Local Daily News 11th May

City councils and Júcar Hydrographic Confederation will meet to propose measures to avoid more accidents in the Bolulla river

The “Estret” of Bolulla is one of the unique places in the Marina Baixa but it has also become the scene of four accidents with fatalities in just one month. A worrying situation that has alerted the town councils of Bolulla and Callosa d’en Sarrià who, after what happened, will meet with the Júcar Hydrographic Confederation (CHJ) to find out what security measures can be taken in the area to avoid new incidents.

That meeting was already demanded a few weeks ago by the local administrations and after three deaths occurred: the first of them on April 8th when two people died after falling down the waterfall; and nine days later another 24-year-old drowned when he was dragged by the waters and appeared in the Algar dam. The fourth victim lost his life this Monday when he was bathing in the pool where the waterfall ends. The young man, 25 years old, drowned in the same place.

With the previous events and, now even more so with this latest death, the city councils are asking for measures to stop accidents in an area that is becoming more and more crowded. The mayor of Bolulla, Adrián Martínez, explained that “we have already requested a meeting with the CHJ and it will be held on May 20th.” It is planned to tour the area to consider what can be done in this part of the river. “We want you to tell us your point of view on this issue, what actions can be carried out…”, said the mayor. Because the local administrations have “their hands tied” since it is the Confederation that has the competences in that field. “We cannot close or mark the area, we need the authorization of the CHJ”; and that is what they hope to achieve, at least the permission to be able to take some of the measures that are already on the table.

Martínez explained that one of the proposals is to install a “lifeline” in the area of ​​the waterfall. “With it, it would be marked as far as it can go to avoid accidents or, in case of having a problem, to be able to catch it,” he explained. And another option, if authorization is obtained, is to be able to “mark the area and be able to carry out surveillance by the Local Police” and prevent it from being passed when there is danger.

The mayor added that another of the proposals would be “to put a metre of the water flow that exists at any given moment in hm3 per second and the amount of water that the well has.” A measure that would mark when “the river is practicable” and that, for example, expert canyoneers already use with signs in the area. But “we need authorization for that as well.”

It should be remembered that this area is located in the municipality of Bolulla, although access is through Callosa d’en Sarrià. Specifically, from the Algar area there is a path on foot to the waterfall. But it is not a path marked as a route for walkers, according to some sources. Because, in fact, access is through private fields and farms through which those who want to reach this natural area pass, an issue that also causes inconvenience to the owners for whom the only solution would be to fence their properties. Although there are web pages that mark walking routes where it is indicated how to get to the “Estret”, the city councils have tried to restrict access, but without success.

The mayor of Bolulla showed his concern for the situation and appealed to the personal responsibility of the citizens. The attempts to warn of the danger of bathing or accessing this space have been announced many times and even with signs “that have been torn down”. In fact, one of the fences that prevents the passage along the path with tape from the Local Police has been practically removed to gain access. For this reason, Martínez made an appeal: “the area is beautiful, but it will continue to be. We ask people to wait for the flow to drop and the force of the water to be less. You can wait and thus enjoy yourself without danger.” He pointed out that “with the summer there begin to be more outdoor activities, we ask for caution and that great prudence be exercised.”

For his part, the mayor of Callosa d’en Sarrià, Andrés Molina, indicated that “it is a matter of responsibility; the first, the personal one of each one, of seeing how the river is” at all times. He thus indicated that he appeals to this issue many times but “it is not heeded.” As shown by the signalling attempts to alert you to various issues that have been installed and which are ignored. “We all have to go hand in hand, exchange views and see what can be done,” he said. “There is no need to blame anyone for what has happened, we have to see how together we can act,” he concluded.

However, after the first two deaths, the Alicante Provincial Firefighters Consortium already warned of the high risk involved in practising canyoning or bathing in areas similar to that of the Bolulla River due to the amount of water flow that there is at the moment. The members of the Special Rescue Group of the Alicante Provincial Consortium Firefighters examined that same ravine weeks ago with all the necessary equipment. “Bathing is dangerous in the area now,” said Salva Luque, chief sergeant of this specialised group. Because of that force of the water and the amount that the flow carries.

Luque explained that in that area “there is a 16-metre waterfall. Now it falls at 8m3 per second, and that translates into many kilos of water.” A force that “if there is a shock of water, it is very strong and can produce physical effects that can be a problem”. That is why the warning is clear: “We must avoid getting into flows that are above normal, which is what is happening now”; but not only in areas such as the Bolulla river, but in others in the province or the Valencian Community where similar accidents have also been recorded in recent weeks.

The example is clear: “If you start running a marathon and you can’t, you withdraw to one side” but “if you get into a red flag on the beach or in a ravine with a lot of water, you can’t move away”. Therefore, “the situation must be measured beforehand and, even so, there may be unforeseen elements”. That is why the recommendation of caution and prudence is much more intense.

