Tag Archives: Territory

Binigarba starts restitution time

The destruction to the land carried out at Binigarba has to be restored. This week a restitution project should have been presented and it has two months in which to be executed. If not, coercive, monthly fines will be imposed.

The municipal resolution was that material poured in from other excavations must be removed, that the areas affected by the earthworks must be restored as well as the damaged sections of dry stonewalls. The restoration project must also comply with the criteria set down by the Nature Network committee.

At the site of Binigarba, between Ferreries and Ciutadella, an attempt was made to extract sand as if from an industrial quarry. As no corresponding authorisations were obtained, the operation was considered as an improvement of agricultural land.

GOB warned that the project, presented by the Binigarba Rural Society of Menorca SRM in collaboration with the builder and marketer of aggregates, Valeariano Allès Canet SL, was planned to take place over an area of 127,527 square meters with a demolition volume of 444.628 cubic meters (hundreds of thousands of cubic meters). It was explained in the Annual Report that Valeriano Allès would make the investment of conditioning the land in exchange for the available sand usable for construction. In other words, it was the project for a quarry previously denied now presented in another format.

In 2007, a license was granted for an agricultural conditioning project. After some months, GOB advised that the activity taking place was outside the authorised area and that materials from other operations were being poured in. The Directorate General of Industry ordered the suspension of the work warning that it expressly denied the extraction of sand in this place. A disciplinary file for urban planning was opened and the activity was stopped.

Sometime after, the developers submitted a reformulated project and restarted the extractions without waiting for a licence. At that time, Binigarba was already part of the Nature Network 2000, for European protected natural areas. New intervention by GOB stopped the work that lacked legal support.

Finally, the developers did not accept the conditions set by the environmental assessment and the new petition for a licence was denied. Now the obligation for restitution of areas worked on illegally has been agreed.

The time allowed for the restitution has begun. The decision of the Ciutadella Town Council was on 29 March 2023 then there was a month available to present the restitution project to remove material dumped from other excavations, the restitution of earthworks carried out as well as the restoration of the drystone walls affected (that GOB estimates as being 950 metres.)

The Binigarba case has lasted 19 years and has meant constant work for monitoring and verifying repeated violations. Finally, it seems that the game of influences has ended and bringing to a head an environmental conscience has an enormous price.

Previous information Binigarba: the argument that was lost

A new farm incorporated into the Land Stewardship Scheme

Parella Vella is the latest farm that has committed to the sustainable development of its agricultural and livestock activities respecting the natural environment to be incorporated into the network of farms within the Land Stewardship Scheme.

Located to the south of Ciutadella, the farm of about 12 hectares in area is managed by the brothers Dani and Isaac for a varied produce with ecological certification. Producing organic vegetables and fruit is the main activity but not the only one. It also has extensive cattle farming that includes 6 Menorcan cows. This allows for the rotation of the land and its fertilization, and being able to offer the resulting meat for sale. Seeding is done for the cattle to forage.

The countryside is at the mercy of the weather and Parella Vella was one of the estates affected by the heavy rains of August and September in 2022. During this period of storms nearly all the cultivated produce and various infrastructures, such as the greenhouses that allow time for some products to have a longer season, were lost.

After this disaster, it was necessary to reorganise and relaunch all the produce, which is not an easy task but important to maintain the activity. Being part of the Land Stewardship Scheme they gained support and encouragement for the recovery of the farm and establishing lines of work, such as, for example, enlarging areas of flowers favoured by pollinators so increasing the farm productivity.

The commercialisation of its produce is made by direct selling such as the weekly delivery of baskets to private buyers of produce made together with two other farms, or at the Ciutadella Farmers Market with another farm. Their products can be found in some shops or used by school canteens in Ciutadella.

The programme of the Land Stewardship Scheme contributes to the economic viability of agriculture and the conservation of the natural values of the Menorcan landscape. With the addition of Parella Vella to the network, there are now 37 professional farms committed to sustainable farming practices.

For an overview of the Land Stewardship Scheme, watch this short video. This others videos show in more detail the activities carried out as a result of the Scheme.

The Law of Rights for future generations approved

For the first time, the Balearic Islands Parliament has approved a law as the result of popular demand and with a pioneering proposal: to guarantee the welfare of current and future generations.

