Leave alone or is change needed?
The much-publicised San Telmo project has yet to get underway although a start will be made before the end of a year. That’s a promise or so says the local council.
So what has been the delay? The reason, if ever there needs to be one, must surely be the decision to go back to public consultation so late in the proceedings. This is setting a new precedent, if nothing else, to once again court public opinion before doing what was no doubt planned in the first place. There is a growing voice to simply do nothing, to leave well alone, a campaign which I would normally whole-heartedly support as I am not a fan of change for change’s sake. However, it is time, I believe to do something.
Over the years, there have been various half-hearted attempts to sort out the access problem and as a result what remains is an assortment of steps and strangely placed ramps which bizarrely don’t cover the whole walkway. The council’s trump card and guarantee that the project will go ahead is their claim of needing to update essential services, for example, water mains, sewerage, communi-cations and electricity. Surely this is more of an excuse rather than a reason and to quote one of my favourite adages “Don’t fix it if it’s not broken”. There are always plenty of places where the money could be better spent.
There is, it appears to me, two main areas of contention or stumbling blocks for want of a better description. The first is the choice of material for the eventual surface, not a repeat of the poured- concrete design of La Hoya, I am sure. The second and indeed the most contentious is the possible removal and replacement of the sea wall. Both are areas, where, for once, I am quite happy to remain on the fence. No, I didn’t say I was in favour of the fence, especially not if it is to resemble the post and wire affair which replaced the wall a couple of years ago at the nearby lookout!
So now, this has become one cosmetic make-over I am looking forward to, so bring it on. No doubt I will make further comment over the months, sorry better make it years, of its construction. Can it possibly take as long as the neighbouring Calle la Hoya project? I know, I promised never to mention it again, but as I have, surely you want a timely update.
Calle la Hoya, my favourite recent project to comment on, is not all bad I hasten to add as I have gone on record to say I like the new look, albeit with reservations. I could at this point make some wise-crack remark along the lines of “It will be great when it is finished”. “What? Still not finished?” you may ask. Is anything ever really finished, would be my reply. There are a few loose ends that need tidying up. For one, the street lights are not yet in operation. Secondly, access to the subterranean dustbins remains blocked, so residents are still trudging up the hill with their basura. To be honest I am surprised. I had expected them to pile their disposables up alongside the chutes, as happens elsewhere with similar installations. And thirdly, the disappearing bollards at each end of the street installed, quite rightly, to restrict access to only those entitled, have yet to come into operation. For this I do have some sympathy. Can you just imagine the reams of red tape involved to permit the issue of key fobs or swipe cards to all interested parties?
Of course I am just being petty. Calle la Hoya is now a very pleasant thoroughfare. People are in fact making use of the large ‘stone’ seats and by and large, the street is uncluttered. Elsewhere in Puerto, you may well fall over chairs or tables at every turn, bump into street displays of bric-a- brac and tourist tat, may trip over the occasional African salesman, disturbing his display of designer handbags and authentic artefacts, but no longer in Calle la Hoya. For there, the local authorities have taken a stand. Where once street displays outside of shops were abundant, they now hug the shop fronts and bars and restaurants have allegedly been reminded of the potential financial implications of allowing their furniture to stray outside of their allotted area. This may simply be a case for the aesthetic look of the street but then again it could well be a case for keeping the street open to allow better access for all the construction vehicles and associated paraphernalia once the San Telmo project does get underway. Residents and business owners may think they have seen the last of the excavators and builders lorries but I for one don’t think so.
Elsewhere, it was good to witness the demolition of the two derelict restaurant buildings on the Playa Martiánez sea front. Long had they been an eyesore, a site for graffiti and a venue for weekend bottle parties, but now they have been razed, no trace of them remains, apart that is for two large areas of gravel. Too much to expect the surface to be made good, the area will no doubt remain a patch of wasteland until such time as the long awaited Playa Martiánez regeneration gets underway, whenever that maybe, 2014 perhaps? With parking in the area at such a premium, how long I wonder before people start parking there. Who knows, perhaps an enterprising local will appear, pointing out the vacant spaces in anticipation of a fee.
I have to say I am not a fan of road closures, Calle Mequinez, being the latest; however, I do now concede, when combined with the permanent sealing of the car park entrance, the area around the fishing harbour has taken on a whole new appeal, at least from a tourist perspective. The local bars and restaurants have obviously reaped the benefits. Food and beverages are now served street-side without the addition of petrol or diesel fumes.
Of course, there have been repercussions, with all traffic now forced to enter and indeed exit the car park at the same point. This means there are the inevitable queues at peak times. The traffic lights do help to some extent and are proving surprising reliable but they alone are not the answer. I often sit and ponder while waiting for the driver of the car, ten cars in front to finally, after five or six attempts, get their car reversed into a space. Whatever happened to the advice received from the world-renowned transportation consultancy company commissioned by the council a couple of years ago? Surely the ‘reverse parking scheme’ and funnelling all the traffic down one road was not the full extent of it. To me, a mere layman, there is an obvious solution. All it needs is someone in planning with a bit of imagination, some remo-delling of the steps to El Peñón del Fraile and dare I mention it, a roundabout. After all, once construction of the new port gets underway they will require good vehicular access.