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Experts and tourists are suspicious of the initiative to close the Plaza de España in Seville to guarantee its conservation


Highlights: Seville mayor José Luis Sanz wants to close the Plaza de España and charge tourists to access it. Sanz says the fee will be used to guarantee the maintenance of the enclave. The Minister of Finance, who must approve the project, has been categorically opposed. “Privatizing public space cannot be the answer to its care and preservation,” he says. The City Council's president dissociates the initiative from his request from the Government's request.

The Minister of Finance, who must approve the project, has been categorically opposed: “Privatizing public space cannot be the answer to its care and preservation.”

It's been just four hours since Christian and Irene landed in Seville from Italy.

The first thing they did, after leaving their suitcases, was go to the Plaza de España.

“For us this is the most iconic place in the city, what we wanted to see the most, more than the Cathedral,” he explains.

When they are told that the intention of the mayor of Seville, José Luis Sanz (PP), is to close it to the public and charge tourists, their faces change.

“It seems crazy, this is a public space,” Christian replies and puts Venice, in his country, as an example: “They wanted to close St. Mark's Square there, but it was impossible.”

The councilor's proposal to close the monumental complex designed by architect Aníbal González and charge tourists a fee for access continues to generate controversy and surprise, not only among opposition political parties, but also among experts.

“It gives the impression that it is a project that is not very mature because we cannot place it in a general context, nor does it allow us to confirm that this initiative will be something isolated or if it will extend to other spaces,” says urban planner Juan Ruesga, who also warns that it has not been agreed upon with the rest of the main actors.

Among them the Government, which is co-owner of the space.

Sanz said this morning that he will now present the project to the new subdelegate of the Government - who has called the initiative disloyal for having made it public without having brought it to the attention of the Executive - and then with the Ministry of Finance, on which the General Directorate of Finance depends. Heritage that should sign the agreement proposed by the council.

He will have to be very persuasive, because for now, he is counting on 'no'.

Its owner, the Sevillian María Jesús Montero, has been categorical through her account all.

Of course, the Ministry of Finance is not going to lend itself to this.”

Privatizing public space cannot be the answer to the care and preservation of the Plaza de España in Seville, a cultural jewel that belongs to everyone.

Of course, the Ministry of Finance is not going to lend itself to this.

— María Jesús Montero (@mjmonteroc) February 26, 2024

The mayor insisted this morning that the intention to close the square and apply a tax is exclusively intended to guarantee the maintenance of the enclave in view of the anniversary of the 1929 Universal Exhibition, which is what the Plaza de España was designed for. .

“This is an emblematic space and it has to arrive in good condition by 2029 for that commemoration, this space cannot be maintained only with the IBI that Sevillians pay,” he pointed out.

The fee, the amount of which is to be determined with the Government of Spain, but which the mayor estimates between three and four euros, would serve to address the conservation and security problems of the María Luisa Park, where the Plaza de España stands, which It has been the target of vandalism for years, which results in destruction of the tiles, benches and other ceramic decorations that give it much of its uniqueness.

“It will allow for 24-hour surveillance, 365 days a year and the creation of a permanent restoration workshop dedicated to preserving the state of the square,” the mayor stressed, after assuring that “Seville does not have an army of local police officers to guarantee the security of the premises.”

The Seville Heritage Defense Association (ADEPA), which has made the protection of the Plaza de España one of its main flags, already proposed in 2018 that a fee be applied to visitors to allocate the proceeds to the maintenance of the complex.

Its president, Joaquín Egea, dissociates his request from the City Council's initiative.

“The circumstances in which we raise it are different,” he points out.

“The Plaza de España suffers three problems that have not yet been solved, its conservation is defective, there is a serious problem of vandalism and it has an office area that, among other things, involves the establishment of air conditioning machines that have not yet been removed. ", Explain.

For Egea, the contracts that the different municipal governments have signed to try to guarantee security in the complex "are deficient and useless."

“The damage continues in the park,” he points out, something that the mayor himself has also recognized this morning when pointing out that the conservation contract for 100,000 euros that has just been put out to tender “does not solve the problem.”

“If anyone believes that the conservation of the Plaza de España is going to require only 100,000 euros, they are delusional,” he said.

ADEPA considers that the approach to closing the Plaza de España has “dark areas that are not fully clarified.”

