Valencia will ensure burnt land cannot be rezoned for construction

Burnt vegetation in La Granadella, between Jávea and Benitatxell.

Burnt vegetation in La Granadella, between Jávea and Benitatxell.

Regional premier makes commitment after series of blazes that may have been the work of arsonists

The regional government of Valencia says it will ensure that land damaged by a recent spate of forest fires cannot be rezoned for construction purposes.

On Wednesday, regional premier Ximo Puig of the Valencian Socialists (PSPV-PSOE) told reporters that his administration’s goal is “for nobody to ever have the slightest interest in burning down woodland for rezoning.”

We are dealing with environmental terrorism that affects the lives of many people
VALENCIA REGIONAL CHIEF XIMO PUIG

Valencia’s left-leaning regional administration – which came to power in June 2015, ending more than two decades of conservative Popular Party (PP) rule – has already overturned earlier legislation allowing land damaged by fire to be used for building “on an exceptional basis.”

“This can no longer be done in the Valencia region. It can in other parts of Spain,” said Puig, who still considers it necessary to “intensify the ban so there is no doubt whatsoever.”

“We are dealing with environmental terrorism that affects this region’s natural heritage and the lives of many people,” said Puig, defending increased surveillance and prevention rather than harsher punishment for arsonists.

The statement comes in the wake of a series of devastating wildfires in the Mediterranean region, including one in Jávea, which is home to a large British expat community. That blaze forced the evacuation of 1,400 people earlier this week and razed more than 800 hectares of land.

INVESTIGATION INTO ARSON THEORY CONTINUES
The central government delegate in Valencia has said that “a human hand” is behind the fire in Bolulla. Investigators are trying to determine whether it was a premeditated act or merely negligence. Seven fires have started in the area this year, three of them on Friday alone. “That is a remarkable coincidence, and we are working to find the perpetrator,” said Moragues.

Meanwhile, the Civil Guard is still searching for clues among the remains of the fire that destroyed parts of Jávea and Benitatxell. Investigators are now focusing on two vehicles that were seen departing the spot where the first flames broke out.

Firefighting services are being stretched thin as they try to put out a multitude of blazes in Alicante province. On Thursday morning, another major fire in Bolulla, near the popular Fuentes del Algar water springs, was under control but still not officially out, after blackening 600 hectares of forest land.

That fire reached Sierra de Bèrnia, a mountain range with great environmental and symbolic value.

On Tuesday night, several firefighters had to be pulled away from the Bolulla front to deal with flames near Altea, a popular tourist destination close to Benidorm. Meanwhile, a new fire broke out on Thursday in the town of Llíber, in Alicante province, regional daily Información reported.

“This is clearly a disaster at the ecological, environmental and heritage levels,” said Juan Carlos Moragues, the central government’s delegate in the Valencia region.

Published ElPais 8 September 2016

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