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Local Daily News 19th November

La Vega Baja accumulates 25 requests for solar plants that would occupy a thousand hectares

The boom in photovoltaic plants is spreading in the Vega Baja like an oil stain that threatens to turn the terraces of the region into solar farms. The farms are already quoted at 2,000 euros per hectare per year for about 30 years, which means that even before they have authorization from the administrations -whether from the Ministry or the Department, depending on their power- the owners are signing land transfer agreements with the promise of a fixed income in the face of the uncertainty that surrounds the field.

Projects that are large consumers of land, and also “a new manna”, “a return to speculation”, “an energy hit”, as José Vicente Andreu, president of Asaja Alicante, stated.

An avalanche that, if approved, would occupy agricultural and forest lands in the surroundings of spaces of great value such as Sierra Escalona, ​​Hoyo Serrano and the traditional orchard. So far, 25 requests have been processed, which would mean an extension of around a thousand hectares and a total power of at least 535 megawatts.

Only six of them, whose processing is state-owned, would occupy more than 600 hectares and generate 315 megawatts: “Vega del Segura”, with 270 hectares in Almoradí and San Miguel; “Itel” (178) and “Bibey” (130) in Torremendo, and “Exelio” (80) in Arneva, to which “Rojalinda” and “Órbiga” are added.

Of the 19 that correspond to the Ministry -a total of 220 megawatts- three have been denied: “Lo Vigo”, in Los Montesinos (14.8 hectares); “San Miguel de Salinas” (7) and “Cascante”, which did not go out to public information, occupying almost 29 hectares to the south of the highway between Torremendo and San Miguel, within the Special Protection Zone for Birds (ZEPA ) and the protected landscape of Sierra Escalona.

Likewise, the Generalitat has resolved in favour -the only one approved so far- of “Villa de Catral”, of the Cooperativa Eléctrica Catralense, which, with an investment of 1.4 million euros and 4,116 solar panels, represents the first of the three planned phases, occupying an area of ​​37,000 square metres in the area of ​​La Cruz. At its inauguration, which was attended by President Ximo Puig, emphasis was placed on the fact that this type of project tries to lower the electricity bill of its partners in the town of Catral, in a market in which they compete with the large investment funds and electricity companies, as is the case with the other two cooperatives in the region, Callosa de Segura and Albatera, whose proposal to install a 6.6-hectare plant is pending authorization.

The rest are also awaiting the resolution of the Ministry. Six of them in Orihuela. Specifically, three in the small district of Torremendo, where together with those under state jurisdiction they add up to a total of 462 hectares, and two in La Murada (more than 30 hectares), as well as the 12 hectares of “Pilar I”, which the Oriolano municipality shares with San Miguel de Salinas, where there are another three of 30 hectares projected.

“Lo Candel” is located in Cox (28 hectares), “Parquesolar” in Callosa (5.4), “Lo Capitán” in Almoradí (19) and “Casteles” in Rojales (5.5). Both Almoradí and Rojales share “La Juliana”, with 58 hectares.

Environmental and neighbourhood groups view this X-ray with concern, since “it would have a very negative impact on the territory, the landscape, biodiversity, ecological connectivity and traditional agricultural activity,” says Miguel Ángel Pavón, president of Amigos de Sierra Escalona (ASE ) and vice-president of Friends of the Wetlands of the South of Alicante (AHSA).

These two organisations together with the Association of Neighbors of San Miguel de Salinas, which have been fighting for a year and a half against what they consider “an unsustainable implementation of renewable energies in the region”, have presented allegations against 17 of the 25 plants requested, and they will also do it with those that are on public display: “Vega del Segura” and “Casteles”.

Pavón explains that “promoting companies take advantage, as in the rest of the Valencian Community, of the absence of territorial planning that favours a sustainable implementation of photovoltaic renewable energy, the current regional decree law being insufficient, which has even been made more flexible to allow previously excluded occupations”.

In his opinion, “occupation of building roofs should take precedence over undeveloped land.” However, he regrets, “the speculation that once again spreads about undeveloped land, this time that of silicon after that of the brick of the last real estate bubble, does not seem to have a forceful response from the competent administrations in the protection and land use planning”.

