THE tragedy at Calle Rodriguez Arias where a building collapsed is no surprise to me nor should it be to Yolanda Garvi, City Councilor for Urbanism. There are now suspicions that major work has occurred without approvals. During the tourist boom here 40-50 years ago whole buildings were erected without permits. 10 years ago this had ended but major renovations were still carried out on the QT. I doubt much has changed since.

Minor unauthorized renovations would kick off at 1pm Fridays when building inspectors (like lawyers) start their weekend and then go full steam to be completed before they restart on Monday morning. Larger jobs would maximize indoor work during week days and limit skip filling and bulk material unloading to the weekend for similar reasons. The essential was to get the neighbours approval to avoid denuncias.

Sometimes the permits had to be obtained. I bought an abandoned bar with a small flat incorporated. I obtained the community's OK to supplant the bar and expand the apartment but to make it official, to change the title deeds and most importantly to sell the property cleanly I had to make the renovation into a project and obtain the building permits.

My friends recommended the lady architect especially as her husband, also an architect, worked in the local government. I took her plans of the building as was and as I wished and we continued to hone the design by fax. She visited the site once after it had been sanitized when its squatter had been removed. From this apparently meager base she managed to produce a 50 page plan which was approved by Urbanismo.

Her single visit was one more than the technical architect who I never even met. This did not impede him in providing weekly reports on the work of the officially qualified builder, plumber and electrician. Neither the builder, plumber nor electrician did any work on the renovation (or even passed by) they simply provided their officially approved signatures to the work done for which, like the technical architect, they were paid.

The technical architect of the Urbanisation Department, obviously a very busy man, took 3 weeks to show up when the project was finished. He made up for this delay by taking only FOUR minutes to scan the work, approve it and leave.

This may have been influenced by the fact that my technical architect was moonlighting in Palma while on his main job with Urbanismo in Inca and correspondingly the inspecting architect for Palma similarly moonlighted in Inca. Was this professional confidence, the old boys' network or simply you scratch my back I'll scratch yours? The work was carried out on the ground floor of a 5 storey building involving removing all internal walls all without “proper official control”.

If an accident had happened then or later everything was in order paper work wise. As it happens all the removed walls were not load bearing and I'd like to reassure everyone, especially the neighbours above, that all the work was closely supervised. None of this was done to save money but was the way it was done then. And now?

Mike Lillico
Playa de Palma


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