3 Mar, 2009 @ 18:02
2 mins read

Natural Disaster


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.”


  1. “These include Eagle Owls, Red Kites, a lizard called the Galapago Leproso, and a rare fish called a Colmilleja, both in danger of extinction.”

    GALÁPAGO LEPROSO is a lizard? In an article with a serious subject such as this, the Olive press really ought to check it’s classification of wildlife… If you can’t get the difference between a lizard and a terrapin then what else is wrong or mis-identified in your articles?

  2. “UNESCO-protected Biosphere Reserve”

    … so therefore it makes total sense to build a dual carriageway bringing noise and pollution to the area, destroying trees, and ruining nature doesn’t it?

    Only the moronic Spanish authorities would give an area such protection and then ruin it afterwards. Again, only 3 weeks notice given. It beggars belief that a country can be so stupid and one can only hope that enough objections are now raised to halt this latest ridiculous scheme.

    Why not move the Hotel Algarrobico there as well whilst they go about it?

  3. Clive who’s paying you, no don’t bother answering you obviously have vested interests. The Olive Press is an excellant newspaper in the REAL sense of the word – just go away and play with yourself.

    Is anyone surprised at anything the Spanish do. Wherever the Spanish have been they have only ever destroyed – just look at the state of Central and South America, 6 centuries of destruction and extermination.

  4. Here, here Stuart. The Spanish were pretty damned good at destruction, that’s for sure. Come to think of it, those Brits were a class act as well. As for those Germans, they were on a different planet. The Russians and the Chinese were pretty handy at it to.

    You know what, Stuart, maybe we can come up with a destruction league table based on some kind of measurable criteria. It would be interesting to see who comes out on top.

  5. I guess by knowing that Aracena is not a “national park” makes me an “anorak” as well.

    Read my comment… I simply say that when a publication makes an article and takes a stand about a serious subject such as this proposed road then it needs to make sure even the smallest points are correct… The identification and clarification between two species as diverse as a terrapin and a lizard is an important fact especially when talking about possible protected species and the credibility of the article. Who (that has influence and power)is going to listen to someone that doesn’t know his terrapin from his lizard or his national from his natural park?

    The difference between a natural park and a national park is huge in terms of local attitude, funding and protection status.

    Maybe its time to ask a few “anoraks” about simple stuff like this?

    And please don’t just throw some more insults at me…Write something worth reading that makes this article stand out and stand up to protect a part of the Andalucian environment. You will note that I have a link published… I notice that the ones throwing insults do not. anonymous abuse is irrelevant so if you are serious, post a link as to where you are and stand up proudly for your beliefs.

  6. clive, you are obviously a bit of an anorak… try and think of the full picture in the future before you open your mouth…maybe go up and visit the Aracena national park..

  7. Who are these people like Stuart Crawford and Fred who just want to knock Spain? If they live in Spain, they should shut up and go home; if not, I guess they are just envious of people like me who have recently moved here full time and love the place, notwithstanding the corruption, pointless bureaucracy and environmental unawareness.

  8. Yes Paul, I am so envious of you. My last post was a subtle joke, however since you´ve only recently moved here this does not qualify you berate other people who have been here in Spain much longer. When you´ve been here a decade let´s see how you get on and hear your opinion then. I don´t moan about “Spain”; I moan about its stupid attitudes and how it needs to be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Re-read the posts and get your facts right.

    Do you hate wolves too by any chance? If not, you can´t be all bad…

  9. Sorry, Fred, didn´t think you did subtle – it was certainly lost on me.

    Also sorry I forgot to mention I´ve been coming to Spain just about every year since 1970, when I was 20. Oh, and I´ve owned property here since 2001. So. I think I know what I´m talking about.

    I was hardly berating anyone ´- I just get frustrated with people who moan all the time about their chosen country of residence.

  10. Paul, everyone has different experiences; I am glad yours have been good. You will have noted that my “moans” are in the main largely justified and mainly relate to the ‘notwithstanding issues’ you mentioned in your post.