Thus, he underlines the projects that besiege the Sierra Escalona environment, up to 11 projects -still without authorization- against which they have alleged to defend the characteristic agroforestry mosaic of the affected environment. Not surprisingly, he adds, “the construction of these plants would mean the uprooting of thousands of almond trees and the ploughing of forest areas to the detriment of the habitat for foraging and feeding of different species of protected birds of prey, such as the eagle owl, the golden eagle or the threatened Bonelli’s eagle, which is in danger of extinction”.

Therefore, he concludes that “we must fight against climate change by implementing renewable energy, but respecting the territory and landscape, the natural and agricultural environment and the region’s biodiversity.”

Added to all this are the power lines designed to evacuate the energy they generate, which when they have an aerial route introduce “a very negative impact on the landscape, with high-rise electrical towers, and on the birdlife, by increasing the risk of collision and electrocution,” he continues.

These power lines, he asserts, “do not even respect the protected landscape of Sierra Escalona and its surroundings or valuable forest areas such as the Sierra de Benejúzar”, in reference to the “Rojalinda” state plant, which crosses 23 kilometres of seven municipalities in the region from solar panels that are located in Murcia. “An absurd layout that fortunately is arousing the rejection of several city councils and the Consell itself”, he concludes.

A food alert forces Mercadona to withdraw one of its most popular products

Whether we are allergic to any food or not, it is important to stay informed of food alerts. The Spanish Food Safety Agency usually issues notices about the presence of different undeclared allergens in food. In this case, a very popular Mercadona product has been withdrawn due to a food alert.

Cookies withdrawn from Mercadona due to the presence of an undeclared allergen

The Spanish Food Safety Agency (AESAN) has warned of the presence of undeclared hazelnuts in some Hacendado brand cookies. These hazelnuts, present in Mercadona cookies, did not appear properly labelled in the list of ingredients, despite being considered an allergen.

Specifically, the Mercadona product affected by this food alert are the relief cookies of the Hacendado brand from batch L012256 031000P and best before date 06/2023.

The cookies in which the presence of hazelnuts has been detected have been distributed in Mercadona stores throughout Spain. But, after the alert was made known from the Valencian Community, this product has been withdrawn from the market.

The Valencian supermarket chain, for its part, has published information about the incident on its website, asking customers to return the product if they have it at home. In addition, people allergic to this nut have been recommended not to consume this product, as a precautionary measure. However, for the rest of the people, these cookies do not carry any risk.

Allergens are required by law to be marked on a product’s ingredient list so that consumers can easily identify them. However, sometimes this is not fulfilled or contamination, handling or packaging errors give rise to the presence of an undeclared allergen in a specific product. In these cases, this product must be withdrawn from the market to proceed with the resolution of the problem.

The symptoms of a food allergy can be very varied and can be combined: hives or swelling of the lips, sneezing, itchy nose, respiratory distress… or vomiting, diarrhoea and nausea. Its severity also varies.

Residential tourism is gaining momentum: it moves more money than automotive or citrus in the Valencian Community

The promoters want residential tourism to stop being the “ugly duckling” of the sector, often demonised in the years after the real estate bubble burst, and for the contribution they make to the economy of the Valencian Community to begin to be recognized. A contribution that they consider more than enough to receive differentiated attention from the Generalitat, which includes the specificity of this business, with common interests with the rest of the tourist activity, but also with problems of its purely real estate aspect, such as land management.

This is how the heads of the Association of Promoters of the Province of Alicante (Provia) have recently transferred it to the head of the Consell himself, Ximo Puig, during a meeting to which the businessmen arrived loaded with data to endorse their arguments. A dossier in which, for example, they compare the money that moved the sale of homes to foreigners during the first quarter of the year with automotive or citrus exports -two sectors that usually receive much more attention from the administrations- to demonstrate that they make a much greater contribution.

Specifically, according to the calculations made by Provia based on the latest statistics from the Valencia Notarial Association, property purchases by international clients totaled 3,802 million euros during the first six months of the year. A figure that comfortably exceeds the 2,998 million that Ford and the entire auxiliary industry that has developed in autonomy with its sales abroad achieved. Likewise, they also multiplied almost by three the income generated with citrus shipments during the same period, which reached 1,363 million euros, and represent more than five times more than the exports recorded by the footwear sector, of 690 million.

In addition, with an important difference, most of these sectors also import, so the real balance is reduced, something that does not happen with residential tourism. For example, the Valencian automotive sector sells for a value of 2,998 million, but also adds 2,239 million in imports, that is, in purchases abroad.

