A recent town hall meeting involved, among others, the mayor (Raúl Orellana), the Guardia Civil, Medio Ambiente (environment), representatives of the ‘Government and Sustainable Development’ and the police.
News sites, including Granada Digital, covered the issue of ‘asentamientos ilegales e irregulares‘ – illegal and irregular settlements. The focus is on the local alternative community, many of whom live in places like Beneficio, Cigarrones, El Morreón and other places.
One of the key points is – not unreasonably – to know where people live in the municipality and whether that is in a safe environment – for example, protection from the risks of fire or flooding. Fires in the countryside are not uncommon and there was a huge fire in December that involved an army of workers to extinguish it over several days.
The meeting was the first step to resolve the issue of settlements that has ‘been dragging on for a long time.’ The mayor stated that: ‘Órgiva is an example of integration and coexistence, we are proud of being a multicultural people, but we cannot confuse that with the absence of rules.’
And there’s the rub: people who don’t stick to the rules generally don’t care about sticking to the rules. Many live ‘under the radar’ and are effectively anonymous to the authorities (although some are now demanding that they talk to them). A separate, but related, issue may be what the town hall believe to be a blight on the landscape: vans, shacks etc.
The mayor also stated that ‘there is an order that must be complied with and that prevents everyone from putting what they want, where they want and however they want. And that includes private ground.’ In short, ‘homes’ that escape planning regulations. We presume this includes the absence of fresh water supplies, sanitation/sewage, living on protected land or near rivers, and so on.
Also, changes to an exisiting structure or new building must be in keeping with tradition and the surrounding area. The generations of families and farmers – who were here long before most of us – must have had, literally, another view.
Whether there are additional reasons that the town hall want to know who lives in the area, who knows. Some people certainly don’t contribute to the cost of, for example, maintaining the roads, preventing rock-falls, helicopters (who may have stopped fires spreading to their home), schools, hospitals, the police etc. Again, it is not unreasonable for people to question this.
However, if the town hall want people to do things in the correct manner, how do people find out? Ignorance is no defence but Spain is notorious for its bureaucracy and making it difficult for people to do the simplest things.
A while back it was announced that the town hall were improving their website. We sent a series of messages via Twitter suggesting that the most important audience for the website is the people who live here. In short, the focus should be giving clear and simple information that’s easily found of their website.
- How do I sign onto the Padrón (a register of people living in the municipality used by town halls to get funding and services based on the number of residents)?
- Can I live in a van anywhere I choose?
- How many people can live on a plot of land?
- Can I build a yurt?
- Can I keep horses?
- Do my children have to attend the local school or can I teach them myself?
…and so on.
If there’s confusion about what people can, and can’t do, at least state the rules. If you visit the town hall’s Licencia de Obras (Building Licence) page, there are an astonishing 4,000+ words.
Also, considering the amount of non-Spaniards in the municipality, could the town hall employ someone who speaks English – and translate the website into English? We look forward to seeing clear, concise information at some stage.
Whatever process the town hall (and others) are putting in place to review the asentamientos ilegales e irregulares, let’s hope they put the interests of Órgiva – for everyone who lives here – at the heart of whatever they decide to do.
Those who believe their way of life must be protected at all costs also need to understand why others may not agree. It seems there’s no such thing as a free-for-all. Not even in Órgiva.
© con jamón spain