Egea demands transparency about the destination of that fee that is eventually collected and also considers whether it should be necessary because it considers that private events that have the Plaza de España as their epicenter, such as the Icónica festival or the Dior fashion show, have due to leaving sufficient income that should have been allocated to the conservation of the space.

“If this rent covers the conservation and surveillance needs, the closure of the Plaza de España would not be necessary.”

ADEPA has been asking for some time to know what the income and expenses of the Plaza de España are, without success.

This newspaper has also asked about what the City Council receives for giving that space to the Icónica festival, without obtaining specific information.

The mayor, however, has not seemed in favor of extending the agreement with the festival organization, which expires in 2025. “I don't want even one more tent in the Plaza de España,” he said.

“It is a strange rate”

But this public-private collaboration could be the solution to obtain income without having to impact security and conservation expenses on foreign tourists and on natives from outside the province of Seville, according to Ana García, professor at the Faculty. of Tourism and Finance from the University of Seville.

“It is true that these events have an impact on the space, but they guarantee an external impact on the city's image and also income that could be allocated to its maintenance,” she points out.

García is also suspicious of the collection purpose used by the City Council.

“The fact that other fundraising instruments are not available is not sufficient justification to close a plaza that is a public space for coexistence and free access,” she says.

“This initiative is rare because it has not been proposed like this anywhere else,” he points out, alluding to the finalist nature of conservation and security that has been given to the measure.

“If it is for that, it could be applied to many other places in Seville that also suffer vandalization,” says García, an opinion shared by Ruesga and the Andalusian Federation of Travel Agencies.

“Tourists already pay for accommodation, for transportation, for tickets to monuments, activities for which the City Council already collects fees indirectly,” indicates its president Luis Arroyo.

“We also do not agree with the reference to security, because in the María Luisa Park there are no problems of that type and if it is vandalism, it is a citizen security problem that the visitor should not assume,” he adds.

The mayor also opposes those who question that a public space is being privatized and has given the example of the Alcázar of Seville, in addition to pointing out that Sevillians will be able to continue enjoying the Plaza de España.

“The use of space is not going to change for the Sevillian.

No one questions this, but a man who comes from London and has to pay three or four euros to take a photo in the Plaza de España just like I do when I go to London...”, he indicated.

In the Plaza de España there are those who share the City Council's vision, like Antonio and his wife, a couple from Valencia who see the initiative as a good thing as long as the money raised is used for conservation.

"If the maintenance is profitable, it seems good to me, now they even charge you to go to the bathroom, the monuments are not easy to preserve, look at paying two euros with all the people who come to visit the Plaza de España," says Antonio.

This enclave is the second most visited in Seville after the Cathedral.

According to the mayor, of the four million tourists that the city receives, at least 80% visit the Plaza de España.

Among them Loraine and Clifford, a couple from Canada.

“This is a place for people, it's inside a park, it doesn't seem to make much sense,” she says.

Marta López, a Sevillian who comes from exercising in the María Luisa Park, is also clear: “What am I going to have to do, bring my ID to be able to come run?”

Sanz also wanted to separate this debate from the tourist tax, a measure that he does not oppose, but “as long as the sector requests it and it is determined who collects it,” he noted.

The mayor has compared his initiative to the payment at the Colosseum in Rome.

“You pay a tourist tax there, but you also pay to visit it.”

“Perhaps what really needs to be rethought is whether this situation with so much tourism is sustainable,” García warns.

"Parallels cannot be made with other spaces"

From around the town hall, other open spaces such as the Pueblo Español in Barcelona or the Mérida Theater space have been given as examples, in which an entrance fee is charged to the public.

Even the Ministry of Tourism - contrary to the tourist tax - also emphasizes that the Plaza de España is an Asset of Cultural Interest (BIC) in the category of monument, so this construction obtains the maximum degree of protection established by it. the Spanish Historical Heritage Law.

“It is therefore neither an avenue nor a street,” the sources consulted point out.

“Parallels cannot be made either in the character of the premises or in the square meters.

In Mérida the space is limited and the Pueblo Español is much smaller in square meters,” Ruesga emphasizes.

“The Plaza de España is a unique building of the highest order worldwide,” she adds.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2024-02-26

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