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Why Puerto will no longer tolerate “clutter” on the streets 

From unauthorised tables and chairs, to hoardings and billboards, it’s a big “no” from the council.

I am going over old ground today, which in itself is nothing new now I come to think of it.

It’s hard to come up with breaking news each month when very little happens in Puerto, and what does, more often than not, takes years to claw its way from the planning stage to finally come to fruition.

So once again I am going to chew over the thorny subject of what I am going to call ‘clutter’, which for the purpose of this article will be a collective noun for describing all things in the streets of Puerto which probably shouldn’t be there, for whatever reason.

What is clutter? It can be tables and chairs, menu boards, awnings and parasols, advertising hoardings, shop stock, or in deed anything that impedes your passage through the streets. Well, not quite anything, as at the moment its gangs of pensioners from the mainland, here on their annual state subsidised jollies, who seem to be always in the way.

I promise you that clutter will not become my latest obsession; I am only mentioning it now as there has been a recent development, although perhaps that is not quite the right word.

On 2nd April, a Sunday, our Ayuntamiento posted on its fb site, which in itself is unusual, Sundays are normally sacred, unless there are photo opportunities. The post was a link to a previously posted monologue on their web page on the subject of clutter in the street.

It is obviously a post of some importance, but what about the timing of it. Was it a deliberate act to publish what could prove to be controversial on a ‘quiet’ day hoping no one would notice? My thinking is it should have been posted a day earlier on 1st April, a day of little significance here, however appropriate to the subject matter.

The post was well read and there were some reasoned comments, which is unusual as commenter’s to this site normally fall into one of two camps. They are either gushing groupies, who love everything and worship the ground the town hall occupies, or are freedom fighting radicals who will never be happy. Perhaps, though, I should add a third camp as there are those who are forever taking the proverbial. I never comment on this site, however, if I were too, I wonder which camp I would fall into.

Still, let me get to the content of the post. It was one of those long winded affairs, the sort you get halfway through then start to wonder why you bothered, the kind of post that Google translate says ‘You’ve got to be kidding!’ to. I don’t know who writes their stuff, but I would hardly refer to him as a man of few words.

The gist of the matter is that the Ayuntamiento is publically saying they have had enough. There have been sufficient warnings, from now the kid gloves come off, final warnings will be made and then failing that there will be fines issued. The piggy bank must be empty, oink oink. So any business with goods and displays on the street can expect a visit from a representative of the town hall, at least, that is the theory. Of course, being Puerto everything is not quite that cut and dried, there are grey areas. It seems certain categories of businesses, in certain streets, can display their wares outside their stores, within a predetermined area , providing, of course, they have paid for the privilege.

There is evidence that the policy is working to some extent in streets that they have targeted, calle Puerto Viejo is one, as are the new spick and span calle Quintana and the already fading San Telmo, both of which appear to have a zero tolerance rule.

Unfortunately restaurants, the biggest culprits for cluttering the streets, in my opinion that is, are seemingly exempt from this current crackdown. It all seems a bit unfair to me, but not surprising, that the main emphasise for this campaign appears to involve selective targeting. However, I think the Ayuntamiento may be in for a bumpy ride on this one, rumour has it, local businesses, obviously those affected by this, are forming groups and are engaging lawyers to challenge the ruling. I think they have a strong case, if as it appears; some streets are being treated differently to others.

Meanwhile I have to say it is quite nice to walk down the wide and boring, but otherwise uncluttered calle Quintana. Until, that is, you reach the junction with calle San Juan where our resident illegal street vendors can be often found displaying their goods on the nice new clean grey slabs and making use of the seating which has recently been installed. Weave your way through the handbags, watches and wooden ornaments and you get a brief respite before once again running the same gauntlet where calle Quintana spills out into Plaza del Charco. Two prime spots for passing trade, they know the best pitches, and why shouldn’t they as they have been doing the same for years.

It is time this was sorted out once and for all, but, perhaps, legitimate businesses are easier to target. I think I would be aggrieved if having been told I couldn’t display goods in the street outside my shop, while just down the same street people are doing just that. Yes, but they are doing it illegally. Oh, are they, that’s ok then.

Just reading back through this has made me think why bother. I can already predict the outcome of this campaign. It is basically sabre rattling, they will warn a few people, issue a few fines, before moving on to another initiative, and then, of course, summer will arrive and bring with it the lure of shorter working hours and extended holidays.

It will all be forgotten, affected businesses will dip a toe into the water to test the temperature, first one small display, then another slightly further out into the street and before we know it, everything will be hunky-dory and back to normal. Besides which, by then, the shine will have worn off of calle Quintana and it will once again become just another street in Puerto. Let’s just hope they won’t have started digging up the next one.

Moving swiftly on to another topic, again one I touched on last month, but one that has a positive outcome. I would like to thank the Ayuntamiento for the recent planting in the town. I am sure everyone will agree that the town’s flower beds look much better now they actually have some flowers in them. The summer bedding plants really do bring a must needed splash of colour to the town. Long may they last; mind you they will most probably have to.

Now, on a less happier note, a while ago I featured a letter from a reader concerned at the severity of the pruning of some of the town’s trees and palms, particularly those in calle La Hoya. I have to say I quite like the random planting in the street as opposed to regimental straight lines. His concerns were they were planted too close to buildings and the resulting pruning would kill them. It appears he has been proved right, either that or the gardeners took his criticisms personally, as a number of the palms have recently been reduced to one metre high stumps.

Finally a bit of news, an old story admittedly, but, one with a new twist to it. The Ministry of Environment in Madrid have included in their 2017 budget the sum of €300,000 towards the long overdue facelift of Playa Martiánez. A drop in the ocean in respect of the total sum needed, but wait for it. They have also stated that the project will be listed in their 2018 budget when they will allocate a further €3,000,000 and that is not a typo.

I know that saying it and doing it are often two very different things, but I think this is the first time since 2006, when the project was started, that it has appeared in their budget. Good news, I think. Of course, before any work can start the whole thing has to be agreed by the Coast Department , but come on, this is Puerto, what did you expect, good news is often followed by a swift kick in the teeth.