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Urbanism and Territory planning

Boned: improvement projects could make pollution, noise thing of past at Formentera power plant

Reunió amb veïns Es Ca Marí premsaEarlier today, Alejandra Ferrer and Daisee Aguilera, Formentera's councillors of land and environment, respectively, held a meeting with Joan Boned, regional minister of land, energy and transport; Joan Groizard, director general of the Balearic office in charge of tackling energy and climate change issues; and different representatives from the Es Ca Marí neighbourhood. At the gathering Minister Boned detailed the different actions planned by the Palma administration to take aim at the perennial buzzing, pollution and emissions that have long plagued the area around the power station.

At present, Palma envisions modifying the site's noise abatement technology, updating the generators used at the plant, installing a system of noise absorption within the plant itself and building a single, eight to ten metre smokestack. The regional minister promised a return visit before summer in order to ensure plans remain on track.

Councillor Aguilera said the Govern's proposed solution, which will be in place by summer 2016, is sufficient until a more definitive fix can be found. Lina Mayans, secretary of the Es Ca Marí neighbours' association, indicated she is pleased with the anticipated measures, while noting the group's greatest cause for concern remains pollution levels in the area.

Anger over cuts in power service

Boned expressed his anger over the service cuts that have hit Formentera since the year began. According to the minister, inclement meteorological events cannot be used as an excuse because the power company should be able to predict them. Boned made assurances his department has already demanded the company provide explanations for the service interruptions and take the necessary steps to avoid their continued occurrence.

Formentera Council to provide more justification for historic town centres

Foto RP valoració sentènciaFormentera Council (CiF) president Jaume Ferrer was joined today by vice president and councillor of patrimony, Susana Labrador, vice president and councillor of the presidential office, Bartomeu Escandell, and vice president and councillor of land, Alejandra Ferrer, to give their assessment of a decision of the supreme court. The decision, which upholds a February 2014 ruling handed down by the Balearic Islands superior court of justice, strikes down the remapped limits of Formentera's historic town centres citing a lack of justification to substantiate the redrawn centres.

President Ferrer said the CiF's criteria was «to protect those sites with patrimonial value that are located within a town's urban centre» and noted such places are often spread out and not necessarily near a church. As Ferrer pointed out, that standard differs from the one used to define patrimony in Eivissa and Formentera, which sets a town's epicentre as the church and from there extends protection over a radius of 250 metres.

More justification

Ferrer said that at present, the supreme court «has not nullified the model applied heretofore in Formentera. Rather, it has requested further explanation be given for it. Specifically, the court has asked justification for the sites accorded official protection as well as those not included but still within the 250-metre radius of the town church. The reasoning was that the sites of neither patrimonial nor architectural interest. And this must be now justified in Formentera's report on its historic town centres». He clarified the court has not found Formentera's criteria erroneous, simply requiring further justification. Which means, he added, «the Council will now set a process in motion to draft a report redefining the historic centres of the island».

Formentera asks Madrid and Palma for help tackling housing crunch

Foto ple novembre 2015Members of the Formentera Council (CiF) came together today to celebrate the administration's November plenary session. Unanimous approval was given to a proposal tackling housing issues and evictions electric bill breaks for low-income homes. According to Councillor Alejandra Ferrer of the department of local land management, finding year-round accommodation continues to be the one of Formentera's big quagmires despite the Palma administration's efforts, including the present construction of low-cost public housing.

The Council of Formentera has also attempted to tackle the housing question here locally, through its creation of a legal status for private citizens who rent their homes to seasonal tourists, which Councillor Ferrer points out «could inversely help by highlighting the supply of houses and apartments not for seasonal holidayers». According to Ferrer, such a system opens the door to compiling a list of homes available for year-round rental.

To tackle the problem, plenary attendants green-lighted a motion to urge the Govern Balear to open a local branch of the regional housing office IBAVI (Instituto Balear de la Vivienda). The measure includes putting pressure on both Palma and Madrid to «adopt policies that actively support residents' right to housing and help in paying astronomical electricity bills».

Improving accessibility

The attendants of the plenary also unanimously passed a proposition from Socialistes de Formentera to draft a municipal accessibility plan for local buildings. Transport councillor Rafa González detailed his department's efforts on the issue and assured the Council's commitment to ameliorating a subject «where we all know Formentera comes up short». He assured all new infrastructure in Formentera is made with accessibility in mind. Opposition parties requested the change happen progressively.

