History of Alicante


History of Alicante

The area around Alicante has been inhabited for over 7000 years, with the first tribes of hunter gatherers moving down gradually from Central Europe between 5000 and 3000 BC. Some of the earliest settlements were made on the slopes of Mount Benacantil, where the Castillo de Santa Barbara stands today. By 1000 BC Greek and Phoenician traders had begun to visit the eastern coast of Spain, establishing small trading ports and introducing the native Iberian tribes to the alphabet, iron and the pottery wheel. By the sixth century, the rival armies of Carthage and Rome began to invade and fight for control of the Iberian Peninsula. The Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca established the fortified settlement of Akra Leuka (Greek: polytonic|Ἄκρα Λευκὴ, meaning "White Mountain" or "White Point"), where Alicante stands today.Although the Carthaginians conquered much of the land around Alicante, they were in the end no match for the Romans, who established rule in the province for over 700 years. By the fifth century Rome was in decline, and Roman predecessdor of Alicante, known as "Lucentum" (Latin), was more or less under the control of the Visigothic warlord Teodmiro. However neither the Romans nor the Goths, however, put up much resistance to the Arab conquest of "Medina Laqant" in the 8th century, which brought oranges, rice, palms and the gifts of Moorish art and architecture, it was the Moors who gave the city its modern name - Alicante is Arabic for the city of lights. [ [http://www.lovealicante.com/areas/alicante/ Alicante City] ] The Moors ruled southern and eastern Spain until the 11th century "reconquista" (reconquest). Alicante was finally taken in 1246 by the Castilian king Alfonso X, but it passed soon and definitely to the Kingdom of Valencia in 1298 with the Catalonian King James II of Aragon. It gained the status of Royal Village ("Vila Reial") with representation in the medieval Valencian Parliament.

After several decades of being the battle field used by the Kingdom of Castile against the Crown of Aragon, Alicante enjoyed a "segle d'or" (golden age) during the 15th century together with the whole Kingdom of Valencia, rising to become a major Mediterranean trading station exporting rice, wine, olive oil, oranges and wool. But between 1609 and 1614 King Felipe III expelled thousands of moriscos who had remained in Valencia after the reconquista, due to their allegiance with Berber pirates who continually attacked coastal cities and caused much harm to trade. This act cost the region dearly; with so many skilled artisans and agricultural labourers gone, the feudal nobility found itself sliding into bankruptcy. Things got worse when in the early 18th century Alicante, along with the rest of Valencia, backed Carlos in the War of Spanish Succession. Felipe won, and he punished the whole region by withdrawing the semi-autonomous status it had enjoyed since the time of the Reconquista. Alicante went into a long, slow decline, surviving through the 18th and 19th centuries by making shoes and agricultural products such as oranges and almonds, and its fisheries. The end of the 19th century witnessed a sharp recovery of the local economy with increasing international trade and the growth of the city harbour leading to increased exports of several products (particularly during World War I when Spain was a neutral country).

Modern history

During the early twentieth century, Alicante was a minor capital which enjoyed the benefit of Spain's neutrality during the First World War, which provided new opportunities for the local industry and agriculture. The Moroccan war of the 1920s saw numerous "alicantinos" drafted to fight in the long and bloody campaigns at the former Spanish protectorate (Northern Morocco) against the Rif rebels. The political unrest of the late 1920s led to the victory of republican candidates in the local council elections throughout the country, and the abdication of King Alfonso XIII. The proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic was much celebrated in the city on April 14, 1931. The Spanish Civil War broke out on July 17, 1936. Alicante was the last city loyal to the Republican government to be occupied by General Franco's troops on April 1, 1939, and its harbour saw the last Republican government officials flee the country. Even if not as famous as the bombing of Guernica by the German Luftwaffe, Alicante was the target of some vicious air bombings during the three years of civil conflict, most remarkably the bombing by the Italian "Aviazione Legionaria" of the Mercado de Abastos in May 25, 1938 in which more than 300 civilians perished.

The next 20 years under Franco's dictatorship were difficult for Alicante as it was for the entire country. However, the late 1950s and early 1960s saw the onset of a lasting transformation of the city due to tourism. Large buildings and complexes rose in nearby Albufereta and Playa de San Juan, with the benign climate being the best tool to bring prospective buyers and tourists who kept hotels reasonably busy. The tourist development, aside from construction, also brought numerous businesses such as restaurants, bars and other businesses focused on visitors. Also, the old airfield at Rabasa was closed and air traffic moved to the new El Altet airport, which made for a convenient facility for charter flights bringing tourists from northern European countries.

