The expansion of the El Prat Airport that Aena plans would mean laying cement on protected natural areas. After a long debate this summer, Aena has presented this Friday the draft of its project in which for the first time it is certified black on white that the idea of the airport operator for El Prat is to extend the runway closest to the sea to the east, which would mean extending it over the spaces of the Natura 2000 Network in the Delta del Llobregat. For this reason, the Ministry of Transport assumes that it must also acquire compensatory land to obtain the European permit for the work, which in total amounts to an investment of 1,704 million euros until 2030.
Aena has presented this Friday the Airport Regulation Document (DORA) before the Airport Coordination Commission of Catalonia, a step prior to its approval. It will finally be the Council of Ministers who must endorse the project when it arrives at your table on September 31. Both Unidos Podemos and the Barcelona City Council have shown their opposition to this plan, both due to the expansion of flights and its ecological impact as well as the loss of biodiversity that would be involved in building on the protected areas known as La Ricarda. The Generalitat for its part reached an agreement in August to carry out the investment, but up until now it had defended that the expansion could be carried out without environmental damage.
The document known this Friday and to which this newspaper has had access includes all the investments and works to be carried out at the El Prat Airport during the 2022-2026 stage. The main intervention is the extension of the runway closest to the sea, which expands the airfield of the infrastructure, which will allow a greater fluidity of aircraft circulation by allowing takeoffs and landings also from this second runway. Along with the lengthening of the road, all the necessary infrastructure to operate the new section must also be built, including taxiways, runway accesses and a de-icing platform.
“The expansion of the airfield, and specifically of runway 07R / 25L, and its associated taxiing to the East, maintaining the threshold for landings at the current location, would affect the area of the Natura 2000 Network, so it is necessary also the inclusion of the actions corresponding to the compensatory measures and of the lands that were necessary to acquire for this purpose “, assures the document elaborated by the Ministry. With this forecast, Aena assumes that the lengthening of the runways will affect the areas with European protection and that the work must receive community endorsement to move forward.
The European Commission reminded the Generalitat a few months ago, as the managing authority of the natural space, that Spain had an infringement procedure open for not having established the objectives and adequate conservation measures for the area. In a letter, the Commissioner for the Environment Virginijus Sinkevičius also recalled that any project of this nature will be evaluated by the Commission, which must issue a binding report. “If this evaluation confirms that there will be negative effects, in principle the project cannot be authorized,” explains the head of the environment.
Government sources downplay the document, ensuring that the DORA in no case can establish the characteristics of the work. While they recognize that the project incorporates the provision of lengthening the track above the protected space, they remember that it is written in conditional form because the document must foresee all possible investments. The Generalitat continues to defend that it will be the master plan that will establish the conditions of the project and recalls that it must also have European endorsement.
Aena’s DORA itself already contemplates that the procedures to carry out the expansion of El Prat may be lengthened due to the need, on the one hand, of a new master plan and, on the other, of the European guarantee. “This proposal”, states the document, “is conditioned to have the necessary coverage that enables its implementation materialized in a new Master Plan, whose processing process is expected to be long due to its dependence on various Administrations and their competent Bodies, including the European Commission. “.