Biodiversity law gives environment ministry wide powers

The Balearic ministry of the environment will have the power to intervene directly in any case of illegal building detected in protected spaces, under the new law on biodiversity which is currently being debated in Parliament. According to the draft bill, the first steps will have to be taken by the Mayor of the municipality in question, who will have to study the infraction, and, possibly, order work to stop as a precautionary measure. If the Mayor has not taken any action within five days of the complaint being filed, then the Council of Majorca will automatically take over responsibility for building infractions and the town council will be excluded from any future action. But if after a further five days the Council of Majorca has not done anything, then the matter will fall into the hands of the ministry of the environment, and the Council of Majorca will not be able to say anything. The new law says that any new construction or the reform of an existing structure adding more than 25 per cent of the original volume will be considered a very serious infraction, leading to fines ranging from 60'000 to three million euros. The ministry will also be able to order the demolition of all the illegal building work, which will be at the expense of the owner. If the work carried out without a permit affects less than 25 per cent of the original building, the fine will be lighter, between 6'000 and 60'000 euros. By introducing these disciplinary measures, the ministry wants to guarantee that the various institutions will enforce the planning regulations currently in force in protected areas, and have the legal power to take action if necessary. Some of the articles in the new bill have met with opposition, even from within the ruling Progress Pact. The Majorcan Union (UM) has asked for the articles classifying the infractions for building or expanding without a licence as serious or very serious to be removed from the bill. The environmental group GOB for its part, has called on the ministry to take farmers into consideration in the biodiversity bill. This follows opposition from the farmers union, and the PSM (Majorcan Socialist Party), calling for greater consideration for the farming sector. GOB spokesman Miquel Angel March said it was clear that a law could not go against the interests of sectors which manage 90 per cent of the land in these protected areas, as is the case of agriculture. He said that the ministry should be receptive to proposals from this sector. Minister Margalida Rossello defended the introduction of the new measures in the law, as they will provide a better defence against the pressure from the building trade and tourism. She alleged that a lot of building is going on in protected areas and town councils and island councils are doing little to enforce the law. The fines were in keeping with the gravity of the offence, she said.

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