Local Daily News 13th June

Hundreds of caravans invade coastal areas uncontrollably

There are barely days left for the children to finish school and the heat is more overwhelming than usual. Summer has arrived earlier and that is noticeable on the coastal strip of Santa Pola and Elche, where traffic is already beginning to park next to the beaches. Above all, there is a flood of cars, and especially caravans, which park wherever they find space, although on some occasions it is not allowed.

“It’s every year” the majority of visitors, conservationists and even public representatives  will agree. And “every year” is a story that has become entrenched and has become the stamp of the coast in practically all the coastal points of the province.

Despite the warnings, there are still breaches of the regional and national regulations in force that prohibit overnight stays in a caravan. Just by reviewing the more than four kilometres of the secondary road that leads through Cabo de Santa Pola, one of the areas with the highest concentration of caravans, it is evident that any hint of space to leave the vehicle lasts for minutes when It is high season, and there are those who, at all costs, leave their cars among the pines.

Some caravan owners, together with the whole family, put on the brakes, put on the shoe, unfold awnings and take out the hammocks and tables to enjoy tortilla skewers and snacks with privileged views of the sea.

Despite the fact that most drivers know what they can and cannot do, there are those who break the rules and use the public maritime-terrestrial domain at will, 24 hours a day.

However, there are also those who still do not know very well what the scope of application of the Coastal Law is. It is also true that there are those who feel lost because they argue that there is no clear prohibition signage, and in several languages, taking into account that a majority of users are foreigners.

This means that the security forces and bodies opt in many cases for the route of awareness or launch warnings when improper use is made, such as staying to sleep in unauthorised areas where only parking is allowed, before moving on to the road. sanctioning

Caravans are becoming more popular among all types of audiences, such as families, because they can be a cheaper vacation alternative, and even more so now with the rise in prices of almost everything.

There are multiple forums in which the motorhome owners themselves try to explain the law so that vacationers do not get a surprise later, and so that they do not cheat either. They consider that the current law is imprecise and that it offers too much room for interpretation, although the regulations make it clear that camping in unauthorised places is prohibited, and that camping continues to take place.

Although, to try to put restrictions on many users who make discriminated use of natural resources, measures are going to be put in place this summer, at least in some sections. The General Directorate of Coasts has authorised the City Council of Santa Pola, through the Department of the Environment, to install new barriers at different points along the path from the lighthouse to La Ermita, where the municipality of Elche begins, to avoid the parking of vehicles outside the designated areas.

Several years ago, Costas installed some wooden fences that have deteriorated over time, and many have disappeared due to acts of vandalism. The idea is to provisionally place “New Jersey” type concrete safety barriers that are usually used to separate traffic flows and on construction sites.

They warn that the measure is provisional until all the protection fences that have been lost are replaced, “so we continue working for the protection and conservation of the coastline and natural beaches,” says Ángel Piedecausa, mayor of the area.

Ramón Abad, mayor of Citizen Security of Elche indicates that the city does not have a local ordinance on the regulation of caravans in natural spaces and that they apply the Law of Coasts or the law of protection of the places in cases of camping. The most up-to-date data is that of the summer of 2020, when the Grumat, a specific patrol of the Elche Local Police, lifted 112 penalties for staying overnight.

From Santa Pola, the presence of more than 1,900 vehicles such as trailer or semi-trailer caravans, motorhomes, adapted or camperized vehicles, and passenger cars has been controlled in the latest records to avoid overnight stays, and there are no recent complaints for camping or camping with caravans of semi trailer, according to data that this newspaper has been able to access.

From the local Police they point out that surveillance has been intensified and that they have an environmental patrol to avoid the accumulation of caravans and maintain a certain order. They say that to check that they do not spend the night, they leave parts in the morning to check at night that those motorhomes left the place.

“The landscape that you find in the morning is to find parked caravans, which are not sanctioned, as long as they do not invade the maritime-terrestrial zone, but at night, after a certain hour, which is when it makes you see that not only they are parked, that is when we are acting”, says José Miguel Zaragoza, Chief of the Local Police.

