Letter to BBC / January 13, 2007

We represent a group of British, plus a smaller number of Spanish, living in the inland municipality of Monóvar. It comes within the Alicante Province and under the Valencian Autonomy. We are 40km inland from Alicante city, between the towns of Elda and Pinoso.

UNDER THE LRAU

Our particular situation, is that Monóvar town hall wanted to get its massive General Plan approved by Valencia before the end of January 2006, which is when the LUV law came into force. This was because they knew the old law would give them more power over the small landowners. It was a General Plan that boasted a growth of the population in the municipality of Monóvar from 12,000 people to 56,000. The build area was also shown to grow by 500%. Luckily the general plan did not go to Valencia for approval because of the severe criticism these ‘last minute plans’ were getting. A big thanks must go to Charles Svoboda of the AUN for that. But are we better off now?

UNDER THE LUV

With the new Valencian land law, the town hall of Monóvar realised it had to modify its strategy to built so many new houses. So now the town hall has split up the general plan in the hope that it can slip the worst parts through with less objection. Developers were selected, without Europe–wide tendering of the two contracts, which infringes the European Directive on Public Procurement. Then on 18 May 2006, the town hall of Monóvar approved two macro-urbanisations of 6,500 new houses, plus two golf courses and an aerodrome on a staggering 6.5 square kilometres of rural land. Our objections at the meeting where shouted down by the mayor and the developers. It was an unbelievable display of heavy-handedness by the local government to members of the public who simply wanted their say. In addition, the town hall has since put out to tender two more macro-urbanisations in the countryside, for which they will give us no details! So the picture gets worse.

Considering the current number of households in the whole of Monóvar is 4,000 it's going to have a catastrophic impact on the area, especially if you live in the rural areas as we do, where there are literally only a handful of inhabitants! A picturesque landscape of vineyards, olive and almond groves bounded by pine-wooded hillside will be permanently destroyed. See the attached image of one of the beautiful remote corners of Monóvar where the town hall has approved 2,500 houses. This needs showing to the world, especially the British.

BREAKING ALL THE RULES

According to European directives these macro-urbanisations should have valid environmental impact studies. The only study back in January 2006 quoted species that do not even exist in this area. So clearly the study was lifted from some other area! They know that true environmental impact studies would return negative conclusions.

Also there are European Directive rulings that the public must be involved in the decision making on environmental matters, and that the information should be made publicly available.

The topping to this pending disaster, is that the people and the agriculture here rely on natural underground water. The aquifers have been given 10 to 15 years life at the current rate of use. If you factor in the extra houses and 2 golf courses, our water will be running out in the next few years!! The vineyards will be hit first and then the inhabitants. It is that serious! Again there is a European Directive that dictates that such large scale projects must have a sustainable water supply.

Then the town hall has allowed the construction of a water bore hole and pumping station that has no licence or authority and it is in a environmentally protected area. Last month the Chief municipal Engineer denounced the mayor over this, saying it was a grave over-exploitation from the aquifers and that it was illegal. This is currently extracting water, so this is something to film.

TOWN HALL IN LEAGUE WITH THE URBANISORS

It is clear that the town hall is being irresponsible to authorise such plans, to say the least, but also there is a very strong smell of corruption. The contract for the biggest urbanisation with a golf course and aerodrome has been awarded to 'Ortiz Desarrollos Urbanísticos SL', which is administered by the cousin of the mayor of Monóvar. The mayor has finally admitted he knew about his cousin's position. And, donations of over a million Euros from the developers have been accepted by the town hall, before Valencia has even ratified the plans. So if you are looking for a case of corruption, look no further.

OUR CAMPAIGN

We have been fighting to stop this destruction of the countryside since January 2006. We have put our logical and coherent arguments to the town hall in writing, we have had private meetings with the mayor, we have stood up and asked questions in televised council meetings (which we have on video) and in peaceful demonstrations in the streets. And yet we have had absolutely no answer from the mayor, except he once said that "we can’t eat the countryside!" We have appealed to the Valencia government to reject the plans (surprisingly we had a reply to this), we have written a report to the Valencian Ombudsman, we have alerted the British Ambassador to the situation and we are now writing our complaint to the European Parliament.

THE PEOPLE AFFECTED

We live in one of the ancient hamlets, that is set in peaceful countryside, will have a truly massive urbanisation with 4,000 proposed houses below and 2,500 proposed houses above us. (The Town Hall has already allowed some new houses to be built sporadically in this rural zone if you wish to film something happening now). Some others of our group members live inside the zones earmarked, and yet they have had no communications from the town hall. It’s a classic case of administrative silence. Not only have they failed to keep the property owners informed on matters that directly affect them, they actively prevent those people gaining access to the plans. And of the 1500-1800 official complaints, the town hall officially dismissed 75% of them including ours, and has failed to answer the others. The situation is a nightmare.

TO SUMMARISE

Our story is about rural Spain being sold out to developers in league with a corrupt town hall, that has no consideration for its agriculture, its people or its natural resources. A town hall that will do anything to make a few people rich, at the expense of others. The Spanish phrase is" Pan Hoy, Hambre Mañana" = "Bread Today, Famine Tomorrow". And it is allowed to thrive under the perverse land law of Valencia, the LUV.

Until you live here for a few years and open your eyes to what is going on, you don't realise how 'Wild West' this part of Spain really is.

OUR INVITATION TO THE BBC

We invite the BBC to visit Monóvar and show to its viewers the natural spaces that are on the verge of destruction. This is especially relevant to British viewers, who would be the largest potential buyers of these new houses and users of the golf courses. So coverage of our plight will stop those people in their tracks, and make them think seriously about buying new houses in this part of Spain. These places can be enjoyed by visitors, but should not be destroyed by houses!

STEWART MUIR & JOYCE ROBSON - Monóvar

(+34) 687- 711-137

stewartmuir@clara.co.uk

 


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