Against the controversial expansion of the airport The field, on Barcelona, the ecologists and Ada Colau found an unusual ally: the residents of an urbanization with streets covered by the constant shade of its pine trees and mansions with swimming pools 20 meters from the beach. Is named Gavà Mar and its residents have been a fundamental actor in the paralysis of the macro-project that threatened to take away the natural space of La Ricarda. These neighbors care about nature, yes, but above all, the noise of the planes that has hung over their heads since time immemorial.
In the streets of Gavà Mar, where renting a townhouse can cost 12,000 euros per monthMany Barcelona footballers have lived, the national coach himself Luis Enrique Martínez, great businessmen and, above all, pilots and air traffic controllers.
Its main claim is that the tracks are not used again in a segregated way. In other words, that the airport’s air operation continues as it is: that the 2,600 meter track closer to the sea is used only for takeoffs and that the planes make a U-turn as soon as they leave the runway, to avoid passing over houses. That the planes land on the other two runways and, if possible, coming from the East, so that they don’t pass over their houses either.
The demands of the residents of Gavà Mar represent a headache for Aena, the Spanish airport operator: in this way, they say, El Prat does not operate at its maximum capacity and will always be far from being the intercontinental ‘hub’ in which they intend to convert it. The segregated use of tracks It is an almost impossible option for Aena and those interested in the project. The mayors of the municipalities in the area, including the ex-mayor of Gavà, Raquel Sánchez, current Minister of Transport and Mobility, point out that it is a “red line”. The neighbors too.
In fact, in 2004, they even prevented the airport from operating twice, blocking its accesses when the runways were used again in the way they did not want. “It will be Vietnam”, warned the president of the Association of Neighbors of Gavà Mar, Carlos Domènech, in case someone happens to use the clues in a different way than they do now.
Because, Aena and the main interested in turning El Prat into a ‘hub’, raised the possibility of expanding the track closest to the sea. That, according to them, would allow the uninterrupted operation of larger aircraft. To expand the track, however, it was necessary to load a natural space: La Ricarda, towards the East, and belonging to the municipality of El Prat de Llobregat.
La Ricarda is a natural area of the Llobregat river delta that has abundant vegetation and is home to a great variety of birds that only inhabit this type of climate. Some environmentalists and the El Prat city council complained that the expansion project was proposed by La Ricarda because, if the track grew on the opposite side, it would meet the resistance of the wealthy residents of Gavà Mar. They defend themselves, and explain , through the president of his association to this newspaper, that if the track grew by its side, “it would affect another natural space”, The Remolar.
Because the third track of El Prat is sandwiched between La Ricarda and El Remolar, and any lengthening would have an environmental cost. Given the choice, the project designers preferred to sacrifice La Ricarda, where there were also no neighbors willing to start a “Vietnam”.
Pilots and Controllers Quarter
One of the keys to understanding the role that this residential area has played in stopping the project is the presence of pilots and air traffic controllers. His knowledge of the aircraft and the operation of the infrastructure has allowed the Neighborhood Association deliver technical reports and provide relevant information that administrations have had to listen to.
The current operation of the tracks was proposed by Victor Barriales and Jorge Sanz, a controller and a pilot, respectively, residents of Gavà Mar. The latter produced another report to deal with the controversial expansion that has now been paralyzed. In it he indicated that El Prat operates at a 70% of its capacity and that, in fact, it has never worked to the maximum since 2009. This explains that an expansion work is unnecessary, because there is still 30% of capacity to be exploited with the current facilities.
The report also points out that, on the supposedly short 2,600-meter runway to be extended, the world’s largest aircraft, a A380 of Emirates that covers the Barcelona-Dubai route on a daily basis. On the other hand, the document also recalls that El Prat already has 45 intercontinental lines and that turning it into a hub of this type would be almost impossible since the trend is that more and more low-cost airlines operate at the airport.
The text also said that the cost of the expansion, in addition to the irreparable loss of La Ricarda, would mean an unjustified increase in the noise and chemical pollution to which the residents of Barcelona are already exposed. Specifically, the metropolitan area is the sixth most polluted in Europe and is above the average for other Spanish cities.
The residents finally proposed that, if Aena intended to increase the capacity of passengers passing through Barcelona, it should do so using the airports of Reus and Girona, improving the rail connections of both with El Prat. That is, they wanted El Prat to function as the London airport of Heathrow, where the main airlines operate and those that pay the most, which in turn is connected to other airports further away from the city such as Gatwick, Stansted or Luton.
For Aena and its president, however, this is unacceptable. ITS goal is for El Prat to increase its capacity from 50 to 70 million passengers and for a new infrastructure to make the airport attractive to large airlines that right now refuse to operate at the Catalan airport. For the moment, the residents of Gavà Mar have gotten away with it. “We want it to stay as it is”, concludes Carlos Domènech, the leader of the neighbors.
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