GAVÀ MAR and the Barcelona Airport
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Gavà Mar, a neighbourhood belonging to the city of Gavà, is located near the Llobregat river delta, between Viladecans and Castelldefels beaches. For more than 35 years its inhabitants have lived next to the airport without many problems with this historical configuration:
Until 1997, then Gavà Mar grew considerably as new housing sites were developed in the area of Central Mar, located just in the center of Gavà Mar, on a former campground site. During this time, the Barcelona Airport decided to change the air routes and aircrafts began to fly over the neighbourhood causing substantial disturbances for the people living in the area.
In 1998: a commission created to enforce the so called “Pla Delta” made up of the Ministerio de Fomento (the Spanish Ministry for Infraestructures and Transport), the Generalitat (the Autonomous Catalan Government), and the City Halls of Barcelona and El Prat– was debating where to place the 3rd runway (25L/07R) of the Barcelona Airport.
In 1999: AENA (the Spanish company that manages airports) drew up the Long Term Plan for the Airport ( el Plan Director del Aeropuerto de Barcelona)and the public administrations involved (including the local authorities of Gavà , helped by AVV Gavà Mar) presented their claims.
In this plan, AENA proposed to enlarge the main runway toward Gavà Mar. AVV Gavà Mar strongly opposed this plan and suggested that the runway be extended toward the industrial area of Zona Franca, which would avoid even closer takeoffs and landings over the neighbourhood.
November, 2000: The Ministry for Environmental Affairs finished the Estudio de Impacto Ambiental (‘Environmental Impact Study’), the so called EIA, necessary to build the 3rd runway. Various public administrations and AVV Gavà Mar disputed the plan.
In 2001, noisy Iberia Boeing 727 were no longer allowed to operate in Barcelona Airport.
January, 2002: The Central Government in Madrid passed the DIA (‘Environmental Impact Declaration’), which takes into account necessary environmental issues, in order to build the runway. Unfortunately, the study does not refer to some controversial topics leaving them aside to be discussed later. Some of these topics are: flight routes on preferential configuration, which is the use of runways for takeoffs and landings when weather conditions are permitting. Moreover, the study forced the creation of a Supervisory Comission for the construction of the new runway (CSAAB); however, the City Hall of Gavà was not invited to take part in it. This Supervisory Comission would decide noise limits, flight routes and preferential configuration of takeoffs and landings.
July 10th, 2003: The Supervisory Comission (CSAAB) approved the West configuration as preferential with only the vote of Castelldefels against it. Simultaneously, Gavà Mar kept growing and Central Mar was already well established; that is to say, the neighbourhood’s population grew considerably.
September 30th, 2004, the 3rd runway started working and AENA took advantage of the situation to change flight routes, which meant that it was not only noise that caused disturbances but there was also a great risk of aircrafts crashing into the neighbourhood
On October 19th, 2004, a very important step was taken: AVV Gavà Mar reached an agreement with the Federation of Residents Associations of Castelldefels, the Federation of Residents Associations of Gavà, the Federation of Residents Associations of El Baix Llobregat, the Federation of Commerce of Castelldefels and the Directors’ Guild of Hotel and Catering business of Castelldefels to establish a unitary stance on the problem with the following joint proposal:
Neighbours went on march again cutting access to the airport on Saturday, October 30th, 2004
November 18th, 2004, Eventually, neighbours were banned from attending the City Hall meeting.
Neighbours went on march again cutting access to the airport on Saturday, November 20th, 2004.
November 23rd, 2004, Finally, Gavà City Hall changed its opinion and reached the same solution AVV Gavà Mar had been sustaining for months. The Mayor of Castelldefels and the Mayor of Gavà came to an agreement on the basis of what AVV Gavà Mar had proposed. Nevertheless Castelldefels also proposed to enlarge the 3rd runway towards Zona Franca removing marine areas surrounding the airport.
November 2004: It was decided by the City Hall to build the new area of Llevant Mar near the 3rd runway.
On December 2004 the Catalan Parliament passed a unanimous resolution asking the proper authorities to comply with the Environmental Impact Declaration by request of the 'PPC'. As the situation remains the same , on December 4th, 2004, some neighbors spontaneously demonstrate in Castelldefels against the administration of Dídac Pestaña (Mayor of Gavà) and cut access to the airport again on December 18th, 2004.
In January of 2005, the Committee for the Development of Air Lanes (CDRA) was created. It is made up of the Generalitat of Catalonia, the Barcelona Chamber of Commerce, the City Council of Barcelona and AENA and its objective is to promote the development of new aerial links to the Barcelona airport.
February 5th, 2005: Catalan Environmental Affairs Department released the results of their studies, carried out over 23 days, about the noise in the neighbourhood. The study determined that the noise level was higher than the legal limit allowed by the Spanish legislation. A group of neighbours also undertook their own studies about the noise level and the results were the same.
February 7th, 8th and 9th, 2005: The Local Police undertook a new study about the noise level. The results continued to be astonishing.