But the dissuasive measures or what has happened in the last month does not seem to stop those who want to access or bathe in the waterfall pool. This same Tuesday, there were bathers again in the area, the same as the four accidents, despite the fact that the flow of water and the force of the waterfall is still very strong due to the flow of the river that still falls after the last rains. Thus, all the parties involved will continue to appeal to prudence to avoid new accidents in this unique place.

Express recovery of tourism: flights at the airport return to 2019 figures

The progressive lifting of restrictions on mobility due to the pandemic and the desire to travel, after two years of closure, have made it possible for the airport to have recovered almost 100% of the operations it had in 2019 in the first five months of the year In the absence of officially knowing the data for last April, the terminal served a total of 1,886,000 passengers in the first quarter in the lowest period of the year, in which it was significant that it exceeded 473,000 passengers from January to 830,000 in March.

May is being good and the airlines and the tourist employers themselves have their eye on June, a month for which there were doubts but for which hotel reservations are growing day by day. In fact, Aena has scheduled a total of 875 flights at the airport this coming weekend with the forecast of moving 155,000 passengers. Figures that are similar to those of the same weekend in 2019 (949 flights and 164,000 passengers), but in which Russian and Ukrainian passengers were included. Numbers that are equal between this year and the previous one next Saturday, when there will be 330 flights, the same as that Saturday in 2019. Data light years from those of the past 2021, when on that same weekend there were 283 flights and 44,019 passengers. Aena sources warn, however, that there are planes, especially in certain destinations, that are still not one hundred percent occupied.

The airlines have 12 million seats scheduled for the summer season that started on the last Sunday in March and runs until the end of October, which represents an increase of 2.2% compared to the final schedule for closing the season of summer of 2019, before the start of the pandemic.

This figure is the result of the latest adjustments made by the airlines, which are common in the weeks prior to the start of the season. These data have not included the schedule of flights with Ukraine and Russia, whose conflict will subtract 500,000 tourists. As for scheduled movements, there are 67,000 flights, a slight decrease of only 0.2% compared to the 2019 summer season. The growth in seats is higher thanks to the fact that the planes have greater capacity.

On the other hand, Tourism has certified that the average expenditure of foreign tourists visiting the Costa Blanca already exceeds the pre-pandemic level of 2019. Until March 31, the turnover of foreign tourism was 934 million euros, and the expenditure daily of 108, 25% more than between January and March 2021. For its part, the Government expects that by the end of the year 80% of the tourist GDP prior to covid will have recovered. The total GDP of the province was until the outbreak of the covid pandemic at 35,000 million euros, of which 20% correspond to tourism (housing construction as a second residence is not included). Tourism Gross Domestic Product that sank in 2020 and did not finish recovering last year.

Alicante, Torrevieja and Orihuela account for a third of all house sales in the province

Alicante, Torrevieja and Orihuela remain the great engines of the real estate business in the province after the pandemic, accounting for more than a third of all transactions registered during the past year, according to data from the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Calendar. And this despite the fact that none of them is among the towns where the volume of transactions has grown the most compared to 2019, an honour that corresponds to the towns of the interior, where the local demand favoured an exceptional year for the sector, and to the favourite coastal municipalities of Dutch, German or Belgian buyers, which are the ones that increased the most during the last year.

On the contrary, those populations most dependent on British buyers – whose recovery was slower – are the only ones where the total sales figures are still below those that occurred before the covid.

In total, last year 46,091 homes were sold in the province as a whole, which represents an increase of more than 40% over the fateful 2020 – when confinement reduced the number of operations – but, above all, almost a 9% more than in 2019, before the pandemic.

The municipality with the most transactions was the city of Alicante, where 6,619 homes were sold, with which the capital managed to exceed the pre-pandemic figures by 1%. If the data of the Ministry is crossed with that of the Notarial College – which breaks down the origin of the buyers – what is observed is that this recovery was due to the upturn in demand from the local and national public, while the volume of buyers foreigners – approximately a third of the total, in the case of Alicante – were still below the pre-covid figures.

Torrevieja remains in second position, despite the fact that it is one of the few municipalities where demand has not yet fully recovered, due to its greater dependence on nationalities, which, for different reasons, suffered the greatest falls in sales in 2020 and they have not managed to take flight, as is the case with the British, the Russians and the Norwegians. Thus, in the city of Vega Baja, 5,018 operations were recorded, 4.9% less than in 2019.

A problem that was more attenuated in neighbouring Orihuela, the third on the list, which managed to exceed 2019 levels by 1.75%, with a total of 3,833 transactions.

