Barcelona’s world-famous Sagrada Familia basilica must pay an eye-watering €35 million in planning fines after authorities realised that it has had no permit since construction works began more than 130 years ago.

The basilica, which has famously been under construction since 1882, will pay the fine over a 10-year period. The money will be used to improve transport links and beautify public spaces within the neighbourhood, city officials have said.

Designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, the massive Catholic church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which attracts more than 10 million visitors a year. By the time of Gaudí's death in 1926, roughly one quarter of the project had been completed. Works reached the halfway mark in 2010, and planners expect it to be competed by 2026.

But in all those years, nobody responsible for the massive project bothered to get a permit.

Municipal records show that Gaudí was instructed to get plans for the site processed, but it appears he never bothered. The cathedral does not even appear on Barcelona’s property register, and since 1995 it appears as an empty dot belonging to the diocese of Barcelona, Spanish paper El Pais has reported.

The absence of a permit is not just a bureaucratic concern: it also means that city officials are unable to enforce planning standards. Several of the building’s columns, for instance, encroach on public pavements.