The political groups in Orihuela are considering a new Regulation on Citizens Participation in the governance of Orihuela. It sounds like a good idea and indeed there are elements being studied which would have advantages for the residents of Orihuela.
But as far as Orihuela Costa is concerned, it is of secondary importance and because it could involve the division of Orihuela Costa into different districts, it could have implications which would be definitely negative. It is time to say NO to the weakening of Orihuela Costa by dividing it into districts.
The positive elements in these proposals for citizens' participation are in relation to the rights of citizens and proposals for defending their rights, including the appointment of an Ombudsman and facilities for making complaints and suggestions.
However, the proposals being studied for direct participation involving excessively bureaucratic and costly procedures are not what Orihuela Costa needs and the proposals for dividing the municipality into Districts would be clearly against the interests of Orihuela Costa residents.
The needs of Orihuela Costa are radically improved public services like street cleaning, maintenance of the infrastructure of roads, pavements and public places and in particular greatly improved investment in the so-called parks and gardens which are disgracefully inadequate. We need properly organised and locally based emergency services: police, fire and ambulances. Orihuela Costa needs investment in social welfare like a day care for elderly citizens, special care facilities, a centre for young people and a Cultural Centre with library, theatre and rooms for the many groups on the coast who organise choirs, drama groups and leisure activities. The present under-sized Civic Centre does not provide anything like adequate facilities.
Orihuela city enjoys all that we lack. It has proper public services, quality maintenance carried out by municipal workers, day care and special needs facilities and a variety of theatres and venues for public events. They have the essentials of what is good governance and therefore the basis for which citizens' participation could be advantageous.
But in the case of Orihuela Costa, when there is such a comprehensive lack of services and facilities, what is the point of proposing elaborate and costly procedures for involving residents in the management of what does not exist?
The overriding priority for Orihuela Costa is major improvements in the basic services and facilities we should have, considering that the coast is as important in population terms as the city, growing constantly and providing the bulk of the income raised by the municipality in the form of taxes. There is a danger that the political groups in Orihuela would use the existence of citizen participation procedures to divert attention from the neglect and abandonment of the coast.
It is, however, the division of the municipality into Districts which constitutes the real danger in these proposals. By design, in the current municipal Master Plan which is dated 1990, Orihuela Costa is considered to be a collection of unconnected urbanisations. Denial of the existence of Orihuela Costa as a single integrated urban entity enables the political groups in Orihuela to more easily deny us the facilities we need and should have. Divide and rule!
This denial has other serious consequences. In its search for economies, the Post Office has stopped home deliveries of post enjoyed for decades in five major urbanisations (Campoamor, Cabo Roig, La Regia and La Zenia I and II ). The reason given is that we are not a single integrated urban entity with the required population to maintain a full postal service. C.L.A.R.O. was successful in persuading the previous Socialist and Green government to mount a legal challenge to the decision of the Post Office and to promise to change the status of Orihuela Costa in the new Master Plan which is being finalised. Rather than abstract citizens participation procedures, we need the concrete assurance of the new minority Popular Party government (and confirmation of the decisions of the political groups in the previous government) that they will defend the restoration of our right to a full postal service in the courts and that they will change the status of Orihuela Costa in the new Master Plan, for which they are now responsible, so that Orihuela Costa becomes a single integrated urban entity. Division of Orihuela Costa into districts would contradict the status we need.
In the opinion of C.L.A.R.O, Orihuela Costa needs, as a priority, radically improved basic services, including emergency services and full social and cultural facilities before embarking on costly, abstract and bureaucratic citizens participation procedures. And above all, we need the protection of the status of Orihuela Costa as a single integrated urban entity and not the division of the coast into weak, fragmented, competing districts.
Over 120 people turned out on Saturday, 12 December to protest the non-completion of the Emergency Services Centre in Orihuela Costa. The rally took place in front of the skeleton of the building where the foundation stone was laid in 2010 and the partly completed building has stood for years as a symbol of the neglect and abandonment of Orihuela Costa.
C.L.A.R.O. took the initiative to organise this protest inviting other political parties and representatives of associations and social groups. Many attended, including the Councillor for Coordination of Orihuela Costa. Several spoke at the rally. The intention was to hold a broadly based protest to express anger at the delay in securing essential emergency services in Orihuela Costa, an area with a resident population greater than Orihuela city, which increases from some 35,000 to over 200,000 in the summer months and to which must be added the presence daily of thousands of visitors to the La Zenia Boulevard Commercial Centre.
