Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Crazy Golf

Since writing last week about the proposed urbanization and golf course development in Las Navas del Marqués in Avila, a few more details have come to light:

  • The regional government of Castilla and Leon, together with the local council, set up a public company which had as its declared aim the protection of the area where the development is supposed to take place. No sooner was the company set up than they promptly changed the use of the land to allow construction.

  • The developer behind the project had already presented his project before the land was put on sale. There was only one bidder.

  • In between the original proposal and the actual sale of the land, the developer was given double the area originally proposed for very little additional cost. It has been estimated that only 6000 euros per house sold is needed to pay the cost of the land.

  • The developer was promised huge compensation if the land use of the area was not changed to permit construction within a fixed period.

  • In addition to being a nesting area for black storks, several other rare species of bird (including eagles) also nest in this area.

The deal with the construction company included a commitment to reforestation of another area of similar size to that which was to be stripped of its trees. This led the court dealing with the case to question, not unreasonably, why they couldn’t just build on this second area and leave an area of ecologically valuable woodland in peace. The whole affair stinks to put it mildly, but that does not guarantee anything will be done in the end to prevent the development; it was only the initiative of a private citizen that led to the courts dealing with the case at all.

Meanwhile details of another similar project In Ávila province have been published today in the press. In this new case it is proposed to construct 7500 houses and 3 golf courses in the village of Villanueva de Gómez, which currently has just 143 inhabitants. It appears that 10000 pine trees have already been cleared in a zone that had only recently been nested by an imperial eagle. It almost seems to be a prerequisite for development in these areas that the environmental destruction involved has to be significant.

All of this development in Ávila is a further consequence of the trend for people to move out of Madrid and buy a house in what used to be called the countryside. With much of the area between Madrid and the Sierra de Guadarrama already constructed, companies are now looking at the possibilities on the other side of these mountains and seem to be able to count on the enthusiastic backing of the local and regional governments.

The curse of South of Watford on all these developments. May all their golf courses dry up and turn to dust.

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