Attendants also unanimously accepted a Socialistes proposal to create a digital literacy programme for the non-tech savvy. A proposition from the Compromís amb Formentera group also secured unanimous support. The idea is to create a sports volunteer corps, which, explained Councillor Jordi Vidal, will be overseen by the office of sport.

Smoke-free beaches

Another vote that garnered unanimous support: a proposition from Compromís to look into creating smoke-free beaches. The councillor of environment, Daisee Aguilera, said the administration «will study the legal viability of implementing smoke-free criteria either in specific areas or entire beaches». She stressed, however, that any outreach will be key to whichever course of action the Council takes: «This is especially a problem of education and that is really where we want to be making leaps and strides».

Plenary participants also approved a measure from the PP on illegal dumping. The councillor of the environment commented: «We are in the midst of forming a troupe of inspectors that can target this and other problems». Finally, the councillor of social welfare read out loud the administration's official proclamation honouring the International  Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Govern decree fits neatly with Formentera's own protectionist strategies

Reunió decret protecció premsaCiF president Jaume Ferrer, president's office secretary Bartomeu Escandell, and Alejandra Ferrer, the island's secretary of tourism, sat down today with two regional government officials —Joan Boned, the Balearic minister of land, mobility and energy, and Luis Corral, the director general of the ministry's land use department— to be brought up to speed on an order, approved yesterday by the executive branch, containing urgent measures on urban planning.

Speaking after the gathering, Alejandra Ferrer framed the new decree as an extension of the island's own guidelines for territorial safeguards, a code of standards called “Subsidiary Norms” (Normes Subsidiàries) which was adopted in 2010. Yesterday's executive order throws up a building freeze on certain swaths of protected land, something Formentera's standards code includes as well. “Our unique territorial situation, not to mention limited size, make us different”, Ferrer said, “that's a difference that makes us competitive”.

Power return
Ferrer spoke cheerily about another effect of the decree: that local branches of government stand to regain some powers. When the Balearic executive decree and Formentera's Subsidiary Norms overlap in a given area, the more restrictive of the two codes takes precedence, a fact Ferrer indicated could mean reinstatement of the local ban on camping.

Concerning tourism, Ferrer welcomed the potential that yesterday's order opens up for facilities improvements in rural areas, while still warning against the possibility that such a rules change be used improperly, say, to disguise unauthorised expansion projects.

In Ferrer's estimation, a good deal of work on land-use legislation still lies ahead, and she encouraged the Palma officials to work with the Formentera administration to ensure that the new regulations “square with the unique qualities of our island”.

Formentera bemoans Madrid's decision to go at it alone, says resulting law «ill-advised»

Reunio Junta Portaveus premsaToday at noon, representatives from local political parties gathered for a one-off, urgent assembly of the Junta de Portaveus, convened yesterday by CiF president Jaume Ferrer, in order to discuss the constitutional court's recent ruling concerning the Ley de Costas (coastline law). Besides President Ferrer, the meeting was attended by CiF head of land management Alejandra Ferrer and the spokespersons or deputy spokespersons of Formentera's municipal parties. Susana Labrador was there to represent Gent per Formentera, Gabriel Mayans represented Partido Popular (PP), Rafael Ramírez spoke for the socialist party and Cristina Costa appeared for Compromís amb Formentera.

At the gathering the secretary general and head of services of the administration, Àngel Navarro, led a detailed review of the exact ruling, which references the unconstitutionality and nullification of sections 1.2 and 4 of the fourth amendment to the law, a part which concerns the coastline divisions on Formentera.  Following the meeting, President Ferrer explained to members of the press, «the goal was to reach a compromise that would allow us to issue a joint declaration on behalf of our different local parties», but said foot-dragging by the PP had made consensus impossible.

The administration, said Ferrer, will accept and obey the court's ruling. He commented, «the strong wording and decisive nature of the sentence demonstrate that the previous work by the legal teams of the central government – which called into question the past divisions – were poorly prepared». Further, President Ferrer bemoaned what he called Madrid's poor form at failing to include the Formentera Council in setting the new coastal delineations. Ferrer concluded: «This is unfortunately the same complaint we have tried without success to convey to the PP for the last four years».

The president lamented a situation in which the hardest hit are the landowners who have fought for years to regain  property lost because it lies in affected coastal areas. He said: «I'm aware of the unfairness of the situation» and pledged the Formentera Council would continue advocating for a return of lost land. Both Ferrer and the ruling party declared their intent to «continue trying to reach a consensus» and shared their hope the PP, «like the socialists, Compromís amb Formentera and Gent per Formentera have already done», will show a willingness to compromise.

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