Aena’s plans to expand the third runway at the Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport, reflected this Friday in the Airport Regulation Document (DORA), opened a crisis within the Government this Friday, on the one hand, and have led to a clash with the central government. All on account of the impact on the protected natural areas of La Ricarda, in the Llobregat delta, something that was taken for granted in the operator’s numerous meetings with city councils, but which has now raised new criticism, especially within ERC.
The Aena project for the El Prat airport plans to extend a runway above protected natural areas
“We demand explanations and the rectification of a DORA that damages the protected area of La Ricarda”, reacted bluntly, President Pere Aragonès, before the verification that the document included the affectation of La Ricarda. Its forcefulness, however, contrasted with the little surprise that the same text generated in the Vice Presidency. Sources from Jordi Puigneró’s team, from Junts, valued that none of this contradicted the agreement reached by the Government and the Generalitat in August for the expansion of El Prat.
Finally, and taking advantage of the fact that the entire Government held a joint work conference this Saturday in the Vall d’en Bas (Girona), the spokesperson appeared to tackle the crisis and launch a joint message. Patrícia Plaja remarked that no extension will be endorsed that “destroys” the ecosystem of the La Ricarda lagoon. “It is a message from the Government”, he wanted to make clear.
In this way, the Catalan Executive marks distances with respect to the expansion of the airport and the agreement itself that they reached with the Government in August.
From Transport, for its part, they did not hide their surprise this Friday. They defend that the DORA, the regulatory document for the period 2022-2026 and that has to go through the Council of Ministers this month, simply transfers the content of the agreement reached between both executives. That is, “the expansion of runway 07R / 25L to the east”, as well as the creation of the Satellite Terminal in T1 and a joint investment of 1.7 billion.
The extension of the track, which is the smallest and closest to the sea, affects the protected area of La Ricarda. The truth is that Aena has never hidden it and therefore, in its meetings with the affected administrations, it has always ensured that there would be compensatory measures at the environmental level in other areas. In fact, it is known that the EU has to pronounce on the work.
But in ERC they showed their discrepancy on Friday. Since they reached the agreement, closed by the Vice Presidency –the powers of Territory depend on them–, the formation of President Aragonès has always argued that the agreement is to expand the track, but that it does not specify how. And at that point they stressed that they would not allow that extension to pass by laying cement on the La Ricarda lagoon. In his opinion, the fact that this has been included in the DORA means having gone a step beyond the “consensus established within the Government”.
This Saturday Roger Torrent, current Minister of Business and Labor, has insisted on it and has ensured that the environmental criteria will be “inalienable”. He has ensured that they are committed to the growth of the infrastructure and its conversion into an international reference airport, but provided that it does not harm the protected areas. After the appearance of Patrícia Plaja, it seems that this is the definitive and joint position of the Government.
This position not only surprised the Ministry of Transport, who insist that nothing that has been agreed has changed, but also the city councils of Barcelona and El Prat, opposed to the enlargement, which they have taken the opportunity to charge against the Generalitat. Janet Sanz, Councilor for Urban Planning of the Barcelona City Council, reminded them that the Secretary of Territory and Mobility, Isidre Gavín, endorsed the plan during the meeting of the Airport Coordination Committee of Catalonia in which the DORA was presented on Friday.
“What the Government has to do is rectify what it signed on August 2, because expanding the airport is charging the Ricarda, more emissions, more developmentalism and more of the last century,” Sanz tweeted.