When Franco died in 1975, his successor Juan Carlos I successfully oversaw the transition of Spain to a democratic constitutional monarchy. Governments of nationalities and regions were given more autonomy, and the Valencian region was permitted an autonomy they had not been allowed for four centuries.

The Port of Alicante: recent history

Alicante is the Valencia region's second-largest town. Alicante Airport however outranks its Valencian counterpart, being among the busiest airports in Spain along with Madrid, Barcelona, Palma and Málaga and keeps expanding. It is connected with Madrid and Barcelona by frequent Iberia and Spanair flights, with many Western European cities through carriers such as EasyJet, Ryanair and Air Berlin, and also has flights to Algiers and Russia.

The port has been reinventing itself since the industrial decline the city suffered in the 1980s (with most mercantile traffic lost in favour of Valencia's harbour). In recent years, the Port Authority has established it as one of the most important ports in Spain for cruises, with 72 calls to port made by cruises in 2007 bringing some 80,000 cruise passengers and 30,000 crew to the city each year. [ [http://www.turijobs.com/noticias/343_noticia_alicante,_uno_de_los_puertos_mas_importantes.html El puerto de Alicante registrará 72 escalas de cruceros durante 2007 - Turijobs.com ] ]

The 1990s marked possibly the greatest changes in the modern history of the port of Alicante. The Special Plan for the Port ('PEP' in Spanish) of 1992 allowed the port to plan an expansion towards the south, and made provisions for converting some of the quayside into a zone of seafood restaurants, an extensive promenade with modern bars and nightclubs open until dawn. [ [http://www.descargas.cervantesvirtual.com/servlet/SirveObras/07032707689636206317857/017653.pdf?incr=1] ] To reduce the visual impact on the coastline, integrating the port better with the city, and thus complying with local and European planning laws which now prohibit the construction of buildings (especially tall buildings) next to the coast, [ [http://www.lexureditorial.com/boe/0407/13470-ley-valencia-ordenacion-territorio-proteccion-paisaje.htm Ordenación terriorio protección paisaje - Ley C.A. Valencia 4/2004 ] ] the PEP made provision for a maximum height of 12 metres for buildings in the port area, [ [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/DiAZ_ALPERI/_LUIS_/PP-ALCALDE_DE_ALICANTE/ESPAnA/ALICANTE/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/PARTIDO_POPULAR_/PP/elpepuespval/19990128elpval_18/Tes "El Pais"] ] [Cf. the [http://www.dip-alicante.es/bop2/pdftotal/2006/04/24-04-06.pdf Modification of February 2006] , Official Bulletin, p.38] leaving the possibility for certain structures (such as cranes) to exceed this height only if the necessity is proven.

This Special Plan for the Port of 1992 permitted, inter alia, the expansion of the port towards the south, in parallel to the coast and side-by-side to the residential neighbourhoods of the south of the city, reclaiming land from the sea in order to build four new quays, designed to house a new passenger terminal for the ferries to Africa (32.000 m2 of land), a new multi-use terminal for container traffic (150.500m2) and a new cargo terminal (120.000m2). [ [http://www.bajo-segura.com/vega_baja_segura/alicante_puerto_estrecho_210907.htm ALICANTE / Más de 150.000 pasajeros utilizaron el Puerto de Alicante en la Operación Paso del Estrecho 2007 ] ] According to the Port Authority, the plan made provisions for the relocation of the four silos currently on Quay 14 (next to the cruisers’ dock, at some 800 m from the nearest homes) to the new plots in the Port Extension Zone, which are between some 400 m and 1500 m from the urban centre of the city. This development has allowed the city to open itself up more to the sea, and, with the construction of the leisure facilities in the port area in the centre of the city, the port was able to make provisions to remove industrial installations, such as the old petroleum deposits of Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos (previously known as CAMPSA), and re-locate them far from the coast and city, to protect the environment and quality of life in the city.

In 1995, Alicante City Council, the Port Authority, the central government and the regional government (the Generalitat) signed an [http://avvgranviasur.com/producto.php?id=54 Accord] to remove these fuel deposits from the port, with the aid of some 19 million Euros, mostly from EU funding. In the words of the Joint Declaration they signed "in the future there should be no installations for the storage or distribution of petroleum products in the Port of Alicante" "in light of the negative repercussions of possible accidents, with the consequent environmental impact, in such fuel installations situated close to residential zones". This, they added "reduced the risks of traffic accident with vehicles transporting petroleum derived products within the city", the signatories noting that the Accord had "a clear social interest, with favourable repercussions for the environmental aspects".

