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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.

Second annual plenary session of youth council

Consell inf6Composed of girls and boys from the island's primary and secondary schools, a plenary meeting of Formentera's youth council took place this morning in the plenary hall of the Formentera Council.

El Consell de la infància i la joventut is a participatory entity that casts young people as the actors in the decision making that affects them. Members introduce their own initiatives and voice their particular perspectives regarding the island. This morning's plenary was the second this year.

The day's session included discussion of what is being called el camí escolar de La Mola, or 'the school-children's trail of La Mola'. The idea – a safe route to school for children traveling alone – is to build autonomy without losing out on security.

Those council members who participated in the two countrywide assemblies held in November – one in Guadalajara and the other in the Balearics – related their experiences and gave accounts of the council's actions at this morning's plenary.

Initiatives such as this one were behind UNICEF's decision in October to award Formentera the designation of 'Child-friendly City'. This distinction will be valid through 2018, at which point local policies and practices will once again be reviewed before renewal of the 'Child-friendly City' label.

Free Catalan language instruction for hospital staff

hospital-formenteraThe Formentera Island Council and the Formentera Hospital have signed a deal to coordinate Catalan language courses for employees of the hospital and provide preparatory instruction in anticipation of two official tests of the Catalan language currently scheduled for January and May 2015.

The courses - under the charge of the Council's linguistic assessment service - are at the A2 and B1/B2 levels. The A2 track focuses on cultivating students' oral comprehension skills as well as their ability to write and speak in Catalan. Theoretically, the A2 level corresponds to basic communication abilities, those that allow students to negotiate the most common daily situations. At the B1/B2 level, students are meant to achieve mastery of the language in both its written and oral forms, permitting either off-hand discussion of topics like work, school, family and leisure, or – contrarily – more thorough and technical analysis of topics such as the speaker's professional vocation.

As with previous accords between the Council and the Formentera Hospital, all courses will take place in the afternoon or evening in a space on the hospital premises, making attendance easier for staff. This is the third such agreement to be signed between the two entities.

Council learns details of remodel plans for Sant Ferran school, possible site for nursery

This morning, a team formed by Sònia Cardona, Formentera's councillor of culture and education; Xico Ribas, infrastructure coordinator and Diego Dueñas, head of town planning, met in Palma with Mateu Sunyer, head of the regional office in charge of infrastructure and educational and cultural services (Ibisec), to discuss the draft plan for the new Sant Ferran school. Also present at the meeting was José Manuel Alcaraz, the Govern Balear's delegate to the island of Formentera.

The encounter gave attendants the opportunity to see where exactly the new building would be located, thus allowing the Formentera Council to move forward with its own plans to construct a nursery on the remainder of the terrain. The meeting left no doubt that the nursery – commonly referred to as L'Escoleta in Catalan – would be built on Carrer Major street, leaving the remaining interior portion of the 11,000-sq.-m. plot for the future primary school.

The exchange also served as a chance for Formentera representatives to learn firsthand the details regarding the remodeled school. According to the draft, the centre will be equipped to hold two different groups from each year, as well as an early childhood learning facility, classrooms for the primary school-portion of the centre, a gymnasium, sport facilities and administrative offices. Also included are plans for a cafeteria and a basic kitchen, conceived as a place to store or serve food prepared elsewhere.

Sònia Cardona indicated the Council's desire to “modify this piece of the project, thus allowing the two educational centres to share kitchen and cafeteria. The idea of fitting two different kitchens onto such a reduced floor plan is unthinkable.” Indeed, the day's encounter served to bring together technical staff from both the Formentera and Palma administrations, who committed to collaborating on the project henceforth.

Cardona affirmed: “Our technicians are at Ibisec's service. We look forward to doing everything in our power to help the process along, streamlining the delivery of permits or any other proceedings pertinent to the construction of the new centre.”

Jaume Ferrer reiterates urgency of Sant Ferran school rebuild

visita Riera2President of the Formentera Council, Jaume Ferrer, accompanied by Sònia Cardona, councillor of education and culture, have traveled to Palma de Mallorca today to meet with Núria Riera, recently-appointed regional minister of education to the Govern Balear.

In addition to wishing the minister luck in her new position and officiating the first visit by Formentera councilmembers since Riera's appointment, president Ferrer and councilwoman Cardona's intent at the outset was to learn the calendar of action for the pending Sant Ferran school rebuild. At the most recent Formentera plenary, Palma's local delegate – José Manuel Alcaraz – remained silent as to whether or not a line item for construction of a new primary school would be included the Govern's budget.

In the words of Jaume Ferrer, the issue is “of fundamental importance for three reasons. First, [the stalled construction] means that our students are receiving instruction in obsolete facilities. Second, it effects a de facto paralysation of plans for the Sant Ferran nursery school. And third, the stall has hindered the redevelopment of the Sant Ferran town centre. When this rebuild takes place, the grounds of the school's current location will be used for cultural programming and municipal services. These are changes that will be important not only for the people of Formentera, but for the island in general.”

Riera – whom the two Formentera councilmembers found receptive – acknowledged that the Govern's budget didn't include money for the construction, while still leaving open a window of possibility. The regional minister of Education asserted that the Govern's budgets for the current calendar were not yet finalised, and thus, the inclusion of a new line item to start construction could not be discarded. Riera also said that the draft project for rebuilding the Sant Ferran primary school was expected within the coming weeks, and that the project itself would be elaborated over the course of 2015.

After the meeting, Ferrer and Cardona said that the Formentera Council would no longer hold back plans for the new nursery school: “These are two educational centres whose construction ought to be coordinated, but even with the expansion of the Sa Miranda nursery school in Sant Francesc, the growth of Formentera's local population has made a second nursery an unquestionable necessity. We will now do everything in our power to make it a reality, even if the Govern fails to do the same vis-à-vis the new primary school.”

Councillor Cardona indicated that she had also spoken with Riera on a series of other issues in education that still await resolution. Among these, adequate facilities for students of Formentera's technical programme in cooking and resources for the Catalan self-study point were among the first issues discussed. Currently, the space at the Marià Villangómez Library is funded entirely by the Formentera Council, which already assumes instruction costs for more than 180 students of Catalan. Moreover, Formentera's is the only self-study point in the Balearics whose maintenance is not administered by the Govern. Cardona also raised the issue of adding a new instrument to the list of those available for study at the Formentera Conservatory of Music. She explained: “We asked the Govern to make a similar effort to the one our own council has made with the School of Music, which has recently added 'school of dance' to its résumé.”

Riera apparently demonstrated a willingness to dialogue on the different issues and committed to providing clear and straightforward answers to them all, alluding to a visit to Formentera planned for the very near future.

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