News Articles

13/11/2009 - Democracy Under Fire

Five Costa Blanca councillors facing prosecution for standing up to the “bullying and intimidation” of a powerful developer were cheered by supporters as they went into court this week.

Little Parcent claimed victory last month in its long running battle to stop 1,800 new homes being built around the village and destroying the countryside but failed to derail a prosecution.

But despite the three plans being thrown out by the Valencia Government, Mayor Maximo Revilla, Deputy Mayor Jacqueline Cotterill, and Councillors Fabiola Mora, Jaime Mora and Joan Carles Poquet were forced to give statements to a judge in Denia on Monday.
Developer Terras de l’Horta SL , part of the Ballester empire and looking to build 1,400 houses as the El Repla project, earlier lodged the private criminal lawsuit against the five and the town clerk, demanding they be imprisoned for fraud after “crippling” the plan.

Parcent villagers of all nationalities – their numbers swelled to over 150 by members of Abusos Urbanisticos No! – stood outside court under umbrellas to demonstrate their support and call for the case to be thrown out.
Campaign group Veins de Parcent adopted the umbrella as a symbol of its protest after villagers demonstrated outside the former town hall in the pouring rain in January 2006 when the previous Partido Popular ruled council first gave the plans provisional approval in the last days of the controversial LRAU land grab law.

On Monday members of Veins unfurled a large banner. Written in Valenciano, it read: “Let us support democracy, justice and sustainability”.
Jenny Bussey, a former councillor and a member of Veins, said the case as started after the local elections in 2007. “The first we knew about it was when Jacqui’s son came home from school and asked if it was true she was going to prison.”
She said the case was continuing “after the horse has bolted” because the regional government had scrapped the development because of a lack of water and the damage to the environment.
Jenny said the developer alleged there was “corruption and wrong doing” by the council – despite the local authority being careful to act by the letter of the law – and former Veins members Jacqui and Joan Carles had somehow illicitly “infiltrated” the ruling Democratic Coalition Party.
And she said part of the party’s manifesto to win the election in Parcent was clearly to oppose the three developments and call for sustainable growth in the community.
“The whole thing is incredible and totally undemocratic,” she added. “The judge must now decide whether the case is pursued or archived.”

Dave Brock, who lives on Barranquet, an area covered by the El Repla plan, told Round Town News: “This is a deliberate attempt by the developer to intimidate the town hall, the councillors were legally elected and on a mandate to have the illegally passed plans annulled.
“To me, it is a direct attack on the democratic process in Spain by an unscrupulous promoter.”
And he added: “It is bullying and intimidation and an interference with the wishes of the people of Parcent – who do not want large scale development in the area.”
Charles Svoboda, of the AUN, said the group wanted to show its support for the victims of a “show trial” and called for the case to be archived by the judge.
He said: “It is a distortion of good legal principle that this case is here at all. It is unfair pressure and intimidation and should not happen.
“Valencia has said the plans cannot go ahead, so why is this case proceeding? It makes a mockery of the legal system.”

The five politicians answered questions from the judge and their legal team in Courtroom Five and signed statements.
In a short statement, council spokesman Joan Carles Poquet said they had refused to address questions from a developer who had turned to the criminal law “to coerce and pressure” the corporation in a bid to win “economic gain.”
However, he said the councillors had always acted within the law and in the best interests of the community.
As part of the campaign, the village won the backing of the Valencian and Madrid ombudsman, ruling the previous PP administration was wrong in law to give approval to the plans because it had not gained a favourable water and environmental impact report – the water authority also underlined there was no water for the three developments.

Parcent’s ongoing struggle against the massive development was heralded by the European Parliament as a model protest using legitimate democratic means.
Danish MEP Margret Auken, author of a scathing report on abuses of human rights under Spain’s controversial property legislation, told villagers in September it “was not fair” that in a little community that had made democracy work people were “sued and taken to court.”


Written by Jack Troughton   Source Round Town News