In 1999 this relocation was eventually carried out, with the Port Authority receiving offers to build a new [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/ALICANTE/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/CAMPSA/Nueva/planta/2000/elpepuespval/19990117elpval_10/Tes leisure complex] on the site. Later in 1999, Alicante City Council, governed by Luis Díaz Alperi, granted the construction licence to the Marina de Poniente company to build this new centre of restaurants, leisure activities and cinema. Even then, the national newspapers reported [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/DiAZ_ALPERI/_LUIS_/PP-ALCALDE_DE_ALICANTE/ESPAnA/ALICANTE/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/ALICANTE_/MUNICIPIO/PARTIDO_POPULAR_/PP/elpepuespval/19990128elpval_18/Tes planning irregularities] concerning the maximum height established by the Special Plan for the Port.

In 2003, Alicante Port Authority obtained the [http://www.boe.es/g/es/bases_datos/doc.php?coleccion=indilex&id=2003/03692&txtlen=1000 environmental licences with the necessary conditions] to construct the [http://www.puertoalicante.com/pdf/apapdf/planoinv.pdf zone of expansion] for the port based firmly on the model of a commercial port. This project is also co-financed by millions of Euros in European Union FEDER funding.

The port of Alicante has obtained, in this manner, an opportunity to develop and grow alongside the city, creating a better maritime environment for the booming tourist industry and for the residents in the city, and allowing a greater harmonization with urban planning in the city (especially on the Mediterranean coast, symbol of Alicante's tourism appeal). This development has witnessed the simultaneous transfer of the industry in the coastal area of the city known as the "Southern Entrance" of the city, linked to the airport and the motorways. Industry was shifted to inland industrial estates, far from the residential neighbourhoods, and housing schemes together with new hotels and new urban infrastructure were announced in the south of the city. Alicante City Council authorized the construction of [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/pg060526/prensa/noticias/Alicante/200605/26/ALI-ALI-185.html new housing in the zone next to the port expansion] in the residential neighbourhoods of San Gabriel, Benalúa and Babel, where some [http://www.alicante-ayto.es/documentos/empleo/estudio_1.pdf 21%] of the city's residents reside, maintaining and building on the [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/pg060527/prensa/noticias/Alicante/200605/27/ALI-ALI-010.html strong link] between port and city.

Until early 2006, the changes and the expansion of the port took place on the basis this model, and the development in the Port was smooth. The City Council promised urban regeneration for the southern neighbourhoods, the basis for the huge land reclamation project of the port alongside was clearly as a commercial and passenger port, and plans were announced to re-model the Southern Entrance to Alicante, with "green routes", cycle paths, parks and nature reserves making the most of the beautiful and fragile coastal environmental.

It was in this context that other landmarks in recent history - such as the opening of the European Union's Office for the Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) and the construction of the polemic "Ciudad de la Luz", a series of facilities meant to sponsor movie industries to set base at Alicante, next to the coastal Southern Entrance to the city - took place

However, the original plans for the port extension zone experienced a major change in August 2006 when the port published [http://www.dip-alicante.es/bop2/pdf/2006/08/09/2006-20345.pdf a new and previously uncontemplated proyect for an industrial chemical factory] in the zone of expansion of the port, which it declared would be the largest factory producing "biofuels" in the whole of Spain, and amongst one of the [http://www.levante-emv.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pIdNoticia=144423&pIdSeccion=17&pNumEjemplar=2948 largest in Europe] ). The Port Authority did not inform any local residents directly, despite the fact that the [http://www.ruidos.org/Normas/RAMINP.htm local Spanish law governing industrial activities] lays down that such factories should be located at least 2000 m from residential areas. The President of the Port Authority (Mario Flores) declared that the end product (biodiesel) was totally non-contaminating and posed no risk for the neighbouring residential areas. He made no mention of the [http://www.docv.gva.es/portal/portal/2007/06/01/pdf/2007_7116.pdf thousands of tons of highly toxic and inflammable raw materials] that the factory proposed to use each year, such as the 20,000 tons of methanol, 3000 toneladas of [http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/cis/products/icsc/dtasht/_icsc03/icsc0360.htm sodium hydroxide] , a million kilograms of [http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/cis/products/icsc/dtasht/_icsc07/icsc0771.htm sodium methylate] and nearly 2,500,000 kg of hydrochloric acid and [http://www.ilo.org/public/english/protection/safework/cis/products/icsc/dtasht/_icsc10/icsc1008.htm phosphoric acid] which the massive industrial plant would require each year.

