Several months ago we wrote about our concerns regarding the over development of Gran Alacant and the need for proper modern urban planning to replace the current policy of pouring more concrete. We followed that article with another about our visit to Valencia where the city council is actively pursuing an urban greening policy to make that city a more pleasant place to live and to prepare it for the challenges of climate change. We noted that our local council, Santa Pola, had in fact participated in an important urban greening pilot project (“Urban GreenUp”); we expressed hope that our council would initiate similar measures here in Gran Alacant to improve our community’s quality of life and environment. Since Santa Pola had also received very substantial EU regeneration funding we were hopeful that the council now had both the knowledge and funding to make real improvements to our little community.
Santa Pola council has now published its plans for regeneration in both Santa Pola town and Gran Alacant. Santa Pola town itself is to benefit from a number of projects that could be described as having at least an element of urban greening thinking. Whilst not an especially ambitious set of projects, there will be some features of the planned Santa Pola schemes that include modern urban greening practices and characteristics, showing what the council learned from its participation in the Urban GreenUp project.
So what about Gran Alacant? From the plans so far published it is difficult to see any real commitment to a modern approach to urban design or planning. The schemes announced largely involve correcting existing deficiencies in service provision for the growing permanent population in our community; much needed but not aimed at protecting or improving the physical environment in Gran Alacant. The council has promised what it describes as an “ecopark”; it is not clear what this will be, where it will be located or how large. Whilst a new park is always to be welcomed, a single small park is not an alternative for a proper contemporary integrated urban plan to bring nature and greening onto the streets and public spaces of Gran Alacant. Many towns and cities are now transforming their streets into parks, why not us?
More worryingly, the bigger picture in Gran Alacant is actually a commitment by Santa Pola council to considerable further commercial building development. In January we attended a public meeting of Talaoila, a local environmental group. The leaders of the group explained the future development plans that the council have for Gran Alacant. These include hotels and golf courses; a distinctly 1980s model of development. The first of these big projects is a five storey hotel to be built on the cliff edge between the Brisas del Faro and El Faro urbanizations. The hotel will be accompanied by a housing development. The site of the planned hotel is adjacent to a nature site on Margallons Ravine. Access to the hotel will be difficult due to Avenida Escandinavia being a dead end; this will be solved by the building of a large ring road through the sierra. No environmental assessment has yet been published for this project and we await sight of it with interest. A further “grand project” is the construction of new golf courses and associated apartments and shopping on the farmland next to the National road at the lower entrance to Gran Alacant. The council is fully committed to all of these huge building projects. What we had hoped to see was a much smaller scale (and cheaper) set of plans to improve our existing community environment at street level by adopting urban greening methods and projects. Techniques such as local wilding, tree planting, micro gardens, community huertas, permeable surfaces on roads and pavements, water conserving drainage schemes and numerous other measures are being adopted in other towns and cities, why not in Gran Alacant? Our naked concrete streets bake in the sun and are frankly not a pleasant place to walk or be for much of the year. We lack almost any public green space in the immediate urban areas and what little exists is now planned for development. Our environment is dominated by roads and cars. Gran Alacant is trapped in a model of urban planning forty years out of date. There is no excuse for this, our council now has the technical knowledge and funding to start the greening of Gran Alacant but is in fact doing the opposite. Even the modest plans for Santa Pola town are absent from Gran Alacant.
Gran Alacant is being left behind. In a few years the difference between the experience of living and visiting places like Valencia which have ambitiously adopted urban greening and out of date places like Gran Alacant will be obvious to everyone. When we started this series of articles we promised to invite our readers to look AND see; well, we beg you now to look and SEE the opportunity being missed by Santa Pola council to transform our home for a better future.
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