Projects, proposals plans and a few pipedreams
It’s that time of the year again when I normally review the various projects for Puerto, those completed, those started and ongoing and those that are basically still very much a pipedream.
A time to review the promises made, those fulfilled and indeed those reneged on. A time to reflect on just how effective our inherited debt-ridden Ayuntamiento can be and to realise that proposed projects rely extensively on its success in going cap in hand with a begging bowl to the various third party agencies in order to secure external funding.
So where shall I start? The port project, probably the longest standing project on the books, deserves to be top of the list. So what has happened in 2014? Not a lot, I can hear you say and on the face of it that seems to be true.
Earlier in the year, I was expecting great things with the announcement that the island’s Cabildo was taking responsibility for the project. A promise of new information within a month didn’t materialise, at least not locally. So once again I thought that this project was dead in the water but then recently an upbeat press release claiming progress has been made and our new Alcaldesa saying she is confident of work beginning in 2015.
Nothing really new then, we have heard it all before, so we are back to wait and see if anything happens. Is it a realistic promise or are all those concerned already in campaign mode with elections coming up in May?
Rumour time. With the promise of work on the port beginning soon comes the sounding of the death knell for the municipal swimming pool. Earmarked for parking in the great scheme of things and previously rumoured as an access point to the site, it looks like its days are numbered. Surely they will build a replacement first. Wishful thinking on my part, space has been allocated for the construction of a sports centre, adjacent to the Hotel Turquesa, for many years. I am sure there must be plenty of private sector interest, happy to build, manage and of course, take the profits from such a venture, one which is sorely needed in the town.
Still this is all in the future, what of a project which has actually come to fruition? San Telmo finally started, despite the ‘save the wall’ campaign and with total disregard to local public opinion. Well, it had to be done, didn’t it? It is progressing well, was originally supposed to have been finished in December, but like most things, will overrun, citing extra work found as the reason.
The new finish date is some time in April, although saying that, within the last couple of months we have had both an announcement that it would finish early and then another saying that recent storms have caused a delay. So basically it will finish whenever and personally I think the April deadline looks suspect.
So what is the overall aim of the project? We have seen various artist impressions with all their modern looking clean straight lines. At the very least I hope that disabled access is improved but if you want me to be brutally honest, let’s forget all the little cosmetic changes being made and get down to the nitty gritty. In my opinion, the real reason behind the work is to provide an extended terrace for a well known and very popular restaurant. I look at the extra space the new overhang has created and convert the area into table spaces and I am sure I am not the only one to do so.
Castillo San Felipe closed for renovations in January, for six months, scheduled to reopen in July. A popular entertainment venue, well used, of which there are so few in the town, you would have thought there would have been a sense of urgency in getting it finished on time, but no, that was not the case. An all too often reoccurring theme, of course, there was a delay, the deadline moved to October/November, it was a bit vague, but as it happens irrelevant as it remains closed and is now due to open early in the new year, which in itself is just as vague.
Talking of entertainment venues, Parque San Francisco, a large shed like building squeezed into the centre of the town was another of the promised projects. Ambitious plans to convert it into 900 seat concert venue were revealed, the likes of which had not previously been available in Puerto, and the funding was in place, or so we were told. Nothing has been said since; this project is obviously one that is on the back boiler. With so much talk of reinventing the town as a major tourist destination, a venue of this size must look a very attractive proposition.
Playa Martiánez is another one of the projects that have been rattling around for years. A sum of €5 million has been quoted in the past as the amount needed to complete the planned work. Each year there is an announcement that work will begin, only to dash hopes a couple of months later with the message that there is no money in the coastal department’s budget for it.
2014 has been no different; the same promise was made only with a slightly different slant on it. Phase 1 of the project would definitely begin after the summer (another vague timetable). The summer is well and truly over and no sign of the bulldozers yet, but then perhaps phase 1 is just the planning stage. Still it was good to witness the removal of the two derelict restaurant buildings and this year we saw the scars that were left behind covered over and planted out, albeit very sparingly.