In October 2006, Alicante Port Authority [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20061006/alicante/alicante-tendra-planta-biodiesel_20061006.html announced in the local press] that the biodiesel plan would be sited 2000 m away from the residential zones of the city, the minimum distance as required by the relevant [http://www.ruidos.org/Normas/RAMINP.htm Act] , but [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/prensa/20070210/alicante/biodiesel-alicante-golpe-mano_20070210.html the local press measured that] the factory's site was nearly half of this distance, some 1200 m from the urban centre of the city.

There was also press and public criticism of the storage of thousands of tons of normal diesel fuel in enormous tanks in the port extension zone next to the factory, which was alleged to [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20061007/alicante/puerto-biodiesel-gasoil_20061007.html undermine the Accord made in 1995] when the previous fuel tanks were removed to a safe zone far from the city in the 90's.

Accordingly, in October 2006, when the Port Authority [http://www.biodieselspain.com/2006/11/23/en-un-mes-se-decidira-si-se-da-licencia-de-construccion-a-la-planta-de-biodiesel-en-alicante/ announced] that it was requesting the construction licence from the City Council, [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20061004/alicante/vecinos-gabriel-denuncian-instalacion_20061004.html the opposition from the local residents] in Alicante was immediate.

The residents organized themselves in an association called the [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/bienvenid/ 'Platform' in Defence of the Port] which received massive [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/20061102/alicante/plataforma-defensa-puerto-alicante_200611021658.html local press coverage] and they organized various public marches and [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20061125/alicante/tres-personas-corean-puerto_20061125.html demonstrations] in the centre of Alicante with thousands of people, protesting against this plan to convert the port extension zone from becoming an industrial estate, which they asserted would be illegal and not in accord with the environmental licences obtained in 2003 by the Port.

In November 2006, [http://participacion.abc.es/preguntadeldia/post/2006/11/27/aesta-acuerdo-con-instalacion-la-planta-biodiesel-en a local newspaper survey] showed that public opinion was in favour of biodiesel as an alternative fuel, but strongly against the plan to locate a massive factory of this nature right next to thousands of homes. Meanwhile, under popular pressure, the company behind the project admitted that the industrial factory would only be some 1,200 m from the city's population, but justified this location by [http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/177328/l/ declaring to the local press] that the port extension zone was an industrial estate in any case so the short distance from the city’s residential areas was not important.

In December 2006, the residents' Platform for the Defence of the Port, together with [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/2006/12/14/oposicion-y-sindicatos-se-unen-contra-el-uso-industrial-del-puerto/ other associations] [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/Protesta/vecinal/futura/planta/biodiesel/Alicante/elpepuespval/20061125elpval_12/Tes both neighbourhood associations] and opposition political parties (such as [http://www.costrablanca.es/?p=1278 Izquierda Unida] and the [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/Andreu/estudia/recurrir/planta/biodiesel/puerto/Alicante/elpepuespval/20070308elpval_4/Tes PSOE socialist party] (the party of the national government) [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/2006/12/ signed a manifesto] rejecting the use of the port as an industrial estate given its proximity and importance to the city. The [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20061222/alicante/exige-instale-otro-sitio_20061222.html UGT trade union and the local green party] also voiced their public opposition and stated that the port was not a suitable place to try to construct an industrial estate, given the distance of less than 2000 m from the urban centre of the city and the fragile nature of the coastal zone.

On 28 December 2007, the Port Authority [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pNumEjemplar=1907&pIdSeccion=12&pIdNoticia=586871&rand=1169129621410 declared to the local press] that, given the citizens' rejection of the biodiesel plant in the port, it was considering postponing another controversial decision regarding the transfer of the 4 cement dust ("clinker") silos situated on Quay 14 to the port extension zone, since it did not want to create new public outrage.

On 22 March 2007, Alicante City Council [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/prensa/20070323/alicante/urbanismo-rechaza-licencia-biodiesel_20070323.html made its decision to reject the licence application] for the biodiesel chemical factory project, citing [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/Alperi/deniega/licencia/abre/puerta/planta/biodiesel/elpepuespval/20070323elpval_1/Tes merely] the fact that the projected factory breached the height limit (25 m, well over the general limit of 12 m of the Special Plan of the Port) and the fact that it lacked the necessary traffic impact studies and road distribution licences for fuel distribution, without needing to base their decision on environmental law.

