Thursday, February 08, 2018

For Half A Metre More

Joan Gaspar Vallori is Alcudia's tourism councillor. He is also the chap in charge of public works. Given his combined responsibilities, he was in a reasonable position to offer an opinion on the cycle lane that is supposed to link Puerto Alcudia to Can Picafort and onto Son Real but which will in fact be missing a significant part - the whole of Playa de Muro.

The town hall in Muro has had an issue with this cycle lane project. Of the three town halls involved, it has faced the greatest complications. And where there are complications, there are also costs. Just one of these complications, which have led the town hall to pull out of the project, had to do with a Council of Mallorca proposal by which there would in fact have been two lanes - one on each side of the main road. This, however, would have required the environment ministry's department for biodiversity and natural spaces agreeing to give up some land. And we're talking land in the Albufera nature park, which is on both sides of the road for a stretch of approximately one kilometre or so because of the forest and dunes on the beach side.

The environment ministry was being asked to let go of what amounted in total to one metre: fifty centimetres on both sides. Alcudia town hall had by this time started to lose patience with the whole affair, such had been the endless complications. When the half a metre problem surfaced, Vallori observed that it would be ridiculous to hold everything up because of an argument over fifty centimetres. Quite.

The total area of the Albufera park is 1,645.50 hectares. I'm not even going to begin attempting to calculate what the percentage of two fifty centimetre strips would be, but I think that both you and I can conclude that it is a very small percentage. The park is of course protected. Therefore, nothing can be built on it. But half a metre?

The biodiversity and natural spaces might well have argued that had it agreed to the Council's plan, this could have been a case of the thin end of the wedge. Who knows, someone else might come along after a further thirty years of the park's existence and want to nab a whole metre either side. One can understand the protected status, but given that there is a main road running right by the park, how much biodiversity along the fifty centimetre strips would have been affected? None, one would think.

The tale of the Albufera fifty centimetres brings us to another half a metre story. This one doesn't affect the natural environment. It has to do with the urban environment: Palma's and Palma's terraces.

I understand that a standard wheelchair measures 760 millimetres width and 1,220 millimetres depth. In other words, neither in width nor in depth is a standard wheelchair two metres, let alone two and a half metres. I only mention the dimensions of a standard wheelchair because accessibility is at least one issue for Palma town hall and its saga of the new terraces bylaw.

To explain, in case you are unaware or have given up the will to live, so long has this saga been ongoing, the town hall plans that terraces should allow a minimum of two and a half metres space for pedestrians (or wheelchairs or other forms of reduced mobility vehicle). The current minimum is two metres.

Is it really necessary, as with the fifty centimetres of Albufera, to be arguing over fifty centimetres of terrace space? It seemingly is necessary. And the argument includes the loss of business - up to 500 terraces affected, with some of them going altogether. Half a metre matters.

Terraces can't just be put any old place. Noise is a legitimate concern. But half a metre? Can this really make such a difference to so-called saturation of the public way or indeed to noise? There are other aspects to this bylaw - the technical chaps have been out with their tape measures all over the city - but it is this fifty centimetre cut that has caused the greatest fuss. And whose fuss is it exactly?

Podemos, in the form of their councillor Aurora Jhardi, have made terraces a cause célèbre in Palma. No sooner had they become part of the ruling administration, than they decided that terraces on the Born had to go. What a rumpus that created. So they held a citizens' referendum, and the citizens - those few who could be bothered to take part - told the town hall where they could stick their terraces' restrictions. A point is that terraces may occupy the public way, and do so with the permission of the municipality, but it is the public which occupies terraces as much as the public walks along the public way.

Mallorca, where government is measured in centimetres.

No comments: