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Areas Urbanism & territory, Tourism and Economic activities Urbanism and Territory planning

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».

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 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.

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.

Automatic concession of small-scale construction permits up by 21%

130114 bartomeuescToday, the offices of the Formentera Council that oversee construction works released the 2014 figures for activity on the island. Councillor of town planning and the economy Bartomeu Escandell revealed that in 2014 there had been 253 applications for small-scale (menor) construction permits, a drop from 2013, when the number was 329.

Nevertheless, over the same 12-month period, the number of a different type of application – simple small-scale construction permits – increased. It grew from 112 in 2013 to 136 this last year – a 21% increase. Bartomeu Escandell attributed this change to the fact that “to make things easier and streamline the process, more and more often we are seeking to allow projects traditionally requiring small-scale permit applications to receive consideration as simple small-scale projects. The distinction allows for a concession of permit which is practically automatic”.

Of the 253 permit applications for small-scale construction received in 2014, 137 were approved. The remainder – says Escandell – “are under review. The majority are simply awaiting attention from other branches of the public administration”. In 2013, of 329 applications, 218 received approval.

The figures change with applications for permits to conduct what is considered large-scale (major) construction. In 2014, the Council received 110 applications for large-scale permits. Of the proposed projects, 14 were new structures built on rural soil and 96 corresponded to changes to pre-existing structures. In 2013, of the 101 total applications received, 51 were granted approval. Escandell has affirmed that “[the Council] continues processing a high number of the applications that they receive, but to a lesser degree than at the start of the legislative session. This is due in large part to the fact that Council offices that process construction permits have assumed a somewhat normal level of activity”.

Escandell also gave figures concerning requests for certificates of occupancy, required before a building can legally be occupied. These made up 84 applications in 2014, up from 77 in 2013. Of those 84 applications last year, 64 were given approval, compared to a mere 13 that were approved in 2013.

Next month, the Council's office of town planning will unveil the newest data concerning urbanism in 2014.

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