Authorities plan to drive motorway through UNESCO Biosphere Reserve
A GROUP of expatriates have criticised a plan to build a dual carriageway through the Aracena Natural Park.
The group – that includes novelist Robin Pilcher and Lady Victoria Leatham – are demanding a rapid stop to the proposed motorway scheme that could damage the fragile ecosystem of the UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve.
The Via Rapida N-433 would carve through virgin territory altering the course of rivers, destroying ancient drovers paths and endangering the habitats of many species.
These include Eagle Owls, Red Kites, a lizard called the Galapago Leproso, and a rare fish called a Colmilleja, both in danger of extinction.
But the four-lane highway, fenced with tunnels for fauna, would also affect the livelihoods of hundreds of local landowners and businesses.
Celebrated villages such as Fuenteheridos, Linares de la Sierra, Zufre and Los Marines would be affected losing chestnut plantations and fruit orchards.
Hotel owner Sam Chesterton, who has lived with his wife Jeannie, near Los Marines for two decades, is furious that the plan has only been announced three weeks before the deadline for complaints.
He said: “A whole lot of people, both local and foreign will have their patrimony wrecked, lose their orchards and farms, and in the slightest cases be faced with viaducts and unsightly cuttings.”
Chesterton, whose award-winning rural hotel Buen Vino stands to lose a chunk of land from the plans, added: “The main problem will be the noise and the constant whizz of traffic from Sevilla to Lisbon….once these roads are built they tend to fill up, which is the whole point of them.
“A less expensive and damaging solution would be to put it south of the park through the area known as the cuenca minera which has already been disfigured by mining.”
The Londoner has now helped to set up a protest group Plataforma Sierra Viva to fight the plan. A petition has been launched, while Green group Ecologistas en Accion has already put in a series of allegations.
Among the concerns are the source of the Odiel river, an ancient chapel and drovers paths as well as numerous smallholdings, which for centuries have been the trademark of the area.
The area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2002 and became a Natural Park in 1989.
It counts thousands of organic producers and is celebrated for its famous network of walking paths.
Walking expert Guy Hunter-Watts, who has written a number of books on Andalucia, says: “There are few areas which offer more attractive walking that Aracena.”
It is famous around the world for its jamon iberico, in particular from the village of Jabugo, which is said to produce the best ham in the world.
Chesterton continued: “The whole thing was sprung onto an unsuspecting public about a week ago. The plan was drawn up in May 2008 so we must assume some collusion in the matter from the town hall and park authority.
“You would imagine that in a western democracy, which Spain pretends to be, that those who are about to lose their homes, or have a road flying past their window would be alerted by registered letter….not by an anxious telephone call from a friend who heard it from another friend in the local town hall. And just three weeks before the deadline for presenting complaints.”