They point out from the Headquarters that the greatest incidence is with foreigners who do not know the regulations, and after explaining it, they go to authorised places such as the parking area of ​​the Hermitage, they emphasise.

The conservationists reproach that the administrations are permissive and that they do not put a sufficient limit on motor vehicles. Alfons Baile, a member of the Talaiola-Ecologistes en Acció collective, indicates that the closure of road access to the coastal strip is a historic claim except for bicycles, homeowners, emergency services and other publics such as the trenet. He criticises that the area receives constant pressure “due to the uncontrolled use of space” and understands that the current situation only generates deterioration of the natural space.

Sergio Arroyo, representative of Friends of the Wetlands of the South of Alicante (AHSA) reproves that the institutions are not doing anything and that the General Directorate of Coasts takes balls out to ensure control.

The caravan boom has also had an impact on some of the province’s campsites, where at this time they register an occupation of almost 90%, when last summer’s rates stood at 70%.

Owners of some of these establishments believe that the rise in the price of electricity, water, gas and food is transforming the vacation model and that there is a part of the families that instead of going to a hotel opt for more affordable options , like renting a plot for which you can pay an average of 25-30 euros per day for every two adults.

From the Bahía de Santa Pola campsite they understand that the relaxation of measures due to covid has also been able to influence this year to have more joy. Regarding the high influx of caravans that are seen in areas such as the Cape, from these tourist businesses they understand that the legislation should be more rigorous because they narrate that they have had years of “lean cows” while the Cape was full of these vehicles.

Javier Caparrós, responsible for a camping area with 23 plots, also in Santa Pola, says that now it only has 30% occupancy, which is why he believes that the authorities should encourage regulated spaces like his and avoid the high pressure that see in coastal areas.

Benidorm will receive compensation of one million euros for the expansion of a hotel

Double the capacity, with larger rooms and common areas to accommodate more tourists and, in turn, hang more stars on its façade. The Benidorm City Council has given the green light to all the previous reports that will allow the Devesa Hotels hotel chain to substantially expand one of its establishments through the application of the urban planning tool known in the city as the “hotel award”, a figure that was born surrounded by controversy but that in recent years has turned out to be an effective procedure to facilitate the improvement of the hotel plant, contributing in turn substantial income to the municipal coffers.

Specifically, this planned expansion will take place at the Poseidon Playa, located on the Poniente front line. The project will take the establishment from the 312 rooms it currently has to a total of 600, building no more and no less than 288 new rooms on a plot attached to this first building. In exchange, the chain will pay the City Council a compensation that is close to one million euros; specifically, 940,273.01 euros, which will go to the municipal land assets, apart from the millionaire investment planned to carry out the works. And, in addition, it has already given the municipality another 583 square metres of setbacks to be able to widen sidewalks and improve public facilities.

In this way, according to the PRI, the increase in buildability planned to execute the project would be balanced, which amounts to 3,596.10 square metres, of which 1,521.95 are set as endowment land; that is, for which the municipality should be compensated.

The development of this operation, the second carried out by the local government in just one week, will be possible thanks to the approval of the Internal Reform Plan (PRI) presented by Pere Joan Devesa’s company, the tool provided for by urban planning legislation to be able to develop in the city the second update of the modification number 1 of the General Plan, which led to what is popularly known as “hotel award”, a figure that allows tourist establishments to carry out expansion and reform works to improve the hotel plant, exceeding the maximum buildable area of ​​the plot, in exchange for paying compensation to the municipality for this extra built area.

In addition to doubling its capacity, the project also plans to expand the surface of the rooms and common areas, so that the hotel, one of the seven owned by the former president of Hosbec, will go from the three stars it currently has to have a four-star category, while the new block, which will be called “Hotel Playas de Benidorm”, will have a superior four-star category.

The Councillor for Urban Planning, Lourdes Caselles, has submitted a proposal to the Mayor’s Office to submit the PRI of Poseidon Playa to public information, together with the urban planning agreement and the draft of the land transfer act, as well as carrying out other necessary administrative procedures as a preliminary step for the final approval of this plan, including its publication in the Official Gazette of the Generalitat Valenciana or on the municipal website, among others.