We all need the sure and reliable essential services of police, fire and ambulance which, in a heavily populated area, can only be organised adequately if locally based. The protesters were told of several regrettable recent instances where ambulances have either not arrived at all or after delays of 40 minutes. The consequences of these delays have been traumatic for those involved and even fatal. Ambulances can come from as far away as Orihuela – 45 minutes by road. In principle, there should be an ambulance stationed in Cabo Roig but it is very often not there and the night service was withdrawn years ago. The fire brigade serving Orihuela Costa is based in Torrevieja and it too is subject to delays since the fire crews are not familiar with the sprawling geography of ever expanding Orihuela Costaand cannot find their destination. Disgracefully, there is no 24 hours local police station in Orhuela Costa and after 3 p.m. when the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall closes its doors, the police service is provided by a patrol car with a mobile telephone number. Moreover, as C.L.AR.O. President Paul Piccio underlined, if the ratio of local police to population was respected in Orihuela Costa the number of local police should be doubled in number. The local police do a good job in Orihuela Costa but they are undermanned.
The large turnout vindicated C.L.A.R.O’s decision to organise this protest. The facts about Orihuela Costa’s deficient essential emergency services, and in particular the spate of recent examples of ambulances arriving late or not at all, are causing increasing concern. It is shameful that 5 years after laying the foundation stone of a modern integrated emergency services centre which would include a 24 hour local police station, a national police presence, an ambulance service, a fire service, the Red Cross and Neighbourhood Watch, work on completion of the building has been paralysed. Political differences between Orihuela and the regional government in Valencia, which has provided the budget for the Centre and is in charge of the project, are largely to blame. But the fact that these political differences should have resulted in such a huge delay in providing essential services shows how little Orihuela Costa counts in the minds of the relevant authorities. Until Orihuela Costa raises its political voice, this neglect will continue.
To conclude the rally, the largest seen for many years in Orihuela Costa, C.L.A.R.O’s President Paul Piccio, voiced the outrage felt at this shameful neglect and demanded that the Mayor of Orihuela make urgent representations to Valencia to ensure that the project is put out to tender again AND COMPLETED URGENTLY.
The shell of a partially completed Emergency Services Centre behind Consum supermarket, near the La Zenia Roundabout, has stood for several years now as a symbol of the neglect of the interests of Orihuela Costa by the local government of Orihuela and the regional and provincial governments. The Centre was inaugurated in 2010. Construction started but was soon stopped, allegedly because of the bankruptcy of the contractor. But the contract has not since been re-tendered by the Valencia regional government which will finance the project.
Orihuela Costa has a population at least as big as Orihuela city, and bigger than neighbouring Pilar de la Horadada. A population of registered residents of some 35,000 is more than sufficient to justify a locally-based, police station open 24 hours plus an efficient ambulance and fire brigade service. Orihuela Costa has none of these basic services. What is more, in the summer, the population increases to over 200,000. Plus the fact that for the last two years we have in the middle of Orihuela Costa La Zenia Boulevard Commercial Centre which attracts millions of visitors each year and thousands DAILY.
The need for these basic services is not academic. The local press is reporting several recent cases of delays of 40 minutes in the arrival of ambulances which have contributed to the deaths of local residents. We all need an efficient ambulance service. The fire brigade responsible for Orihuela Costa is located in Torrevieja and also subject to delays since the fire crews are not familiar with the ever growing, sprawling spread of Orihuela Costa. The local police do not have an office open 24 hours because the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall closes when the town hall officials finish their day at 3 p.m. The local police are located in the basement of the Playa Flamenca office of the Town Hall and they could easily place a police reception desk at the entry of the Town Hall when the local officials go home for the day. We could have a 24 hour police station immediately. Orihuela Town Hall could also fight with determination for the Valencia government to re-tender and complete the skeleton Emergency Services Centre. But they do not take us seriously.
For this reason C.L.A.R.O. AND OTHER INTERESTED ASSOCIATION will hold a peaceful, authorised PROTEST rally in front of the skeleton of the Emergency Services Centre building on SATURDAY, 12 DECMEBER, AT 11 A.M. to express our ANGER at not having locally-based efficient Police, Fire and Ambulance services. We invite all concerned who feel we should have these services without further delay to participate. Come and join us on your way to the Saturday market or the La Zenia Boulevard shopping centre. If we do not show our OUTRAGE at the inadequate emergency services we receive from the local and regional authorities, we can wait forever and suffer perhaps the deadly consequences.