In August and September 2007, despite the declarations to the Press of December 2007, Alicante Port Authority [http://www.dip-alicante.es/bop2/pdftotal/2007/09/18-09-07.pdf published five more large-scale industrial projects] of the port extension zone – for the unloading of more than 100, 000 thousand tons of clinker cement dust a year, its storage in up to 21 “mega-silos” towers between 26 m and 55.2 m in height (plus unloading apparatus some 5 m high on the top of each mega-silo) with 3 cement plants (up to some 21 – 25 m high) for processing, bagging and distributing the cement. The proposed mega-silos [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/20070927/alicante/sabanci-propone-puerto-nuevos-20070927.html 55 m high in the project of Sabanci Cements] (reported to be [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/silos/previstos/puerto/Alicante/igualan/pisos/altura/elpepuespval/20070913elpval_7/Tes equal to a 15-20 storey building in height] ), as well as all the other mega-silos are far taller than the 3 silos currently situated on Quay 14, which are only 8 m high (and thus within the Port Extension Zone general limit). Once again, the local residents and the opposition political parties voiced their strong opposition to the Port Authority's plans for the port's future.

According to the opposition parties (the PSOE, the Izquierda Unida, the Bloc), residents’ associations from across Alicante and the [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/ residents’ Platform in Defence of the Port] , the height of these planned mega-silos and factories, far in excess of the 12 m general limit, would serve to create a towering wall of massive industrial silos on the city’s Mediterranean shores, where no other building in the zone is more than 12 m high. Due to the close proximity to the residential zones, the opposition has alleged (with EU presenting questions to the Spanish Congress in November 2007) that the barrier concrete silos will serve as a sound board, which would reflect the current traffic noise plus (all the additional noise generated from the plants and associated heavy trucks) back into the residential zones of the city, causing an enormous environmental nuisance. Neither the Port Authority nor [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/prensa/20070831/alicante/holcim-asegura-impacto-visual_20070831.html the projects] have conducted any overall study of the associated environmental pollution (in particular the visual impact and the noise pollution) of all these proponed projects, and the only solutions they offer are to paint the mega-silos. One of the projects, for the highest of the mega-silos, suggests “camouflaging” the towering structures nearly 60 m high and “deflecting the visual perception” by building an attractive “landmark” building nearby, but no details have been given of how.

In a press declaration by the citizens' Platform, the group [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20070918/alicante/ciudadanos-somos-invisibles-tontos_20070918.html voiced their indignation and fear over the future of the Port] . Izquierda Unida revealed that the [http://www.holcim.es/gc/ESP/uploads/Norma%20de%20Cemento.pdf “clinker” dust] , the prime ingredient for Pórtland cement, is [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2176_12_674210__Alicante-aporta-informe-sobre-peligrosidad-silos-cemento-Puerto widely recognized] even by the very same cement companies as a health risk with [http://www.holcim.com/gc/USA/uploads/PortlandCementSPN.pdf potentially dangerous components] .

These projects have caused a [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20071003/alicante/nuevas-alegaciones-suman-cientos_20071003.html hitherto unseen rejection] by a large part of Alicante’s population, both individuals and organized groups (such as the [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/2007/09/ Platform in Defence of the Port] , the [http://avvgranviasur.com/producto.php?idmenu=87 AVV Gran Vía Sur Puerto Alicante] , la [http://www.gazpachu.com/islatabarca/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=32 AVV San Gabriel] –and with the support of various local political groups (e.g. [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2187_12_677862__Alicante-Esquerra-Unida-alega-contra-silos-cemento Izquierda Unida] , the [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/prensa/20070920/alicante/psoe-critica-exposicion-publica_20070920.html PSOE] , [http://www.esquerra.cat/locals/index.php?id_article=18322 Ezquerra Republicana] , the [http://www.jovenesverdes.org/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=244&Itemid=74 Young Greens] , [http://www.vecinosporalicante.es/ Vecinos por Alicante] , together with [http://enelpuertono.wordpress.com/2007/09/27/ecologistas-contra-los-silos/ other ecologists and the CGT trade union in the Port] there is strong opposition to this overall project to convert the port extension zone into a massive industrial estate. Despite all of this, the Port Authority of Alicante (in particular its new President Sergio Campos, and its former President Mario Flores) persist with their plans to create an industrial and cement zone where none was ever publicly planned. More than [http://www.20minutos.es/noticia/277641/0/ALEGACIONES/CEMENTERAS/PUERTO/# 2000 residents] , their neighbourhood associations, and the mentioned political groups, have filed [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20070918/alicante/aluvion-alegaciones-cementeras-puerto_20070918.html objections to the legality of these projects] , which they consider to be illegal and ill-considered. The various quays and sites within the Port Extension Zone, where it is proposed to locate these plants and mega-silos, lie between 600 m and 1,200 m from the closed residential zone of the city of Alicante. This breaches the minimum distance of 2,000 laid down by Article 4 of [http://www.ruidos.org/Normas/RAMINP.htm the Spanish Regulation] dealing with nuisances, unhealthy, harmful and dangerous activities.

