter, but other administrations such as the environment or industry of the Autonomous Community.

Step by step for the start of non-innocuous or qualified activity

Let’s now go to our favorite part, the step by step of how to start an activity that is not harmless or qualified.

This process is indicative. It is important to comment on it since each activity is a world depending on its characteristics and the place in which it is implemented. In addition, we are not going to go into subrogation or change of ownership.

The most generic process would be the following -assuming that a medium-sized activity with noise generation is requested-:

  1. Study of the conditions of the premises to be developed and, based on this, the necessary adaptation works. Some adaptation works, beyond aesthetic reforms or distribution can be accessibility, bathroom reform, acoustic insulation, access door, emergency lighting or fire protection.
  2. (if works are carried out) Drafting of technical documentation for the reform works and license application. The building license can be a declaration of responsibility for the work or even an urban planning license. The technical documentation can range from a valued report to a basic and execution project that can include aspects such as an electrical installation project, among others.
  3. (if works are carried out) Start and end of the adaptation works.
  4. Drafting of the technical documentation for the opening/activity license. This documentation describes the entire premises and the activity to be carried out (complete description, capacity calculation, machinery, differentiated areas, etc.) with specific annexes for fire protection, acoustic study, descriptive graphic blueprints, etc.
  5. (If the premises are at risk of fire and explosion or have renewed the electrical installation) Inspection of the electrical installation by an Authorized Control Body (OCA).
  6. Presentation of licenses in sector administrations. For example, registration of the low voltage electrical installation in the industry delegation. Other licenses can be Coasts (In case of being near the seafront or in protection for it) or environment (in case of generating noise pollution).
  7. Presentation of the activity license at the town hall. Once all the sectoral applications have been submitted (and their approval has been obtained, if they were not Responsible Declarations), the activity license is requested at the Town Hall of the municipality. This request must include all the documents that have been generated in the process.
  8. Once all the licenses are granted, you can start the activity! However, since almost all licenses currently have the responsible declaration format, there is no need to wait for express approval. However, and this is important, after presenting the licences, the different administrations will review the documentation, carry out repairs (to correct the documentation) and may inspect the premises. Therefore, it is important to be sure that everything is compliant and to be sure of what is presented.

Documents requested for a responsible declaration of non-safe or qualified activity.

If you have read the previous entry in this guide on licenses for innocuous activities, you will know that in these cases the legislation always establishes a generic framework of documentation necessary to start these activities. Let’s see it:

  • Certification issued by a competent technician certifying the suitability of the installation for the activity to be carried out, and compliance with the requirements established by the applicable sector regulations. The certification will include an express statement on the installation’s compatibility with urban planning and regulations.
  • Certificate of urban compatibility. In some communities, a certificate of urban compatibility of the activity and the property with the current planning may be required. This certificate is a different procedure and is requested at the town hall (it is a good idea to request it first).
  • Descriptive memory of the activity.
  • Justification of having obtained the authorizations or formalized the communications or declarations required by the regulations of a sectoral nature. We referred to this document before, it deals with other licenses in other administrations (coasts, industry, environment, etc.)
  • In the case of potentially polluting activities of the atmosphere subject to notification, justification of having carried it out before the competent body of the Autonomous Community.
  • If it is an activity subject to prior notification at the start of the waste production and management activity, justification for having made said prior communication to the competent body of the Autonomous Community.
  • Municipal authorization of industrial discharges to the sanitation network, when required.
  • Authorization or concession for the occupation or use of the public domain, when required.
  • This is the specific documentation about the activity that you can request, while the generic documentation can be something similar to the following:
  • Proof of payment of the fee associated with the procedure (in some town councils this fee has been eliminated, check with your technician or in the town hall itself).
  • Receipt of the IBI or descriptive consultation of the Cadastre.
  • Deed of ownership or lease of the property.
  • If the license is submitted on behalf of a company: deed of incorporation of the company and proof of representative status.
  • If the license is presented on behalf of a natural person: ID of the owner.

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Activity licenses in Murcia and Alicante

And furthermore, in all these municipalities:

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