In her proposal, the person in charge of Urbanism recalls that this interior reform plan has passed all the previous technical evaluations, including the Strategic Environmental and Territorial Evaluation, as well as those of technicians from different municipal departments, such as Engineering, Architecture or Legal Affairs, finally reaching its last stage of processing.

Elche Conservatory of Music: 20 years waiting for solutions

Nestled in a garden. The facilities of the Conservatory of Music are in the heart of the Palm Grove, in a now protected orchard. Thus, the three buildings that it has cannot be extended neither in extension nor in height, since it is prevented by the Law of the Palm Grove. To meet their needs, 5,000 square metres would be needed, and now they barely have 1,000.

A banner calling for the “new conservatory, now!” receives every day the dozens of students who study one of the 17 specialties taught by the Elche Professional Conservatory of Music. The banner is eaten by the sun and what it says is barely legible, but it is a clear reflection of what anyone who enters the facilities will find: deterioration and very small spaces. The banner has been placed in the same place since 2006, when the Ampa of the centre, fed up with promises and waiting for rehabilitation, decided to mobilise. Now, 16 years later, nothing has changed. Teachers, students, parents and the management of the Conservatory have been waiting for solutions for 20 years, which have not arrived. Everything, despite the continuous requests to the Ministry of Education to put an end to this unsustainable situation.

The building, which consists of three pavilions, was built when there were no regulations on the requirements of centres that provide artistic education. But since it was authorised, two decrees of minimum requirements have been passed that the centre, where 410 students were enrolled this year, does not meet. “We don’t have an auditorium that allows a choir and orchestra concert, simply to rehearse it is already full, and we only have an office,” laments José Galiano, director of the Elche Conservatory of Music. The Conservatory also lacks a library and there are not even study booths where students can study, which other similar centres do have. In fact, percussion students have to go to study when they can, in the gaps they have in their institutes, so as not to coincide due to lack of space.

The Conservatory began its journey in 1981 as the Municipal School of Music and, over the years, it evolved, becoming part of the network of public centres in the Valencian Community in 1995 and then becoming a Professional Conservatory. The centre has 450 authorised places, although due to lack of space there are only 410 students and 45 teachers. It has become small and obsolete. An example of this is the percussion class, where dozens of instruments fill the classroom and the students and teachers can hardly move. “We are penalising a student body who for ten years has nowhere to study,” laments Galiano. The director of the Conservatory adds that, just in moving instruments to make space, “a lot of ingenuity, work and time go away”.

Another important problem, given what the Conservatory is dedicated to, is the poor acoustic insulation of the facilities. “A complete investment does not make sense because there are many acoustic bridges that we cannot eliminate because the structure was not designed for a centre with so many teachers and all the instrumental specialties,” explains the director of the Conservatory of Music. Galiano points out, with a mixture of anger and indignation, that “with these partitions you can imagine what it’s like to teach guitar and have an accompaniment class next to it with six pianos playing at the same time.” The centre also suffers acts of vandalism, and proof of this is the graffiti on lampposts and walls.

In its time, the facilities were designed to be able to be expanded within the orchard in which they are located. Something unthinkable now, since the Law of the Palm Grove does not allow it. It also cannot gain height. In fact, with its 1,000 square metres, the three buildings that make up the Elche conservatory already exceed the maximum buildable area in a historic orchard. The Palm Grove Law also excludes their educational use. “We have to go out,” says José Galiano.

The Elche City Council supports the demands of the conservatory community and a few days ago, the mayor, Carlos González, announced that the intention is for the Ministry of Education to include the construction of a new conservatory in the Edificant Plan of 2023. A few months ago, the councilor abandoned the idea of ​​building it next to the Official School of Languages ​​on land that belongs to the university, and plans to build it on educational land, next to the Clara Campoamor school, in Altabix. The Conservatory itself has a study that indicates that a minimum of 5,000 useful square metres would be needed for the volume of students and specialties that the Elche Conservatory moves. However, Education is the one that has the last word and, for the moment, has not ruled on the intention of the consistory to include the project next year.

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