The objections also centre on the fact that the Port Extension Zone, funded by EU subsidies, does not have the obligatory environmental impact assessment reports and permissions to operate as an industrial zone, breaching Article 1(3) of [http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Admin/rdleg1302-1986.html#a1 the Spanish Law 6/2001] on Environmental Impact Assessments (“EIA”), (implementing the [http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:31997L0011:EN:HTML the European Environmental Impact Directive] ) which states that “Public or private projects, consisting in realising constructions, installations, or any other activity included in Annex II (Annex 2 Grupo 7. Infrastructure Projects (a) [http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Admin/rdleg1302-1986.html#anexo2 Projects to create industrial zones] ) of this Decree shall be submitted to an EIA in the manner laid down by this law, as the environmental body with local jurisdiction shall decide. This decision shall be reasoned and published in accordance with the criteria established in [http://noticias.juridicas.com/base_datos/Admin/rdleg1302-1986.html#anexo3 Annex III] .” Further, Article 1(3) of the same Law contains an alternative provision stating that “That established in the above paragraph shall not apply to those projects for which the regulations of the Autonomous Communities, in the exercise of their competences, either require an EIA or in any case, establish thresholds in accordance with the criteria of Annex 3, to determine when such projects must be subject to an EIA.” In spite of this, the Port Authority has no such EIA for the overall Project to convert a subtantial part or all of the Port Extension Zone into an industrial zone. No such EIA (for the creation of the whole zone, that is, all the cement projects, the biodiesel industrial production factory, the liquid fertilizer industrial production plant together), and in the absence of such an overall assessment it can only be assumed that no reasoned and published decision based on the criteria established by Annex III (which explicitly requires taking into account characteristics of the projects such as the size of the project, the overall effect in addition to other projects, pollution and other negative impacts, the risk of accidents, with special consideration of clouds of dust particles suspended in the air. In regard to the siting of projects for the creation of industrial zones, Annex III stipulates that the environmental sensitiveness of the geographical areas that might be affected by the projects shall be taken into account, in particular, the current use of the zone, with special attention to be paid to: coastal areas (as in the case of the Port of Alicante), nature reserves and parks (as in the case of the nearby Site of Community Interest, the Island of Tabarca, [http://europa.eu.int/eur-lex/lex/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:92002E1485:EN:HTML recognised by the European Commission] ) for its enormous environmental importance, areas of great democratic density (like the residential neighbourhoods of Alicante right next to the zone) and zones of historical and cultural interest (such as the coastal landscape of Alicante). This beautiful coastal landscape is also protected by the [http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/176.htm European Landscape Convention 2000] , [http://www.lexureditorial.com/boe/0407/13470-ley-valencia-ordenacion-territorio-proteccion-paisaje.htm Spanish Law 4/2004 of the Autonomous Region of the Communidad of Valencia] and [http://www.internationalwildlifelaw.org/EUCouncilDirective92.html European Directive 92/43/EEC] .Alicante Port Authority’s President has replied that the construction of the cement dust mega-silos [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2175_12_673905__alicante-Puerto-defiende-viabilidad-silos-recuerda-traslado-decidio-1992 was decided in 1992] , although this was not mentioned in the previous President’s declarations to the press in [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pNumEjemplar=1907&pIdSeccion=12&pIdNoticia=586871&rand=1169129621410 December 2006] . The new President, Campos, has [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2175_12_673905__alicante-Puerto-defiende-viabilidad-silos-recuerda-traslado-decidio-1992 stated that the number of new silos is negotiable] but insists that a minimum height of 12 m for the various mega-silos is technically necessary merely for the trucks to be able to drive underneath for the vertical loading of the cement dust. On top of this height, he has stated, sit the silos themselves (currently 8 m high on Quay 14 of Alicante Port). Against what the Port says is this “technically necessary height” of a total of 20 m, the residents say that the silos need only be raised some 4 or 5 m from the ground in order to vertically unload into trucks, and adding the 8 m high silos above this would give a total of some 12 m, within the general height restrictions of the Port, and would allow the re-siting of the 4 silos on Quay 14 with the minimum visual and environmental (including noise, cement dust and traffic) impact.