Regarding employment, from Provia they recall that a UA study estimated that there were more than 96,000 direct and indirect jobs that this activity supports only in the province of Alicante, including both the construction and marketing of second homes, as well as all the activity that is later generated with its use.

In this regard, the promoters point out that the data of the Valencian Tourism Agency recognizes that 80% of the overnight stays of tourists in the Valencian Community take place in private accommodation – that is, in second homes, whether they are their own, family members or friends, or rented- compared to only 20% of visitors who stay in hotels, campsites or tourist apartments.

This means that, regardless of the money that moves the purchase and sale of the homes, last year tourists staying in second homes spent 2,636 million euros in autonomy, compared to the 1,737 million left by those who they chose collective accommodation.

“It is about recognizing that we are a very powerful industry that generates wealth and that we have a series of specific problems that also deserve attention,” says Provia’s general secretary, Jesualdo Ros. In this sense, Ros points out that its mere inclusion within the regional tourism secretariat headed by Francesc Colomer -with which they assure that they are very satisfied- causes the sector not to be taken into account when preparing, for example, urban regulations that they also affect them. Hence, they claim their own apartment.

During the meeting with Puig, the promoters proposed the creation of a specific general directorate for residential tourism, although the head of the Consell raised the possibility of creating a commissioner like the Vega Renhace plan, easier to fit into the structure of the regional Administration when you want to coordinate aspects of different areas. A proposal that does not displease businessmen either. In any case, the final decision has yet to be made, since, among other things, now they want to incorporate the promoters of Castellón and Valencia into the negotiations so that it is an agreement of all autonomy.

In any case, from Provia they point as their first objective to a modification of the Territorial Strategy of the Valencian Community, a document prepared in 2007 and approved in 2011 that is causing numerous headaches in many municipalities by limiting their growth. And it is that to define the urban expansion of the populations, only the registered population is considered, but not the floating population that second homes represent, which limits the development of land, among other issues.

Alicante opens Christmas with the lighting of 2.6 million lights

Alicante will be one of the capitals of Christmas after turning on 2.6 million LED lights yesterday. The adult and child Belleas del Foc, Belén Mora Rosado and Inés Llavador Castelló, were in charge of pressing the button that turned on the lights both in the Town Hall Square, where the giant 18-metre-high tree is also located, and of most of the streets with Christmas lights in the city.

Along with the highest representatives of the fire, several members of the municipal corporation were present, among whom were the mayor of Alicante, Luis Barcala; the vice mayor, Mari Carmen Sánchez; as well as other councillors, members of the opposition and other city associations. Thousands of people, 4,000 according to police sources, came to the square at the time of the lighting, where you can read “Merry Christmas” and “Bon Nadal” on the facade of the consistory.

The mayor was proud at the event, noting that “Alicante is the capital of Christmas, and this Friday our city is the first to turn on lighting with more than 2.6 million LEDs to support trade.” Alicante is the first provincial capital to turn on its lights and has been ahead of Vigo, which will start its lighting this Saturday.

Most of the city lights came on at 7:00 p.m., at the same time as those in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the Christmas tree, but some Christmas sculptures, such as the new giant ball on the Esplanade, did so at arrival of the entourage. The ball has had a light and sound show that will be repeated three times a day in three passes, at 7:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.

Barcala points out that Alicante has “the Guinness World Record-breaking giant nativity scene, spectacular lighting, programming for the whole world and a Christmas with good weather”. In addition, he influences savings of 30% compared to last year by reducing hours, despite the fact that he initially described Ximo Puig’s idea as “inventive”. In turn, the head of the local government stresses that “we must add that in our province we have the Christmas nougat, the toy and the grape by the end of the year.” To achieve this saving, in addition to the use of LEDs, the lights will be on from 7:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. during the week, and with the same start and until 1:00 a.m. on weekends. The exception will be Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and Three Kings Day, when the lighting will remain on until 4:30 a.m.

Despite the 30% savings, the number of Christmas motifs has doubled with the installation of more than 2,000 arches, garlands, lamppost elements, signs and trees, all of them with low-consumption LEDs. In addition, the City Council has complied with the request of the merchants and has started the lighting before “black Friday”, which will be next Friday.

In addition, lighting will reach more Alicante neighbourhoods this year than in previous editions. A fact that the Councilor for Infrastructure, José Ramón González, is “satisfied” for what he considers “a firm commitment by the government team.”

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