Last week a new landmark was reached for the environmental claims of the Islands. The Parliament passed a law, proposed by an associative network, that must take care of the welfare of present and future generations. That is to say, a law that guarantees policies made today will take into account how they can affect the welfare of generations to come.

A legislative text was generated through the mechanism of the People’s Legislative Initiative, which is one that is presented from outside Parliament because of a public initiative. A campaign, led by GOB but in which many associations and individuals participated, received prior support from 12,000 signatures and the concurrence of organizations throughout the Islands and the State.

The new law provides for the creation of a Commission that will be appointed by Parliament and include experts from many fields: education; investigation and innovation; agro ecology and food sovereignty; environment and biodiversity; mitigation and adaptation to the climate crisis; social justice; economy model; urbanisation; territory and countryside; water and energy resources; equality and gender politics; immigration; infants and youth; and public health.

The functions of the Commission are, in part, to issue evaluation resolutions on the intergenerational impact assessment reports prepared by public institutions on the procedures for drafting regulations, budget laws, territorial and sectorial plans, projects over 5 million euros or those declared of special interest. Other functions are to advise and train public bodies that ask for help on evaluating the long-term impact of their actions.

This approach to intergenerational justice is a pioneer for Spain and gives new hope for improving sustainability in reality, not just theoretical, in public politics. It is expected to be a new useful resource making life central, at a moment when our societies confront growing inequalities and environmental risks without precedent.

GOB is grateful for the collaboration of people and companies that have shown a broad support for this popular legislative initiative, which is also the first to be approved in the Islands democratically in the 40 years under the Statute of Autonomy.

Thanks are also given for the availability found within the progressive parliamentary majority, the Ministry of the Presidency and the Legal Profession of the Autonomous Community that have allowed us to work together on the amendments presented to improve the law. On the 28 March, favourable votes were made by the PSOE, Unidas Podem, Mes for Mallorca and Mes for Menorca. The rest of Parliament voted against.

Land stewardship agreement with a solar park

Taking advantage of the conditions of low human presence in a solar park, GOB has signed a land stewardship agreement with the Parc del Camí de Sant Joan in order to promote maximum biodiversity.

The installation of a solar energy park will begin to be constructed in the next few months and will occupy about 10 hectares of very rocky land. It has obtained a favourable report from the Medi Ambient department and a municipal licence.

The idea is to carry out various activities at the points where there are no solar panels in order to help different fauna: make drinking troughs with safe access; warm refuges for insects; stone refuges for mammals; areas for sowing cereals; enhancement of wild flowers of different seasons, etc.

GOB has already produced some inventories of flora and fauna of the area in order to be able to monitor the changes as they occur.

The implementation of renewable energies in rural areas has quite exhaustive criteria relating to zoning, integration with the countryside and construction systems, aimed at avoiding the irreversible transformation of the land. With this agreement, the aim is to go further and try out activities that help fauna in a positive way.

We are confident that good results will follow and that the experience serves to increase the environmental benefits of renewable installations that are being implemented on the island.

Look here to see the commemorative video of 45 years of GOB in Menorca.

The dark swimming pools

The case of the illegal swimming pools in the Torre Vella agro tourism is not yet closed. There are still a few episodes to be resolved found in a dossier that is subject to a glaring lack of transparency. The town council has returned to denying GOB access for consulting the relevant documentation.

At this site near Alaior, they have started some interesting agricultural production. There are olives, grapes, aromatic herbs and beehives. They want to do the product processing on site or jointly with Santa Ponça farm also owned by them.

The argument surrounding Torre Vella is not agricultural but urban and environmental. It is worth remembering that this agro tourism hotel started its processing when all the agricultural buildings would be dedicated to tourist activities and they could increase their volumes.

The principal buildings are the farmhouse and a large cowshed. Extensions were planned for both cases. Another eight auxiliary buildings (stables, warehouses, barns, etc) were also included destined for tourism and enlargement. In total, 5500 cubic metres for tourism. A swimming pool was included.

Then, not having left anything for agricultural use, they put up new buildings occupying some 1,000 square metres adjoining the Cami de Cavalls.