In October 2007, the Residents’ Association AVV Gran Vía Sur [http://noticias.ya.com/local/valencia/30/09/2007/puerto-nubes-toxicas.html filed complaints about the environmental pollution] caused by the constant clouds of clínker cement and carbon unloaded in the open air in Quay 17 of the Port, filming [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcQaGQM55yk a video evidencing the total lack of environmental control by the Port Authority] . Although the Port Authority [http://www.miprovincia.es/actualidad.php?noti=1081 has recognised that hermetically sealed silos are necessary to prevent escape of clinker cement dust] in order to prevent the formation of dangerous clouds of particles suspended in the air, for more than 10 years they have taken no preventative measures at all to reduce this level of contamination. While pushing for the construction of up to 21 mega-silos only a few metres away in the Port Extension Zone, they have made no proposal to replace the open air mountains of clinker and carbon dust with strict controls of when unloading may take place (not on days of high wind, not if dust is reaching residential areas) with covered systems to prevent the escape of the dust into the air, as in the Spanish ports of [http://www.eldiariomontanes.es/20060717/cantabria/terminal-graneles-solidos-puerto_200607171628.html Santander] , [http://www.laopiniondemalaga.es/secciones/noticia.jsp?pNumEjemplar=2993&pIdSeccion=2&pIdNoticia=130621 Malaga] , [http://www.fundacioncema.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=95&Itemid=118 Bilbao] , [http://www.jazztelia.com/ferrol-vello/post/2006/12/12/riegan-con-canones-agua-clinker-estibado-el-muelle-para Ferrol] , [http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=233993&page=3 Huelva] or [http://www.lavozdegalicia.es/hemeroteca/2006/11/22/5308846.shtml La_Coruña] . The Port Authority insisted that this dust was of no risk to health – until the Platform of residents and their environmental lawyers pointed out that the cement companies themselves admit that the dust contains dangerous substances and that clouds of the dust in the air must be avoided. The President of the Port publicly insisted that the environmental controls were already [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20070929/alicante/puerto-garantiza-cumple-legislacion_20070929.html "rigorous"] until this video and the local opposition forced him to admit that the opposite is the case, and he has publicly said that the Port needs to clean up its act.

In mid-October 2007, the “Conselleria” (Environmental Department) of the Autonomous Region of Valencia [http://www.lasprovincias.es/alicante/prensa/20071016/comarcas/medio-ambiente-recuperara-fachada_20071016.html announced a detailed project to recuperate the maritime façade of Alicante] , including the urban façade facing the sea – running 15 km south along the coast from the old Station of Murcia, passing the extension zone of the port, and continuing through to Urbanova, and Santa Pola. This project involves the creation of the “Alicante Southern Coastal Park’ beginning from the zone immediately in front of the port’s reclaimed land, complete with a continuous “green pedestrian corridor” connecting the city with the wetlands to the south, an area classified as having international natural importance. The Directorate-General for Landscape in Valencia will be in charge of the project, and the zone is officially recognised as being of undoubted natural, cultural and visual interest. The Environmental Department has declared that this requires careful protection and management in order to reap ecological, social, urban and economic benefits from the coastal strip.

Towards the end of October 2007, the President of Spain’s State Ports body, Mr Mariano Navas, [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2205_12_683870__ALICANTE-Navas-defiende-Puerto-toma-decisiones-primero-debe-tener-sensibilidad-ambiental added his voice to the debate about the future of the port of Alicante] . He emphasized the “extraordinary situation of the port of Alicante” in light of its location right next to the city centre, and requested that the port’s governing body and the Port Authority exercise a great “environmental sensitivity” in which “environmental questions should not be seen as a burden falling on the head of the management” but rather “an additional element to take into account, in a completely internalised manner, in taking-making”. He urges the Port Authority to bear in mind that “the port simultaneously represents the maritime facade of a city, and that this requires a careful treatment”.