February 9th, 2005: The Spanish Parliament forced AENA (thanks to 'ERC', a Catalan political party represented in the Parliament) to implement within 3 months antinoise measures that should have already been implemented, as outlined in the DIA. They forced AENA to come to an agreement with Local Councils over temporary flight routes. The Parliament also asked AENA to study those routes proposed by AVV Gavà Mar taking into account new noise limits that would be implemented in 2008, according to EU Regulations. Maximum noise permitted will be 55 db during the day and 45 db at night.
During the month of February 2005, AVV Gavà Mar carried a CRIMINAL COMPLAINT to the Courts of Gavà interposed against the technicians of the Ministry of ‘Fomento’ and AENA that were responsible for putting the third runway into operation under flagrant violation of the law in force and with complete disregard for the Environmental Impact Declaration. The number 4 court of Gavà has already passed the complaint on to the Attorney General’s office.
Neighbours went on another march on Saturday 12th, February 2005 , but without cutting public access to the airport.
February 20th, 2005: the Defensor del Pueblo (an ombudsman nominated by the Spanish Parliament to defend the rights of citizens against government maladministration) showed his support for Gavà Mar’s complaints.
February 23rd, 2005: AENA presented the City Hall of Gavà with their own studies about the noise level after a 4 month delay. The findings revealed that the noise pollution Gavà Mar endures is extremely high, which now makes 3 studies with the same results.
March 12th, 2005: New wind tolerance limits were applied to reduce the number of landings over the neighbourhood, which AVV Gavà Mar had been demanding for a long time. However, AVV Gavà Mar emphasized that “any single landing is illegal according to the many studies carried out. Consequently, none of the planes in Barcelona Airport should use the 3rd runway”.
March 14th, 2005: AENA used runway 02/20 again during part of the day and night. Calm came back to Gavà Mar. For the first time in 6 months, it was possible to sleep later than 7 am without being woke up by the sound of planes.
March 21st, 2005: The Central Government asked for a revision of the noise levels of the main Spanish airports.
April, 2005: The Síndic de Greuges (Catalan Defensor del Pueblo)informed the neighbours of Gavà Mar that they were taking into consideration their complaints and that 3 courses of action were pending: one petitioned by Gavà City Hall and 2 by the local neighbours. They would present a resolution when the information requested from public administrations was available.
April 8th, 2005: First meeting, among the President of AENA, representatives of the Ministerio de Fomento, the mayors of Gavà and Castelldefels and representatives from the local neighbourhoods associations was held in Madrid. Agreement was reached to create a new Technical Commission, which would try to reach a consensus over the noise problem without setting established air routes.
April 19th, 2005: A Catalan TV Channel (Canal 33) aired a documentary in which children from Gavà Mar explained the many problems generated by the 3rd runway (the narrator made a mistake by saying 600 neighbours in Gavà Mar instead of the actual 6,000).
April 20th, 2005: G4, a Catalan lobbyist group (The Chamber of Commerce, The Economy Club, Fomento del Trabajo and the foundation RACC) asked authorities to use the third runway to its full potential. By chance, that day AENA stopped using runway 02/20, and the noise came back to Gavà Mar after barely one month of peace.
April 29th, 2005: The Catalan Parliament presented a non legally binding proposition in which political parties showed their support for the resolution previously passed by the Spanish Parliament 3 months earlier. It pressed for the 3rd runway to be used in a southern direction (for takeoffs as well as for landings) in order to minimize the noise. It also would have to be previously agreed upon by the City Halls of Gavà and Castelldefels and the Catalan Autonomous Government.
May 13th, 2005: AENA released to the media the announcement of its acoustic isolation gathering of housing affected by the Barcelona Plan.
May 13th,2005. TSJM (Spanish High Court) minimally recognized the problem and forced AENA to not use the third runway for landing over Gavà Mar in an east configuration during:
On May 28th, 2005, the Baix Llobregat 'ICV' Regional Assembly passed a resolution on the problems posed by the Barcelona airport, requesting that all necessary studies be carried out and demanding that the citizens' quality of life be given priority before other interests. This statement is crucial because it sets the stance of the El Prat City Council and the Catalan Ministry of the Environment -both ruled by 'ICV'-.
July 13th, 2005. The court of El Prat agreed to undertake the proceedings against AENA that had been transferred from Gavà’s courts. The complaint also included medical studies carried out by psychiatry experts.
July 20th, 2005. ERC (Catalan left wing party) presented a non-legally binding proposition to the Spanish Parliament, which called for urgent action to minimize the acoustic impact on Gavà Mar during the transition period.
On October 27th, 2005 AENA's new TMA -which was initially planned for the month of May 2005- begins operation. With the new TMA, AENA gains some operating capacity but, in exchange, the same disturbances continue for Gavà Mar and Castelldefels Beach while further extending them to all of Castelldefels, Les Botigues de Sitges and Begues causing motions and declarations within their City Councils.
November 14th, 2005. After various setbacks the CSAAB finally approved the global proposition.
The members of the AVV Gavà Mar's committee have dinner together to celebrate this approval after such a long time of struggle. Víctor Barriales -the AVV Gavà Mar and City Council's technician part of the team that had the idea of the BY-PASS- invites us.
