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L’Escala’s chemical council

L’Escala, where I’ve had a writing base for 25 years, is a lovely place. It’s at the northern end of the Costa Brava; it was a working town before it was a holiday destination and it still is, although now the ex-pats outnumber the ethnic population in the summer, and for much of the year. Their community is a huge contributor to the town’s revenue. Hundreds, even thousands of its houses and apartments are occupied for only a few weeks out of every year, but there are no tax breaks, locally or nationally. The ex-pats take very little from the town in return; most are older people with no children to educate. Much of their health coverage is provided by the European Health Card, and most of the full-timers have private insurance.

Net contributors, significantly, so what do they, and the hordes of tourists who enrich the town, get in return? Nada. Zilch. Nothing.

Those who think that Scots people are tight with a banknote have never met the people who run the Ajuntamente de L’Escala. The rubbish collection system in the suburbs where most expats live is a public health scandal, and half the street lights on one of the main drags are switched off to save costs. As for the roads, most of them are a joke, a rally course of potholes and protuberances caused by tree roots.

Worst of all though is the council’s attitude to sanitation. L’Escala boasts about three kilometres of beaches. They are the finest in the region and they must draw at least a million people, of all nationalities, throughout the extended summer months. The sun-seekers, wind-surfers, and pedalo-riders are served from May to October by beach-bars, a dozen or more. Their leases are issued by the Ajuntamente after closed-bid competition, and this year rentals have been increased substantially.

What does the council offer the bar operators in return? A few, very few, chemical toilets,  the kind you’ll find on building sites, to service all those people, and give them an alternative to peeing in the sea along the blue-flag beaches. These eyesores are deposited after the start of the season and they are taken away before the end. This year there was a suggestion that they might not be provided at all, since they needed cleaning, until the beach bar proprietors protested.

There may not be a cat’s chance in hell of this filtering through to Sr Puig, the autocratic Alcalde, or to any of his cronies. But if there is, I would like to suggest that in the course of this winter they instal a series of permanent toilet blocks along the beaches. They needn’t be huge, simply adequate, and the whole project would probably cost a hell of a lot less than the money they’ve spent building monuments and planting mature olive trees on the town’s traffic islands.

This would not be a gift, although the councillors might see it that way, but an investment in the industry that has built their schools, their indoor swimming pool and gym, their new football stadium, and the new Plaça Catalunya with its underground car park that the locals never use because it costs money.

It would also be an investment in their own electoral prospects, because a hell of a lot of those ex-pats I mentioned earlier will have votes in next year’s municipal election, and right now, I know how they’re likely to be cast.

Categories: General, Politics
  1. Fergus
    September 23, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    With some experience of the Costa Brava and other Costas in Spain, I know what you mean and your toilet idea is great, if a bit utopian. They might agree to build toilet blocks but rather than connecting them all to the proper sewage system (costa lot), they would dig a trench across the beach, put a pipe in and fire it all into the sea. Happy swimming!

    • September 23, 2014 at 6:02 pm

      No, that they would not do. They have septic tanks in Spain, don’t they?

  2. Fergus
    September 24, 2014 at 2:03 pm

    Of course they do, have you seen them? You should be able to drink the water that comes out the other end but, heaven forbid, people put all kinds of strange things down the toilet (the worst thing you can do is clean it with bleach) and that stops all bacterial activity inside, meaning that you have to have tankers come to pump them out regularly, if not……! I’m not out to criticise anything here, that’s just how it seems to be and not just on the Costa Brava. You’re quite right, it would be better to have a pumped-out septic tank than a few miserable chemical toilets that any self-respecting human being wouldn’t dream of using, especially when it’s 35° in the sun.

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