    I take it that you don’t want to kill all the wildlife; you do want a properly maintained property register like in Northern Europe; you don’t want to build dual carriageways through beauty spots and UNESCO biospheres; you would like Spain to reverse its endemic corruption that runs from top to bottom? If so, we are on an identical track except that you don’t say anything about it and I do…

  11. hi clive,
    thanks for your comments, so now we know a terrapin is not a lizard… or vice versa… we were only reporting on what we had been told.. we stand corrected.

    Ultimately though it is a minor point… the main points still stand…there is a plan for a motorway to go through an area of outstanding natural beauty… it is as unnecesary as the one to the coast from Ronda. and as for whether it is a Natural or National park has little relevence to me … they are still extremely valuable areas worth protecting..we actually call it a Natural Park here, because of nit pickers like you.

    But the facts are, a Natural park means nothing to most English readers… A National Park does! and so does a nature reserve… and I dont suppose you would want Grazalema (where I believe you live) called a Nature Reserve?

    Perhaps you´ll step forward and support the Olive Press for once, rather than criticising us on minor points.

    jon clarke
    olive press

  12. In support of Clive and Paul, some of the people commenting in this post, including Jon are not giving the impression of taking the classification of fauna and of parks seriously enough.

    It may be fair to say that most Olive Press readers are not aware of the difference yet when I read the Olive Press I see innumerable references to Olive Press campaigns. If we are to believe the Olive Press is making a difference then it seems getting their facts straight and leading from the front would be a desirable goal.

    Unfortunately, taking the approach that readers of the Olive Press don’t know or care about the difference is tabloid reporting and undermines the undoubted influence the Olive Press has in these matters. Perhaps it would be better to offer a quick explanation to readers of the importance of the difference.

    As Clive says, the difference between a nature park or a natural park is significant in terms of funding and its protection status. I’m sure we all agree it would be better to see the proposed motorway scrapped, but taking a stand is only part of the picture and doesn’t actually achieve much if our argument isn’t rock solid and factual.

    Jon, I believe a few of us really support your highlighting issues like these and congratulate you for taking a stand, please keep us informed of any changes you manage to bring about, and please also give us the correct facts so that we can advance the cause away from the limelight.

  13. Name calling I can cope with and ignore… but Fred’s comment leads me to believe that something is not quite right here…Fred? Are you saying that comments made to articles published at the Olive press are being “manipulated”?

    Some thoughts on comments by the editor directed personally at me.

    “But the facts are, a Natural park means nothing to most English readers… ”

    Use your newspaper Mr. Clarke to reliably inform and help people understand how things are different here. Why not write an article about the very subject of the classification of protected natural areas and what that means financially, socially and politically to Spanish people.

    “we were only reporting on what we had been told.. we stand corrected. ”

    Sorry, not good enough. As “The original and only English language investigative newspaper in Andalucia”, I expect you to get your facts right (or at least check them) before you publish to the FRONT page of your print edition. In this particular case it would have been very easy…

    “Perhaps you´ll step forward and support the Olive Press for once, rather than criticising us on minor points.”

    If you take a look at the tag cloud of your home page you will see my name amongst others who have, and still do I suppose, support the Olive Press as a medium to convey an alternative media presence in Andalucia… I suggest you, Mr Clarke, look for synergy instead of confrontation… Minor point? Do you not think that the “Real tiger of Andalucia” should make sure ALL points (even minor) are correct before going to press.

    Ok So maybe the “anorak” insult annoyed me more than I thought :)

  14. Clive/Andy, etc

    National Parks and Natural Parks are different in many ways, not least in the sense of legal protection… but talking from a journalistic point of view and for a mass market readership, a Natural Park doesn’t, in my opinion, make that much sense. If we had had a deluge of letters or emails telling us otherwise then, of course, it would be a different matter.

    Picking up on small aspects of stories, rather than supporting the main drift, is not helpful for anyone.

    And, as for comments that we are selectively publishing posts, is in a word that everyone understands: horseshit.

    The only posts we have removed are offensive ones or ones that would get us sued for libel…

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