The Orihuela government has begun the expropriation of the stretch of the promenade that runs through the Bellavista 1 urbanisation of Cabo Roig. Acting Deputy Mayor, Rafael Almagro, says that the City Council wants to reach a friendly economic agreement with the owners, in setting a fair price.

However the urbanisation residents continue to oppose the measure, insisting that the council build a new pathway in front of, and under, the cliff face.

The 30 metre section that is under dispute, and which was opened by the council in 2015, following a public campaign spearheaded by The Leader Newspaper, affects just 7 ground and 7 first floor apartments, all of which are only used on an occasional basis, purely as holiday accommodation.

A Community appeal in 2016 to the Contentious Administrative Court in Elche subsequently found in favour of the owners and against the council, nullifying the resolutions adopted when it was shown that the Paseo Bellavista I Residential was a private path, belonging to the urbanization above the cliff, and was never in the public domain.

But next to involve themselves in the dispute was the Provincial Coastal Service, which in May 2017, announced that the land in Aguamarina is a coastal right of way and, therefore, could not be closed by the urbanisation, a situation that is still continuing in the Provincial courts today.

Now the Oriolan council says that it intends to reach an economic agreement with the owners of the urbanisation to execute the purchase of that stretch of walkway that runs in front of the 14 holiday apartments, and that has been used exclusively by them to access their homes for many years, before the demolition of the gateway and the wall that blocked public passage.

Almagro, who is also responsible for the Planning Department, explained that “I have already issued an order for the expropriation to be made, but I would rather an economic solution be reached so that this section of the seafront walkway can be brought into municipal ownership.”

Until 2015, the 30 metre section of the Aguamarina and Cabo Roig walkway in question, remained closed to the public due to the installation of a wall, forcing anyone wishing to walk along the front or to the beach, a detour of about two kilometres.

Orihuela begins compulsory purchase of the Paseo Bellavista
Orihuela begins compulsory purchase of the Paseo Bellavista

One of the owners, Henrik Wiik-Hansen said that. “In the summer more than 2,000 people pass along the walkway each day.”

Now the affected owners say that they continue to reject the expropriation and propose an alternative solution that will require the authorities to build a pathway structure along the front of the cliff face, enabling their top pathway to remain in private hands.

They say that they have commissioned surveyors, who estimate the price of expropriation at 700,000 euros, while the estimated cost of building the walkway in front of the cliff, and which land they are willing to give free of charge, would be about 200,000 euros plus VAT.

“It will cost the Town Council less to build a new section along the cliff face than to expropriate the private pathway, says Henrik Wiik-Hansen, spokesman for the residents of Bellavista I.

The solution proposed by the owners is not accepted by the Provincial Coastal Service, however, according to Almagro. “We asked about that proposal but we were told that you cannot not build anything on the cliff face. It would not be allowed. So the suggestion has now been discarded and the only solution is to reach an agreement with the urbanisation or go ahead with the expropriation,” said the deputy mayor.

Henrik Wiik-Hansen said that the community of owners had commissioned a study by a technical architect and an expert appraiser who calculated a 30,000 euros decrease in value of the apartments if the expropriation of the path is carried out, or if the walkway remains open.

So according to my maths, if the owners accept their own expert appraisers valuation, the claim for the 14 properties should be rather less at 420,000 euros. However on the occasions that I have visited the properties to discuss the matter, the apartments have all been locked up and uninhabited, so just how much of an inconvenience are the owners really suffering?

The question would appear to be, “Why should 14 occasional holiday apartment owners be allowed to hold hundreds of thousands of pedestrians, residents, holidaymakers and their families, to ransom over a 30 metre stretch of coastal walkway”?