Despite the fact The Island Council (Consell Insular) declared the project was declared of general interest and it passed an environmental impact assessment, the developers found time to talk to the media to say that they were finding many obstacles for their project. The activities they had completed indicated they had influenced the development in a very serious way.

The problem is that they decided to breach the conditions of the authorization for the entire operation. So, in addition to GOB’s notice to the Urban Planning Discipline Department in the autumn of 2019, regarding the appearance of seven swimming pools that had not been declared in the project, now there was the discovery of another list of irregularities. The Department inspectors saw platforms, sheds and thousands of square metres of cemented and other pavements.

When these breaches became known, the Government Department of Environment sent their Agents to carry out another inspection. In addition to the things already mentioned, they found landfills (of more than 2,000 square metres) and the opening of a new road expressly denied, as well as the paving of other roads.

Altogether, this is a culmination of breaches of great magnitude. The solution is complicated if they insist in not returning to the project that was approved. In this case, it is not enough just to comply with urban rules, but they must also comply with the environmental conditions that were applied yet have been completely ignored.

In other words, if the swimming pool had been for rainwater and wastewater containers, that were to save consumption from the well, they could not now be swimming pools. They cannot be legalized as such. If the opening of a road is denied, it cannot now be left open. If areas cannot be paved – in order to decrease rustic land – they cannot now remain paved. And so on.

This case is one to which a curious lack of transparency is added. When GOB learned some years ago that the developers had presented documents for legalize irregularities, the Alaior Town Council denied GOB access to the files. Despite the fact that it was a case in which GOB had appeared personally on repeated occasions and that they have obvious environmental relations, the Town Hall denied access alleging that the case did not have a final result.

Last November, the Town Hall was asked again, but gave the same negative reply.

Meanwhile the illegal swimming pools are working and promoted as though they have been legal for the last three to four years.

The obscurity of these cases has been denounced by GOB in front of the Council for Transparency. If there is no positive response, it has been agreed that administrative litigations will be applied.

For more information on this case, you can visit Santa Ponça and the indignant promoters,  Seven illegal swimming pools in an agro tourism.

Binigarba: the argument that was lost

In the Binigarba properties, near Ciutadella, there has been a battle of interests, involving influencers, fictions, and environmental aggression against those who have dedicated many hours of attention to the problems. It seems that the case has now been closed and that the area is at last protected.

The case started in 2004 when the project to take sand from the farm was opened for public scrutiny. It was promoted by Valeriano Allès Carnet, SL that already was exploiting the quarries of Son Sintes and Ses Arenetes. The project was presented as restoration but, in reality, it was a new one for sand extraction over 180,000 square metres. Eventually, it was denied.

Two years later, in 2006, the Binigarba Rural Society of Menorca (SRM) presented to the Ciutadella Town Council, a project agreed with Valeriano Allès, to recondition the land to improve agricultural tasks. It was planned to take place over 127,527 square metres and to remove 444,628 cubic metres of sand. The report explained that Valeriano Allès would make the investment for reconditioning the land in exchange for sand useful for building. It was the same as the previous project, which had been denied, but presented in a different way.

In 2007, a licence was granted for reconditioning the land for agricultural improvement. After some months, GOB advised that this was outside the authorised area and that rubble was being dumped from building works. The Director General of Industries sent a suspension order warning that he expressly denied the activity of sand extraction from this place. An urban disciplinary file was opened and the activity was stopped.

At the end of 2012, the developers presented a reformulated project and began works without a license. GOB advised that, once again, they were dumping materials coming from other works and, furthermore, at that time, the area was being incorporated into the network of protected nature spaces, Red Natura 2000.

It was the time when Ciutadella had left the Island Consortium of Urban Discipline. The Town Council allowed the comings and goings of lorries for two months until GOB put on pressure for the result of the disciplinary file that caused a new suspension of works because they were not licensed.

There were more attempts and the developers presented a project to legalise the work already done but continued moving the earth. They were required to have an environment evaluation, which took a long time to submit.

In 2018, the Environment Commission accepts the environment evaluation favourably with a series of conditions. One of them was that it was not permissible to dump extraneous materials on the area. Another one was that Minas, the mining authorities, had to give authorization for making use of sand that the developers wanted to extract.