On 31 October 2007, the Administrative Board of the Port Authority nevertheless [http://www.diarioinformacion.com/secciones/noticia.jsp?pRef=2214_12_686789__ALICANTE-Puerto-aprueba-silos-abstencion-Alperi granted the internal approval for the 5 projects for the installation of cement dust plants and mega-silos on the city’s coast] , without answering any of the thousands of oppositions filed and without any changes to the plans. The PSOE members on the Board voted against the projects, while the PP Mayor and his City Council representative on the Board abstained after calling on the Port Authority to modify all the projects to lower the height of the buildings to within the 12 m maximum set out by the Special Plan for the Port. The Mayor also called on the Port Authority to seek an immediate solution to the clouds of dust occasioned by the open air unloading of cement in the port. The Administrative Board, however, passed by a majority the motion to pass the projects without modification to the City Councils Planning Department to decide whether construction licences should be granted for such projects so close to the city centre and to be built right in the centre of the city’s coastal strip. The vote of the Administration Board of the Port Authority, taken without responding first to any of the thousands of citizens’ objections, has increased [http://jvalicante.wordpress.com/local and European environmentalists’ indignation] .

On 4 November 2007, the President of the Port Authority, Sergio Campos, [http://www.elpais.com/articulo/Comunidad/Valenciana/promotores/planta/biodiesel/plantean/ir/sitio/elpepuespval/20071104elpval_14/Tes?print=1 gave an interview in the national press about the various problems and the local opposition encountered in relation to the new plans for Alicante port] . He indicated that the biodiesel chemical plant may have to be located elsewhere (given that the City Council rejected the application for its construction licence due to the fact that its 20 m planned height exceeds the 12 m general limit for the port and due to the lack of studies and licences for the distribution by road of the end product). Campos also admitted that “the port’s concern for the environment is grows stronger day by day” in light of the pressure from the residents, the city, and local and national government, and recognised that “Alicante is a commercial port not an industrial port” but he insisted again that the mega-silos are necessary since they are a “relocation” of the 3 silos 8 m high in Quay 14. He also recognised publicly, for the first time, that at present “clinker cement dust and carbon are moved by grain and bulldozer, and that if there is a strong wind it is true that clouds of dust are produced”. He admitted that the measures set out in the 2003 environmental permission for the port (use of chutes, screens, closed conveyor belts, watering systems, taking measures to prohibit unloading on days of high wind, measuring dust particles in the air during unloading) had not been taken but he stated his “desire” to implement them in the future. He made it clear that these open-air activities are planned not only to continue but to grow in future, and that they are not being substituted by the plans for the mega-silos and cement dust plants.On 6 November 2007, the [http://www.laverdad.es/alicante/20071105/alicante/silos-puerto-20071105.html editorial of a local newspaper summed up the situation] by stating that “What is clear is that once built, these silos for the storage of cement will substantially change the appearance of the city of Alicante, above all when viewed from the sea or from the coastal roads, and the projects will eclipse the Castle of Santa Barbara and the “Cara del Moro”, the historical symbols of Alicante city, relegating them to a secondary position”.

Rather than read and respond to each point made in the citizens’ objections to the 5 projects, on 13 November 2007 the Port Authority published a single reply in the Official Bulletin of the Province – Alicante – no. 222. The Port declared that the objections in relation to the excess height of the silos and plant, and the impact on the coastal landscape, were “mere opinion". In an Open Letter dated 15 November 2007 to Juan Ferrer, Director of Alicante Port Authority, a local industrial engineer criticised the single published response as not answering many important questions and objections.

On 14 November 2007, two Spanish MPs tabled a series of questions to the Spanish Congreso (Parliament) regarding the projects and the aim to convert Alicante por tinto an industrial estate, and requested the Spanish Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, to clarify the position of his government. On 23 November 2007, the residents’ Platform in Defence of the Port, together with 7 other neighbourhood and local citizens’ organisations representing over 20, 000 households in the city, visited to the Register of Alicante City Council (‘Ayuntamiento’) and filed more than 10,000 signatures against making the Port extension into an industrial estate so close to residencial neighbourhoods, as well as copies of more than 2,500 objections to the cement projects for the 17 towering silos and 3 cement factories. The signatories criticized the Port for “carrying out the planning for its development and growth as if it were a private enterprise governed only by the profit motive, and seeking loopholes or ways in which not to comply with the law in force”. For this reason, they alleged that the Port of Alicante had caused a “frontal collision with fundamental citizens’ rights, such as to right to health and safety”. They noted that “the only hope for Alicante at an institutional level lies with Alicante City Council, who should do all in their power to defend the rights of the citizen in Alicante.”

Other recent history

Other landmarks in recent history have been the opening of the European Union Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market and the construction of the "Ciudad de la Luz", a series of facilities meant to sponsor film industries to set base at Alicante.

References


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