On November 27th, 2005, the neighbors of Castelldefels take part in a demonstration at AENA's Air Control Center located in Gavà to complain about the AENA's new TMA.
In the beginning of December 2005, a report carried out by the 'Mossos d'Esquadra' (the autonomous Catalan police) by order of the 'Fiscalia de Medi Ambient' (District Attorney for Environmental Affairs) was made known. The conclusions are persuasive: It demonstrates that AENA is responsible for a crime against the environment and its natural resources, as outlined in article 325 of the penal code, with a presumed violation of the following rights: the right to enjoy an adequate environment for the development of the people, the right to the protection of health, the right to intimacy and the right to well being and to quality life for the citizens of Gavà Mar
On January 29th, 2006, the neighbors of Castelldefels demonstrate for the second time at the airport of El Prat.
On February 15th, 2006, AENA issues a press release in which it informs of the appointment of a new director for the Barcelona airport (Ferran Echegaray) to substitute Antoni Pedrós, who was the director since 1997.
On April 2nd, 2006, the neighbors of Castelldefels demonstrate at Plaça Sant Jaume in Barcelona (right in front of the 'Generalitat' headquarters).
On April 7th, 2006, the media informs about the decision of the 'Fiscal de Medi Ambient' (José Joaquín Pérez de Gregorio) to solicit the preventive closure of the third runway for landings over Gavà Mar in the east configuration. He clearly saw indications of ecological crimes basing them on the report carried out by the 'Mossos d'Esquadra' that was made public at the beginning of December 2005.
On May 7th, 2006, the neighbors of Castelldefels demonstrate for the third time at the airport of El Prat.
On May 10th, 2006, the AVV Gavà Mar lodges a formal complaint before the European Union against the noise pollution caused by the landing of planes on the third runway of the Barcelona airport in the EAST configuration.
On June 16th, 2006, the government confirms in a written answer to a question formulated by 'ICV' that the new daytime configurations of El Prat airport will go into effect on October 29th, 2006, while the nighttime ones will go into effect during the first trimester of 2007. In a recent meeting between AVV Gavà Mar and AENA they confirmed to us that daytime configurations will become effective a little bit earlier (on October 26th, 2006).
On July 9th, 2006, the neighbors of Castelldefels demonstrate for the fourth time at the airport of El Prat complaining especially about the noise caused by night flights.
On July 25th, 2006, AENA announces to the public that Iberia is losing its ‘handling’ contract with the Barcelona airport . On July 28th, the employees of this company caused an enormous breakdown of the El Prat airport leaving their posts, occupying the runways and forcing the airport to close for 11 hours right in the middle of peak travel time to go on vacation
On July 30th, 2006, the City Council of Castelldefels organizes a gathering in the Plaça de les Palmeres to protest against the noise of the airplanes.
On September 24th, 2006, AVV Gavà Mar finished a round of interviews, which were held during the summer. In chronological order, we talked to the following personalities :
On February 7th, 2007, the City Council of Gavà presented the OMSA (Municipal Office for the Control of the Airport). It is located in Gavà City Hall instead of in Gavà Mar, as they had originally promised to comply with our wishes.
On February 15th, 2007, the new nighttime configurations of El Prat airport began to operate. This solved to a great extent the SECOND BIG PROBLEM of Gavà Mar. The overall acoustic pollution dramatically decreased from the first day. Nevertheless problems continue to exist with planes making an incorrect turn from the third runway and the frequent use of the East configuration, which spoil the implementation of the new nighttime configurations.
On March 22nd, 2007, the Catalan civil society held a meeting in IESE to support an intercontinental airport. AVV Gavà Mar also attended the meeting to obtain firsthand information.
On March 26th, 2007, the Barcelona airport increased its operational capacity from 61 to 62 operations per hour.
On May 3rd, 2007, the Mayors of Begues, Castelldefels, El Prat, Gavà, Sant Boi, Sitges and Viladecans presented a joint statement in which they called for a responsible airport that efficiently and steadily guarantees the rights of the people and the land. In their opinion, this could only happen if the airport operates with segregated runways. . The Mayor of Gavà (Joaquim Balsera) is the man behind this joint statement.
On May 10th, 2007 , the City Council of Castelldefels presented the OMSICA (Municipal Office for the Control and Monitoring of the Airport).
On June 14th, 2007, the Spanish Government's Chamber of Deputies passed a resolution after the non-legally binding propositions presented by ‘ERC’ and ‘CiU’. The resolution urged the Government to find permanent solutions aimed at achieving the highest operational capacity of the airport once the new South terminal begins to operate while ensuring the best environmental conditions along the lines of the existing ones.
On July 24th, 2007, the CSAAB technical group held its 12th meeting, in which AENA accepted to continue operating with segregated runways until the year 2010. This decision will need to be officially approved by the CSAAB next September.
In november 2007, he capacity of El Prat airport increased from 62 to 64 operations per hour and part of the aircraft parking platform was put into service in the future South terminal.
During the first months of 2008, the growth of El Prat airport dramatically stagnated due to the economic crisis and the arrival of the high speed train to Barcelona (AVE) . It does not increase its capacity during the summer season and remains at 64 operations per hour.
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