Victory for the valley as Junta kick starts process to reclaim heritage status for Valle del Darro in Spain

A DRAMATIC last-minute intervention by local activists was vital in persuading the Junta to reverse a bureaucratic error that stripped an ancient valley near Granada’s Alhambra of its protective status. 

The major blip meant the Darro Valley was delisted in 2020 and its Cultural Interest (BIC) position scrapped just three years after it was awarded the heritage status in 2017. 

Residents sprung into action and scrambled to save the valley – home to the Jesus del Valle monastery and the villages of Beas de Granada and Huetor Santillan – as eager developers closed in on the sacred grounds. 

Without its BIC protection,  Granada residents feared the historic spot would become unrecognisable as real estate investors pushed plans for a motorway and major hotel development. 

And the Board’s insistence on waiting three years to reverse the decision had raised fears that further damage could have been done without any restrictions in place. 

But now thanks to pressure applied by campaigners, the Department of Culture made the U-turn decision at ‘breakneck-speed’ to restart the process of the BIC protection for the Darro Valley.

The move, which the Junta said was made with the ‘utmost respect for the environment and legal security’  came just one week after the  University of Granada, the Academy of Fine Arts and the Centre for Scientific Research joined together to put pressure on the Junta to get the BIC status reinstated. 

British expat Jane Brooke,  who has lived in Spain for 14 years, acknowledged that the combined pressure of the various groups played a  significant role in reversing the catastrophic error. 

She said: “We are all so very, very happy.

“The archeologists at Granada University managed to persuade the University to join the other organisations putting pressure on the Department of Culture in the Junta. 

“There was plenty of press coverage too. It worked!” 

The scale of the destruction a new motorway would have caused the valley was revealed by a study of the Board’s 2019 Gauging Plan, which estimated some 15,000 vehicles per day would pass through the area each day, causing irreversible pollution and environmental damage. 

The extension of the G30 ring road  is part of the regional PP party’s manifesto but environmentalists are optimistic that regaining the BIC status for the valley will put a plug in these plans. 

In a press release, the Department of Culture said: “It is the will of the counselor Patricia del Pozo to protect the entire environment but with the utmost respect for legal security. 

“The request of several consultative institutions has empowered the autonomous administration to start the process again.” 

Irish expat Emily O’Neill, who has lived in Granada for two years, said that reversing the BIC snub was ‘brilliant move’ and told The Olive Press she was delighted the Junta ‘reconsidered their position to the benefit of the environment and residents’. 

Ms O’Neill, a yoga teacher who’s classes overlook the valley, described the delisting of the ancient monument that runs through Granada as ‘absurd’ and added that the heritage protection ‘was what it deserved’. 

Delighted locals and history lovers took to social media to celebrate. One man wrote: ‘Granada’s Durro Valley is incredibly beautiful and should remain a protected heritage site. I am glad we  are taking steps to preserve the city, not penalise it.’

Another added that Granada’s current leaders would be ‘betraying their forefathers, who endlessly worked to preserve Grenada’s economy and heritage. If they didn’t protect sites from unnecessary development where would we be?’. 

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