The new bus station, another favourite of mine, work was to commence in the spring of 2014 on the site of where the buses used to park up, many years ago. The land already owned and with a realistic budget and again funding already in place, what could go wrong? I don’t know, however, early in the year the mood changed and along with it the message and suddenly we were presented with the prospect of it being ‘hoped that work could be started before the end of the year.’
Rumours have circulated that ownership of the land is in doubt. Meanwhile we are left with buses arriving and departing from what is already a busy traffic route. It works, which I suspect is the reason why there does not seem to be any urgency, but it is not ideal. A major tourist destination without a bus station and its associated facilities – what sort of message does it portray to arriving visitors, I wonder.
Patience is rewarded; a first chance to see what is behind the high walls of the Botanical Gardens extension, hidden from view for all these years. Yes, the area is opening to the public in the New Year, no firm date yet, of course. But before you get too excited, it is only the new building that is opening, a restaurant, a bar, some exhibition space, and conference rooms. No planting as yet, the final phase, as it has been called is still two years away, pending sufficient funding, that is.
Calle Mequinez, a street that has in the past, seen not one, but two cosmetic makeovers, is closed to traffic, again. It was closed earlier in the year, then reopened, now it has been closed a second time, to create a better environment it is claimed.
A good bit of PR, no doubt, but the reality is quite different. It is not closed to traffic; it is closed to through traffic along its entire route. The small part which is closed to traffic is less than 100 metres and as such creates a false sense of security to unsuspecting pedestrians intent on walking down the middle of its entire length.
The Ayuntamiento certainly seems to have a problem with creating vehicle free walkways; vehicles daily circulate around all the pedestrian areas of the town with no apparent curfew. Whilst part of the Calle La Hoya makeover was to install retractable bollards to restrict access to residents and authorised vehicles only. I have never seen these bollards up, I am sure they are not in use. Are they too much of a problem to administrate, maybe? Bringing them into use is probably another victim of the dreaded bureaucratic red tape, no doubt.
I have a final project to mention, not a significant one, yet one which has, at least, been started in 2014. The Urbanizacion Guacimara, a community, cushioned between two barrancos, one road in and out which crosses one of the barrancos. So whenever there is heavy rain, the area becomes cut off as the road floods. The community has been campaigning for a resolution for years.
Last winter our former Alcaldeso, never shy of a photo opportunity, visited the area to announce the solution, a footbridge. Ok as long as you can walk to work, so as you can imagine his idea was a bit of a damp squib to residents who were looking for a real solution. Unpert-urbed he said that work would commence immediately, if not before. Of course, nothing happened, until very recently that is, when during a particularly high flood a kamikaze driver tried to cross and was swept away.
On a quiet news day, just about every local news team visited and hey presto work on the bridge started a few days later. It is at best a knee jerk reaction and not the solution, which is obviously a road bridge. The Island’s Cabildo priced the project at a six figure sum, so disregarded it as unfeasible, the local community association priced the same project, for substantially less, in fact knock a nought of the Cabildo figure and they would be about the same. It never ceases to amaze me how public projects cost so much more than private ones, which is probably why so little gets done.
So that is 2014 over and done with, so what can we expect for 2015? To be honest I haven’t a clue. The Tenerife Cabildo recently announced a grant of almost €500,000 to ‘prettify’ key parts of the town, so if that has not already been spent we might see some evidence of it being put to use. Almost certainly more wheelie bins will be going underground in a bid to rid the town of eyesores, but why, if the sight of bins on the street is so abhorrent, does it take so long to bring the new bins into commission. The news bins in Calle Mequinez, a prime example, finished months ago, but still cordoned off and not in use. Strange, but a product of more of that red tape, I suppose.
I will continue to listen as the town’s PR machine continues to spew starting dates of exciting dates of new; or even old projects for the betterment of the town, but I am afraid I will remain pragmatic and expect things to happen as and when they actually do. Let’s be honest, with two hospitals yet to be finished, staffed, equipped and put into service, and a ring road nowhere near completion , the outstanding projects in Puerto come a long way down the pecking order, and to think at one time they were talking about a railway line.