2 Oct, 2007 @ 12:39
3 mins read

Brussels to the rescue


EC and UN to have final say as Junta expresses concerns over Sierra Nevada cable car

PLANS for the world’s longest cable car have received a massive setback after a senior regional government spokeswoman slammed the project as “unviable.”

Speaking in Granada, the Junta de Andalucía’s environment chief Fuensanta Coves also expressed concerns over the 19-kilometre-long project and the potentially detrimental impact it will have on the ecological balance of the protected Sierra Nevada National and Natural Park.

In a further blow to the development company behind the 150-million-euro plan, Coves also confirmed Brussels will have the final say if Granada is to be linked to the ski resort by teleferico (cable car).

In total, the Junta has three misgivings concerning the project. Officials believe:

  • The project will affect the sensitive ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada National and Natural Park.
  • Construction of the cable car is not in the public interest, and
  • The project is not a viable transport alternative between Granada and the Pradollano ski resort.

The developers have until mid-October to present their response to the concerns. However, a spokesman for Sociedad Teleferico de Sierra Nevada, the consortium of companies behind the scheme, is confident they can convince the Junta that the doubts are unfounded.

“We will respond to the regional government satisfactorily. We will give all the explanations necessary for the teleferico to go ahead,” Juan Antonio López said.

If the plan is finally given the go ahead, work is scheduled to start next year and will be ready to take up to 3,600 passengers every hour to the ski resort by 2010.

López also scotched opponents’ claims that the cable car will lead to future macro-development projects close to the protected park.

“Rumours of the cable car being a Trojan horse for huge scale housing and golf course projects are lies,” he added.

Both the European Commission and the United Nations will have a large say in the final decision as to whether the teleferico goes ahead or not, the regional government has confirmed.

Besides being a National Park, the mountain range is also a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and part of Brussels’ Natura 2000 scheme, which seeks to protect the continent’s areas of environmental importance.

The Olive Press understands both the EC and UN will look unfavourably upon any project that is detrimental to their schemes.

Briton Csilla de Bagota, who is part of the group that has campaigned against the project, believes that with the involvement of the two international organisations the cable car is now a thing of the past.

“It all sounds very hopeful. I do not think the EC will ever allow a plan such as this.

“The common consensus among the opponents was that the developers were going to buy permission to build the cable car. But politicians in Brussels are not interested in money.

“Everyone I have spoken to is very happy at the news.”

Further celebrations

Environmentalists and opposition groups see this latest – and most severe – stumbling block for the developers as an important victory in their attempt to block the project.

Opponents believe the proposed cable car not only contravenes European directives on the environment, habitats and birds, but also it will invade the privacy of the residents of Monachil, Huetor and Cenes as it passes over head.

They not only question the financial viability of the 150-million-euro project – with even the development company stating the cable car will only operate in profit in 2040, but claim the sensitive ecosystem of the Sierra Nevada will be irrevocably damaged.

In a joint press conference, members of conservation group WWF, Ecologistas en Accion and SEO/Birdlife demanded the project be “finally laid to rest.”

“The misgivings of the regional government show that the cable car is unviable and should never be allowed to go ahead.

“The Sierra Nevada is an important area that has to be protected. Its ecosystem is important for birds, reptiles, mammals and flora,” WWF spokeswoman Cristina Rabadán said.

The protected mountain range is home to more than a quarter of Spain’s 8,000 species of flora and some, such as a type of sandwort (Arenaria nevadensis), are unique to the area.

There are also moves to re-introduce Europe’s largest bird of prey – the lammergeyer vulture – to the Sierra Nevada, from where it has been extinct since 1986.

“If the cable car goes ahead, it will seriously hamper our efforts to reintroduce the bird to one of its natural habitats.

“The cables would be a hazard for the birds. Eleven have been killed in northern Spain since 1979 after colliding with cables,” a spokesman for Fundacion Gypaetus, the group behind the re-introduction initiative, told the Olive Press recently.

Supporters of the plan, who include Granada’s Chamber of Commerce, claim the project is beneficial to the environment as it provides a greenhouse gas free alternative mode of transport to the mountain ski station.

During the winter months, the road between Granada and the resort is often choked with heavy traffic.

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