Thursday, January 23, 2014

The best laid plans

During the boom years for construction, towns in the Vega Baja created ambitious plans for their development. Probably the most ambitious of the lot was the plan for San Miguel de Salinas.

In the late 90s the town started to develop its General Plan. The population at that time was 3,800 but by 2003 that had grown to 7,000. The plan though was to increase the population to 100,000 by building a further 40,000 houses. Eyes were set on the foreign market which everyone believed would buy up the properties as second homes in the sun.

The plan for the town was passed by the Generalitat Valenciana and so construction of the road networks and the infrastructure for the new houses began in 2008.

In 2009, the Association of Residents' San Miguel Archangel’ and the group ‘Friends of Sierra Escalona’ took action and raised objections to the plan on the basis that there was no statement of environmental impact issued to support it. A Strategic Environmental Assessment is mandatory for all plans that could have a significant effect on the environment and there was no such assessment  accompanying the general plan for San Miguel.

Sierra Escalona is a protected area, a Site of Community Importance and an Area for Birds of the European Union. An application has been made to declare it to be a Natural Park in Valencia.

The Superior Court of Justice of the Valencian Community (TSJCV)  annulled the General Urban Plan November 13th last year and communicated its decision to the affected groups on the 15th January.

The mayor, Angel Saez says that he has submitted an appeal against the decision to the Supreme Court. Whether his appeal is successful or not could well be academic because the plan is widely regarded as ‘unsustainable, speculative and irrational’. Last year the town lost over 500 residents. In the present climate, it is hardly likely that anyone would consider putting money into building more houses there.

It may be a bitter pill for those mayors who dreamt of presiding over sprawling metropolis to swallow, but the reality is that they just let greed get the better of them. Northern Europeans were willing to buy a home in the sun when the prices were cheap but not when the developers increased prices on an almost monthly basis. The ‘lets get rich quick’ mentality got the better of Spaniards and now they are paying the price.

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