Following his accusation that Orihuela Councillors Almagro and Alvarez lied ‘shamelessly’ at the November Council Plenary meeting, when they are alleged to have declared that they had no knowledge about the Elche Court of Appeal decision regarding the closure of the Cabo Roig Walkway, PSOE spokesman Antonio Zapata has called for their resignation with immediate effect.
He said that the expropriation of the walkway is simply not good enough. “For something that was always ours, we are now going to have to pay an exorbitant price.”
The story, which was first reported in the Leader last Monday, relates to the 30 year battle over the Paseo de Cabo Roig, the 150 yard stretch of coastal walkway that runs along the front of the BellaVista Urbanisation between Aguamarina La Caleta and Cabo Roig Beach.
Having initially been declared illegal by both the Administrative Court in Elche and the High Court of Justice, the wall shutting off access was pulled down by municipal staff in March 2015. As he presided over the demolition, Antonio Zapata, Orihuela Councillor for Planning at the time, declared that opening the paseo was long overdue, but what he didn’t reckon on was the resolve of the Bellavista Residents Association.
Led by Community President Brian Honess, Bellavista then went back to the courts where they proved to the Judge, Mr Salvador Bellmont Lorente, and to the courts, that the walkway directly along the seawall and in front of the urbanisation always has been private land, and they were completely within their rights to section it off from access to the general public.
They argued that the original walkway was actually located at the bottom of the cliff face and not along the top of the urbanisation, as originally stated by Antonio Zapata, the Orihuela Town Council Planning Officer at the time. The judge had no hesitation in finding with the Residents and he immediately ordered that the wall sealing off the paseo be reinstated.
Orihuela Council then had 15 days to appeal, but as the judgement papers festered in a council drawer, according to Zapata, it seems that the deadline was surpassed with no one in authority being briefed as to the court decision.
At a press conference last Wednesday Zapata said that “the incompetence, neglect and lack of management by Councillors Almagro and Alvarez now means that we have now lost the right to appeal to the Supreme Court.” He added that he still felt “there were more than sufficient arguments as the pathway fell within the protection of the coastal authority.”
However pressure put on the Orihuela Council by both the FAOC (La Federación de Asociaciones de Orihuela Costa) and CLARO, immediately the story first broke, and not Antonio Zapata, saw the Councillor for Tourism, Sofia Alvarez state that steps would quickly be taken to expropriate the land currently utilising the walkway, which I understand to mean either the compulsory purchase or a long term leasing agreement, usually involving a financial compensation package. The arrival of Cllr Zapata onto the scene came some days later.
Whilst Cllr Almagro also went on record on Wednesday, stating in a press release that Orihuela Council will seek an agreement with the Bellavista redidents to keep the Aguamarina walkway open, Community President Brian Honess had no comment to make regarding the expropriation, telling the Leader that “Bellavista’s legal team and administrator will be starting talks with the Town Hall next week to re-instate the walls and the gates that they knocked down illegally.’
An then, just 24 hours later Cllr Almagro issued a further press release stating he felt that opening the walkway between Aguamarina and Cabo Roig had been a huge mistake. He further clarified that following the Appeal Court Decision, discussions were held between the Provincial Directorate of Coasts and the solicitor who brought the case, Pau Agulló, to assess the judgment following which it was felt that yet another appeal would just add more expense for the city with there being little likelihood of the judgement being overturned.
But of course the question now is where do we go from here? There seems little doubt that the Urbanisation will reinstate the wall during the coming days and that the Orihuela councillors are shifting the blame wherever they can.
Although Almagro began the week in bullish mood saying that he would seek an agreement with the owners to keep the Paseo open, it now seems as though the slope on his shoulders is growing ever more acute with each passing day as yet again the residents of the coast continue to suffer the consequences of party political divisions from that increasingly remote bastion called Orihuela.