As reported in The Leader last Monday, plans to close off two access roads at the La Zenia roundabout on the N-332 we put out to public consultation, the closing date for objections to be registered being Monday the 20th of January.
Faced with the prospect that could damage trade in an already struggling area, when parking has been significantly reduced to allow access to the Zenia Boulevard, a shopping centre blamed for taking trade away from businesses both in the local area and neighbouring Torrevieja, residents and business owners united to raise their objections to this latest potentially disastrous move.
As soon as the problem had been noted, the Councillor for the Coast, Martina Scheurer, had already taken it upon herself to raise awareness of the fact that the consultation deadline was looming, as most people seemed unaware of the matter, thought largely due to the Christmas shut down. Advising businesses, administrator, residents and the press, Scheurer did all she could to ensure that awareness was at its highest level.
Almost instantly, a Facebook group was created, “NO Cierre Calles Orihuela Costa”, where hundreds of local people subscribed to read about developments as the week progressed. The passage of information became crucial, with help and advice coming from local lawyers and businesses alike, all joining forces with the aim of trying to simplify the process of objection, and keep the roads open.
On Friday of last week, heads of a variety of town hall departments, including Martina Scheurer and Antonio Zapata, Councillor for Infrastructure, along with their legal representatives and specialists in road planning, attended a meeting with the roads department in Alicante, in order to lodge their objections, and offer solutions. The town hall disputed both the accident figures, and the recorded number of vehicles reportedly using the road, and wanted clarification that the data is both correct and an accurate representation of the activities on the roundabout in question.
The town hall also offered their own suggestions to ease the flow of traffic, in the hope of finding a compromise that satisfied both the safety critical nature of the original plan, whilst still maintaining traffic to the streets, homes and businesses affected. Perhaps a bold and costly move, the head of the Local Police in Orihuela suggested the construction of a tunnel under the main road, similar to that built at Moncayo near Guardamar, which would solve all traffic flow problems. The cost would be considerable, but if the area is as dangerous as the roads department believe, then the price would be small if it were to save lives.
In addition to the politicians, police and officials lodging their complaints, it is believed that around 500 individual objections were also raised and submitted, although this final figure is likely to be higher once the deadline is reached. Many local residents congratulating Hazel Connor, a local resident who had been coordinating information on the ground in the run up to the meeting.
In an interview this weekend, Martina Scheurer told The Leader that they have had a “very positive meeting” and that “nobody should worry”, confirming that “no action will be taken by the Ministry at the present moment”. Scheurer also confirmed that the town hall will hold a meeting once again this week, inviting all those who were involved along, so that the government team can explain fully to the residents and businesses what has been achieved and what the next steps will be.
As part of those next steps, the town hall has agreed to monitor the flow of traffic in the area, compiling their own data, as well as providing comprehensive solutions and plans, in conjunction with the local police and town hall technicians, before the next ministerial meeting, which will be held in approximately two weeks time.
As for the Ministry, the Planning Officer insists that the argument that the Zenia Boulevard commercial centre is causing traffic density on the N-332 is still valid, but they are interested to see what alternatives to relieve congestion through these roads are tabled in that next meeting.
Scheurer has also been defending the town hall against allegations made by a previous coastal councillor, Pedreo Mancebo, who says that he had already solved these problems when the issue was raised some time ago. Scheurer said, “Having spoken to the 4 technicians who work at the town hall, these technicians have confirmed that no official plans or projects were submitted”, whilst also pointing out that these technicians have worked in the town hall through all the recent governmental changes at the top, and are not directly associated with any political group.
Draft plans were eventually located, but many of these had no relevance to the traffic flow at the roundabout, whereas they would have all required considerable and time consuming efforts, as well as financial investment, as some would require the expropriation of private land on which to build new roads, according to Scheurer, and one proposal would have required investment and action from Torrevieja town hall, who are not likely to support anything that takes more trade away from their struggling businesses, especially at their own expense. Any suggestions that these plans are the solution to this current issue are “simply not true”, according to Scheurer.
For his part, Bob Houliston from the coastal orientated CLARO political group praised both the actions of the individuals, and of the town hall team. In a statement, he said, “C.L.A.R.O. is delighted to learn of the decision to cancel the planned road closures on La Zenia Roundabout. The many business owners and residents who would have been affected by this arbitrary and unjustified proposal are to be congratulated on the rapid, peaceful and so far successful action they took to organise and express their objections. C.L.A.R.O. has supported them from the beginning. It shows how people of different nationalities living in orihuela costa can unite and successfully defend their legitimate interests. We are grateful too for the positive response of the Orihuela government and their intervention with the relevant authorities to cancel the decision.”
The war may not be over, but the first battle has certainly been won, through the commitment and coming together of all those involved. In fact, Houliston summed up how the matter is not yet closed, saying, “All concerned should continue to work together until a final and satisfactory solution is achieved”.
Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/42293/