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Legislation vs reality

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Gonzalo García Fernández


Ferrol is a Town Hall which is located at the north of the Province of Coruña, Spain. Regarding to its population, it is all concentrated on its inner side, next to the sea loch, making the part that is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean more uninhabited and in a more natural environment.


Regarding the beaches, there are 2 kinds: the first ones are the inner ones (placed at the sea loch) which have a calm and polluted sea with muddy soils, while the second ones are opened to the ocean and half of them have the distinctive "Blue flag". This makes the last ones be the favorites to visit.

The most popular beaches of the area (Doniños, San Jorge, Santa Comba and Ponzos) are located one after the other and have very similar characteristics. All of them are beaches with more than 1400 meters in terms of length, they also have some fine and white sand dunes, as well as completely clean water thanks to the fact that these beaches opened to the ocean, so its water gets renewed permanently.

"Photo 1. View of Ferrol and its four most important beaches (Source: Google Earth)".


Doniños and San Jorge Beach have this environmental distinction, and consequently, offer some facilities that, being respectful with the environment, enables the beaches to support all the visitors they receive without massification. On the other hand, Santa Comba Beach, which has a large dune system, has very few actions carried out since dunes are, according to the Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992, sites of Community importance (SCIs), apart from belonging to the Spanish Public Domain.

The problem and the reason why this blog is written, is due to the current situation of the fourth beach of the area: Ponzos. This beach, like the previous ones, is in a natural environment, almost untouched, with a large system of dunes. It has very few actions carried out, however the few existing, are very aggressive with the environment.

The beach has 3 parking areas: the western, central and eastern parking. The western parking is paved, which means, it has a bituminous layer forming its surface, and is completely located inside the “Maritime Terrestrial Public Domain”. According to the Spanish Law 22 of Coasts of 1988, which is the most important authority in matters of regulation, protection and use of the maritime shore, defines the Maritime Terrestrial Public Domain as:


1. The shore of the sea and the estuaries, which includes:


a) The maritime-terrestrial zone comprised between the screened low or maximum equinoctial line, and the limit as far as the waves reach in the largest known storms.


b) Beaches or storage areas for loose materials, such as sands, gravels and pebbles, including escarpments, berms and dunes.


2. The territorial sea and the internal waters.


3. The natural resources of the economic zone and the continental shelf.


4. Dune systems, cliffs, marshes, coastal wetlands, etc. are also part of the DPMT.

The Spanish Law of Coasts from 1988 is very strict about the permitted and forbidden uses in each coastal zone it distinguishes, and it states that any type of activity will be banned except for those ones which cannot have other location (the circulation and parking of vehicles are completely forbidden). Therefore, it is evident how what the law states is not carried out, since the vehicles use this car park as a parking place at any time of the year, whether summer or not.

Secondly, there is a central and eastern parking. These other car parks are located outside the Public Domain (although very close to the boundary line). The problem is that in summer, given to the lack of space, cars park outside these areas. This information is rather important, since cars use the existing natural paths among the dunes, which also connect the car parks, to circulate. The consequences of this problem are the emissions and the fact that cars use indiscriminately the existing trails generates a complex situation, since dunes are not only coastal protection elements, but they are, as previously mentioned, SCIs; The reserve of sand for the natural regeneration of the beaches, the protection of the coasts, the richness of flora and fauna in an area of ​​transitional waters and their enormous ecological value are the factors that make these natural systems have so much social and environmental value.

"Photo 2. Image of the Viewer of the Maritime Terrestrial Public Domain (Source: Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment)".

The simple fact that cars circulate and park among the dunes, not only negatively affects the beach in terms that its morphology is strangled, but also the passage of vehicles forms a wider, defined and uniform path inciting the rest of vehicles take it, causing the erosion of the dunes and turning it into an endless cycle.

As time goes by, the environmental factor is becoming more and more important due to the growing human pressure on the planet. For this reason, it is necessary to carry out a bunch of measures which will not only reduce the emissions or dismantled land volumes, but also protect the closest environments we have. Removing the bituminous parking which is placed at the public domain and moving it outside the boundary line would allow the Law of Coasts be respected, apart from reducing the visual impact and damage to the environment. Regarding the dune trails, similar actions have been carried out in other beaches like Doniños, where the construction of a coastal path was carried out over these natural trails. In this way not only is it possible to avoid the entry of vehicles into the public domain and the circulation among the dunes, but it would also improve the accessibility and mobility for the visitors.

Observation: The second picture which is attached, the Line of Demarcation is represented as a green line, while the pink line is the one that delimits the Protection Servitude.


Gonzalo García Fernández

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