Bye law on occupation of public spaces

(From Facebook May 2013)

On May 1st the new ordinance regulating the use of roads and public spaces, will come into force. This ordinance relates to all types of occupation of public areas such as markets, construction, containers, performances etc, as well as the occupation of public spaces with tables and chairs belonging to bars and restaurants.

This last point is perhaps the one which will generate some confusion at the beginning of the implementation of the ordinance, so it is important to clarify some points.

For many years Xàbia has had an ordinance regulating the occupation of public areas by tables and chairs, which has been breached repeatedly, and often ignored; the old ordinance was too restrictive and no action had been taken by the municipal authorities to correct it. This uncontrolled and in many cases exaggerated occupation of public areas for many years, resulted in repeated complaints to the Town Hall by residents affected by the occupation of their streets. In addition many citizens in general, directed countless complaints to the town council, as in some cases access to their homes was blocked by tables and chairs. People with wheel-chairs or pushchairs with young children were forced to turn around due to their inability to pass through certain streets. The excessive occupation of public areas also generated complaints from other business.

Given the large number of complaints, and the repeated failure of the old ordinance (which was much more restrictive) to regulate the situation, the Town Council opened a thorough debate throughout 2012. This matter was discussed in seven separate urban planning meetings, and in an open forum for citizen participation involving politicians, citizens, business people etc.

The result of the efforts of this working group was the draft ordinance, which was reviewed later by the planning committee and then submitted for approval at a plenary session of the Town Council. When this ordinance was put to the vote it was passed and approved by the vote of the 21 councillors who form the municipal corporation, in other words it was unanimously approved. After the statutory period of disclosure to the public, to enable anyone who wished to submit complaints against the ordinance (not one was received!) it was finally adopted. This ordinance should have taken effect on January 1, 2013, but the municipal corporation thought it would be reasonable to impose a four-month moratorium, to further allow citizens to present any improvements they thought were valid. In this respect a proposal was submitted by some business people in the Port suggesting the widening some pavements in Avd Jaime I.

On May 1st this ordinance will take effect, and it is believed it will have a positive result as it will respect public spaces, enabling for example a person to enjoy sitting on a bench by the sea without having to pay for a drink. Citizens will be able to walk in the streets without encountering numerous obstacles. Residents will be able to access their homes without permission. In addition all the bars and restaurants will play by the same rules. All businesses will be entitled to the same terrace space without having to endure abuse from other bars that filled streets and squares with chairs and tables, whereas bars in other areas had no customers. Or those premises which had a small interior but created large terraces on the street, giving unreasonable competition to those who scrupulously respected the law. In this way the customers will be spread over more premises, with clients providing work for all bars and restaurants.

It is also interesting to note that the ordinance reflects what the national law states in this regard and it is mandatory. For example, that there must be a minimum space of 1.80 metres for the passage of citizens, and that terraces must be located along the front of the facade of each building and up to a maximum of 6 metres long. There must not be any fixture anchored into the ground, nor stationary objects that might cause people to stumble.

In Xàbia there will continue to be terraces, there will be tables and chairs, there will still be a wide variety of bars and restaurants where people can sit in the sun. This ordinance is the result of consensus and the work of participating civic bodies. It has also been approved by all the political parties in the council, whose only objective is a rational use of public space without abuses, enabling all citizens to enjoy all the bars and restaurants.

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