Managing urbanizations surrounded by forest worries small town halls

Rocafort (Bages) has 11 kilometers of streets, half-built houses and many abandoned lots.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
25 May 2023 Thursday 10:51
53 Reads
Managing urbanizations surrounded by forest worries small town halls

Rocafort (Bages) has 11 kilometers of streets, half-built houses and many abandoned lots. In 2022, a large fire entered the urbanization, burning 30 houses and forcing the eviction of 300 people. A precedent that, due to climate change, may be more and more frequent and in other municipalities, as is the case of Bruc (Anoia), a municipality with an area of ​​47 square kilometers and three housing estates, two of them without reception. In fact, urbanizations with urban deficits are a headache for the Town Halls of small municipalities and with reduced budgets.

In Catalonia there are almost 1,500 urbanizations spread throughout the territory, many of them were built in the 1970s with little urban control and, since then, have suffered from structural problems. Only half of these have managed to adapt to the current regulations for sewerage, asphalting of streets or water pipes. This shows that the municipalities have been able to receive and assume the management. In addition, many are in areas surrounded by forests, a fact that poses a danger in the event of a possible forest fire.

This is precisely what happened in the summer of 2022, when a fire burned 1,750 hectares of the Pont de Vilomara and Rocafort, in Bages. It is an urbanization of 11 kilometers of streets, abandoned and half-done houses and many abandoned lots. A complex situation to manage for a small town of just under 4,000 inhabitants, with an extension of 28 km2 and three more urbanizations, apart from the two nuclei.

The current mayor and candidate of the PSC, Enric Campàs, reports that this legislature has been marked by the covid and some forest fires that placed the Pont de Vilomara and Rocafort in the front line of the media in mid-July 2022. For the Socialists, the management of urbanizations is "a priority", but Campàs admits that without the complicity of other administrations it is very difficult. "Their involvement is essential," he says.

Campàs places forest management and strip cleaning as a priority. He assures that at the moment the council is making an inventory of the farms that are in the urbanization to verify who owns it and force the owner to make a security strip. Despite this, he admits that, in the event that the City Council has to act in a subsidiary manner, there are some farms that are "uncollectible" and that supposes a very important economic burden for the municipality.

Sílvia Oliva is the candidate of ERC, the main opposition group. She is running for mayor for the first time and she makes him aware that the management of urbanizations has to be a priority. As her rival, she considers that the security stripes are essential and assures that, from ERC, all the formulas will be sought, through aid and subsidies, so that private property can make them.

However, Olivia admits that in these developments there are still many improvements to be made. In this sense, she stresses that she needs to commit to improving road safety. "Now there is no signage of any kind and it is dangerous," she stresses.

In 1986 a fire burned 7,000 hectares of forest in the Monserrat massif. Since then, El Bruc, one of the most affected towns and with 47 square kilometers and 97% rustic land, is aware that it is exposed to fire, so they must protect it. The three urbanizations of the town have a protection strip and a 180-hectare fence where donkeys graze. It is a strategic area for firefighters.

The Impulsem el Bruc (ERC) candidate, Debora Chiachio, recalls that a good part of the municipality of Bruc is located within the Montserrat Natural Park, which forces them to take “special care”. Ella chiachio says that one of her priorities is to face the drought and, therefore, they will work to keep the security strips clean and so that "the entire road network is ready in case there is an emergency."

For his part, the candidate for Junts en el Bruc, Rafael Galvan, laments the difficulties that municipalities have in being able to receive housing developments with urban deficits. He considers that in the Bruc it would be necessary to carry out a socioeconomic study so that the residents "have an indicator of how much they would have to pay" and also so that the City Council can seek subsidies or act as an intermediary with financial entities.

Galvan considers that it would be necessary to have a "flexibility" of the conditions to receive the developments because "until now they have been very strict." “If there is a flexibility, surely the costs will go down. For example, it may not be necessary to make sidewalks and a single platform can be made. Or with the new technologies it may not be necessary to use wiring”, explains the candidate.

The current mayoress of the municipality, Bàrbara Ortuño de Impulsem el Bruc, who is no longer presenting herself, believes that municipalities such as Bruc, which have urbanizations integrated into nature, should implement a fee that covers the protection service of the private property in forest settings. Ortuño says that it could be an annual rate "not very high" that would allow "to guarantee the financing of annual maintenance of the security strips and that will allow us to always have them in the best possible conditions."