As for the rest of the municipalities, most of the municipalities in the interior of the province appear with increases above the average, where the impounded demand of the local public – driven by the savings generated during confinement – energised the market. In Alcoy the volume of operations exceeded by 39% that of 2019, with a total of 1,016 transactions. In Villena they increased by 25.6%; in Petrer, 24.5%; or in Novelda, 35.5%, although it must be taken into account that they started from very low figures. In the case of Elche, 3,397 home sales were formalised, 20.5% more than before the coronavirus crisis;

Also on the coast there are municipalities with significant increases, especially those where the arrival of a greater volume of Dutch, German or Belgian buyers, in addition to Madrid and other Spanish provinces, has been most noticeable. Thus, Dénia registers 1,876 sales, 22% more than in 2019, and surpasses Benidorm, which barely improves its pre-pandemic figures, with 1,752 operations. They also improve in Xàbia (+22.5%), Altea (+26.5%) or Santa Pola (11.9%).

On the contrary, as is the case with Torrevieja, those municipalities that are most dependent on the British are still lagging behind. Thus, Guardamar registered 825 operations, 7% less; in Calp there were 993 (-3.5%) or in Rojales, 761 operations, a decrease of 5.7%.

The municipalities of the Community may only allocate 3% of their undeveloped land to locate photovoltaic plants

The municipalities of the Valencian Community may only allocate 3% of their common undeveloped land for the location of photovoltaic plants. This is established by the modification that the Consell has made to the current regulations in order to clarify the situation faced by the provinces of Alicante, Valencia and Castellón due to the avalanche of requests for the installation of photovoltaic plants in their respective municipal districts.

A problem that in the inland regions of Alicante has generated a growing social movement of rejection among citizens and environmental groups, which has led them to mobilise to demand that the rulers disavow all those solar power plant projects that have an environmental, agricultural or environmental impact on landscape for the territory. The opposing groups claim to be in favour of renewable energies, but with a “rational implementation based on consensual planning”, and propose to promote energy self-consumption and use the space of urban infrastructures – industrial estates, canalizations, reservoirs, roads and highways – to install solar panels.

Among the most affected municipalities in the province of Alicante by this solar “boom” are Salinas, Xixona, Monóvar and Villena. Well, the new norm, published as Decree Law 1/022 on Urgent Measures in response to the Energy and Economic Emergency originating in the Valencian Community due to the Ukrainian War, limits the City Council of Villena to allocate a maximum of 500 hectares of its municipal term, of the total of the 34,500 on which it is based, for the installation of photovoltaic panels.

For the Councillor for Town Planning of Villena, this new scenario makes it possible to clarify a great deal about the real situation to which the municipalities are subjected and to which it is necessary to give a response beyond immobility “in the face of the situation of growth in the price of energy, the absolute dependence on third countries and an environmental crisis with increasingly severe effects”, indicates Javier Martínez.

From now on, once a maximum has been determined – regardless of the applications that have been submitted – it will be the Town Councils and the Ministry of the Environment that will have to determine which 500 hectares are available. But it must be taken into account that, in any case, it must be non-developable land of the common type and comply with the requirements set out in article 10 of DL14/2020. Requirements among which it is worth noting that the area likely to host a solar plant is not subject to any environmental protection regime, that it is not classified as floodable either, that it has the appropriate level of slope as established by the norm and that it minimises the maximum landscape impact.

However, the first step will have to be taken by the regional authorities. It is the competent Ministries that must determine the feasibility of the promoters’ proposals and, as is currently happening, not all of them will be accepted due to their impact or effect on the natural or agricultural environment. Martínez clarified that “it is one thing to see the volume of applications and another which of them will be approved. To date, those rejected by the Valencian Government are many”. Subsequently, those that have an environmental impact report will be analysed to see what territory they occupy, to what extent and under what conditions.

It should be remembered that the population of Villena has been the one that has received the most requests in the last two years from companies dedicated to renewable energies. There were more than twenty and the situation generated social alarm and strong internal tensions between the partners of the local government that make up PSOE and Los Verdes. “But our position has always sought caution and prudence, weighing the balance to establish a principle of balance between respect for the territory and the need to bet on green and sustainable energy models. And we continue to think that this position is the correct one”, underlined the socialist mayor Javier Martínez. In his opinion there is still a long way to go and a lot of work ahead to ensure that land with agricultural, natural and landscape value is not lost. But he insists on pointing out that “Villena cannot pass up an opportunity to generate new economic activities, new jobs and the possibility of contributing to the environment with more sustainable energies”.

In this context, the Valencian Coordinator for the Rational Location of Renewable Energies – an entity of which 43 associations are part – has sent a letter written in English and French to all the MEPs of the Green Group to alert them about the bill approved by 13 Communities Autonomous Regions -among them the Valenciana- and intended to authorise the installation of large photovoltaic and wind power plants on land protected by the European environmental standard Red Natura 2000. “The installation of these solar plants will cause the felling of thousands of fruit trees, olive trees and pines located in protected areas”, warns the regional coordinator, Julio Sierra.

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