The developers filed an appeal against the agreement with the environment department. The appeal was dismissed. They then presented a new project to the Town Hall, that did not comply with the environmental conditions laid down and it was rejected by the municipal body.

Finally, the necessary time passed and in the autumn of 2022, the licence petition was denied and an order to return the area to its original state within a two months. After that time, enforcement fines would be imposed if complete restoration had not been effected.

It seems, therefore, finally rationality has been imposed after 19 years of repeated attempts and that the area, which has formal protection, will become so in practice.

Furthermore, the developers, who have repeatedly failed to comply with the authorised conditions have to reinstate the area. Among the impacts caused, there has been significant dismantling, dumping of building materials from elsewhere, and the breaking up of nearly a kilometre of dry stone walling. (See photographs)

You can watch here the video commemorating 45 years of GOB in Menorca.

Claiming water for the Albufera des Grau

The lack of control over freshwater is affecting the Albufera. The protest excursion that took place last Sunday, in the cold, wind and downpours of rain, was aimed to explain the problem.

The Albufera consists of a wide water basin (more than 50 square kilometres) and historically the water was supplied from different sources throughout the year. However, the drilling of wells did not consider leaving even a drop for the natural environment. What is called the ecological flow does not exist and this problem is being taken very seriously.

The largest lagoon of Menorca, the “Parque Natural” (Nature Preserve) of the island, the crown of the Reserve of the Biosphere, has a habitat that has been transformed because it is no longer supplied by freshwater, the lake has become saline and the bird populations are declining drastically.

It is therefore urgent to review the existing catchments in the environment. It is important to see if they are authorised, if they have meters that have been mandatory for many years, to check if readings are being made and if the data is being sent every year as established by current legislation.

The case of the Royal Irrigation Ditch should be legally analysed. It was documented as early as the XVI century that water is sent by turns to different farms ending up at the Albufera. For many years, this circulation has not been happening because water is removed at the head of the lagoon.

Finally, more short-term activities need to be looked at, such as analysing the possibility of using part of the purified water from the new treatment plant of the northern urbanisations to take to the most protected area of Menorca and help its recovery.

Cases such as this show clearly the urgency for changing the habitual inaction in the management of water in Menorca. We need ministries to act and not be inhibited by problems.

29 January, excursion, concerning unsustainability, Albufera des Grau

A new excursion for the campaign Menorca, InSOStenible (Unsustainable) will take place on Sunday 29 January. This time, the main subject will be the environmental effect resulting from the lowering of the water level and the lack of control over fresh water resources.

The Albufera des Grau is symbolic of Menorca’s nature. The largest wetlands area of the island suffered from repeated attempts for it to be urbanised, but the constant public response was to paralyse urban growth, the projected golf course and intentions to convert the lagoon into a nautical harbour.

In addition was the initiative of people who planted hundreds of plants and recovered the dunes area near the beach, and over the area that had been designated for a golf course and was nearly destroyed. Today, this area has completely recovered.

Nevertheless, the Albufera is dying. The progressive reduction of freshwater going into the lagoon means that it is becoming seriously saline. The impact is such that the bird populations are collapsing, which is not happening in other wetlands on the Island.

In 40 years, the Albufera has lost 90% of the usual bird population that was living there. Yes, it is a Natural Parkland, but, the uncontrolled taking of fresh water for other uses is killing off many of the natural values of this emblematic space.

The excursion, Menorca In-SOS-tenible, on Sunday will be to raise awareness of the problem, to understand the evolution of the place and consider possible solutions. People interested should meet at 10 am in the carpark of the Es Grau beach. It is estimated to end at 13.30.

It will be of low physical difficulty and there is no need for prior booking. It will not be cancelled even if the weather is bad. Please pass on this information to all your friends and, if possible, share a vehicle.

You can watch here the video commemorating 45 years of GOB in Menorca.

300 views of the Menorca we love

Visit the exhibition of the photograph competition “La Menorca que estimam” (The Menorca we love) that has been organized on the occasion of 45 years of GOB in Menorca. It was inaugurated last Friday (25 November) with the prize giving to the winners of the three best photographs chosen by the judges. The exhibition can be seen in the Claustre del Carme until 20 December from Tuesdays to Saturdays between 10.00-13.00 and 18.00 to 21.00 hours. Continue reading 300 views of the Menorca we love