Leserbrief zum Artikel ´Die Schranken zum Paradies´

23-11-2010  

I read with appreciation your article "Die Schranken zum Paradies". It is a difficult and complex subject and you have managed to distil an excellent summary of the situation from a huge mass of often seemingly contradictory information. I would like however to make a few comments and correct a few points.

Firstly and most importantly, I would like to emphasize that the "raison d´etre" of Es Rafal is the conservation of the natural environment and not the creation of some sort of paradise for rich people. This is a project which is of the utmost importance, especially in the Sierra de Tramuntana where ever-increasing tourism in its many forms threatens the increasingly fragile natural habitat of this part of the island. In this respect, Es Rafal is included in the LIC Zone of the NATURA 2000 network, established on the basis of the Directives Habitat 92/43/CEE to conserve the natural habitat of fauna and wild flora. The estate forms part of the European Network of "WILDLIFE ESTATES" as an exemplary estate recognized by the European Commission. The estate also forms part of the European Network of "FRIENDS´ HABITATS", established under the auspices of the RISE Foundation. In addition, Es Rafal is a reserve of fauna of great interest, with the confirmed presence of more than 100 "terrestrial protected vertebrates" according to "Red List of Iberian Vertebrates" prepared by the "Museum of Natural Sciences" (CSIC), and according to the list of valuable species classified in the Birds Directive 79/409/CEE and FHH Directive 92/43/CEE.

As you rightly point out, the purpose of any future rental of the house, after the restoration process is complete, will be to provide the financial support necessary for the conservational and agricultural activities of the finca, and for the spiritual and environmental courses and retreats it is planned to hold there.

It will be of interest for your readers who are keen hikers to know that, in fact, the gates of Es Rafal are not closed to walkers. Anyone can visit or pass through Es Rafal by prior arrangement either with the finca directly, through the Ayuntamiento of Banyalbufar, the hotels of Banyalbufar, or through many walking guides.

Despite the allegations of some, a similar procedure has been the custom since time immemorial. The family of the last "amo" of Es Rafal to live in the finca, Jaime Florit Bernat of Soller, remember well that those wishing to visit Es Rafal or pass through the finca used always to seek the permission either of the old Marques in Palma or of the amo at the house. Now unfortunately the days of a few people passing from time to time with courtesy and respect have been replaced by large numbers who insist on supposed "rights" that have never existed.

You also refer to the annual visit to Font des Garbell by the Banyalbufarins. Contrary to what is reported, the owners are very happy to host this visit, the purpose of which is a "Dia de Recreo" for the Banyalbufarins. Unfortunately, a few years ago, several associations attempted to hijack this friendly, family event for political purposes, organizing demonstrations and incendiary press coverage. Despite this, the owners have never refused any request from the villagers to hold this event. However, during recent years no such request has been made. The decision not to hold this event is the choice of those associations organizing it and not of the owners of Es Rafal.

We feel it is a shame that you chose to print the map provided by Bany-al-bahar since this perpetuates the myth that the old road to Estellencs passes through Es Rafal. However, we appreciate that in the text you have explained our opinion on this. Unfortunately the direct result of such misinformation is repeated vandalism to the finca and unnecessary ill-feeling. The fact that the old road between Banyalbufar and Estellencs passes along the coast far below Es Rafal (stretching from the village to the famous Sa Torre des Animes and then along below the carretera between Banyalbufar to Estellencs directly to the Planicia entrance gates) can easily be verified, for example by referring to the "Historia de Banyalbufar Segles XIII-XVI", the writings of the Archduke Luis Salvador (who himself travelled the old road), the 2000 Normas Subsidiaries of Banyalbufar, the Catalog of Caminos of Banyalbufar, the recent law 10/2010, and the "Proposta d'Assignacio d'Usos i Intensitats dels Accessos a la Finca de Planicia" of the Consell Insular. The Catalog of Caminos of Banyalbufar describes this old road as a "cami reial, cami public, cami municipal". If pedestrian access to Planicia is so urgent, why has not this road been opened since it is the ideal link between Banyalbufar and the entrance gates of Planicia?

Fortunately Mallorca has not yet become a "banana republic" and, despite the undue influence exerted on the government by a few associations, the rule of law yet prevails. Two separate judicial Sentencias establish the privacy of the roads through Es Rafal and its neighbours. If the various associations or the Administration wish to change this, if we understand correctly there are two principal options: 1) To prove in the Civil Courts that the roads are public property (a process which the Ayuntamiento or the associations could have started many years ago but which, for some reason, they appear reluctant to initiate); or 2) Establish that the paths are necessary in the "general interest", that there exist no reasonable alternatives, and then expropriate, paying the appropriate compensation.  

There is another option, much less costly and involving much less animosity – to make amicable agreements with the various owners involved. In fact, over the past ten years, the owners of Es Rafal and their neighbours have made numerous offers – on no less than six occasions – in attempts to reach agreement with every level of government from the Govern Balear, to the Consell de Mallorca, and the Ayuntamiento of Banyalbufar. Unfortunately, more often than not, such efforts have been opposed or even blocked by supposedly cultural and environmental associations, and groups in favour of opening all roads to the public, who choose to ignore offers by owners to provide alternative, often much more suitable and even more beautiful, routes that pass away from homes and farms and livestock, seeking only that all the roads are fully open and that they can pass along them indiscriminately without regard to their suitability, for the disruption caused, and for the potential environmental impact. 

The old road to Planicia, not used by Planicia since more than 50 years, is itself in continual use by motor vehicles as the sole access to nine fincas and is therefore completely unsuitable for walkers. Parallel to this old road there exists another old and beautiful alternative path to Planicia through the encinar forest of Son Sanutges, S'Arbocar and Es Rafal, known as the Cami d´Alt. This alternative route is not only more appropriate for walkers but is also much richer in its scenic, ethnological, cultural and environmental interest. Already this path is being used by many walkers.

Your editorial asks the question "Tramuntana: Reserviet fur Rieche oder Zugang fur alle". Should it not be possible that it is for both? There is certainly enough space and enough beautiful views for everyone! For centuries the historic private fincas of the Tramuntana have been the authentic source and true guardians of the countryside and of its culture and natural environment. Apart from any other consideration, the government has neither the financial nor the human resources to manage and protect such a huge area (nor indeed the funds to expropriate everything they dream of owning!). Why should not the future lie in cooperation between owners and the Administration for the good of all and for the conservation of the precious natural heritage of the Sierra de Tramuntana?

Finally, I would like to advise that, contrary to what is reported in the article, Axel Ball is not a shareholder of Partero SL but is a co-administrator of the company along with myself.

Once again thank you for your efforts to report on a difficult and complex subject.

Yours sincerely,
Stephen Benson
Administrador, Partero SL


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