By Humphrey Carter
WORK on Palma's “green belt” is to start next Easter, it was announced yesterday, and the design for phase two should be completed by the end of the year. City planning councillor Javier Rodrigo de Santos said that the green belt project, approved by the previous city administration, is one of the most important environmental projects carried out by any Palma council and phase two will cover an area of 12.000 square metres between Es Forti and the Feria del Ram waste ground where the annual April fair is held and currently home to the circus near Palma cemetery. The basic design has been drawn up by architect Manuel Ribas Piera and the execution of the project will have to work around the various events and fairs which are held at the fair ground. De Santos said yesterday's announcement “gives the green light to one of the projects which will have the biggest effect on the lives of the people of Palma and physically change the capital.” The first phase, at a cost of around 87 million euros, will receive five million euros of State aid and quite simply involves creating a huge park area running through all the neighbourhoods from the Paseo Mallorca to the Via Centura and in total, will cover an area of 300'000 square metres. Apart from creating parks and open spaces for the public, the city council wants to also build new public sporting, cultural and educational facilities as well as more parking. The overall project should be completed in its entirety by 2007.
Work will start nearly twenty years after the 1985 Palma Planning Laws were passed prohibiting further construction along the Riera which runs through the Paseo Mallorca, guaranteeing open spaces for fair grounds and major events. Over the past few years, Palma city council has spent 27 million euros on compulsory land purchases while re-landscaping the part of the Riera which runs into the city centre across the top of Jaime III. Luis Sitjar stadium, the old home to Real Mallorca football club, is not included in the green belt project despite efforts by the city council to reach an agreement with the consortium which owns the site. The green belt plan is just part of the city council's ambitious plans to re-design Palma for the future.
The sea front from the Gesa building, along to El Molinar is being remodelled with new residential and commercial centres included in the design as well as more open public spaces and a convention centre while the Port of Palma is also to be remodelled. Increasing levels of merchant shipping has caused the city's planning department and the Port Authority to set to work on moving the ferry terminal, currently out at Porto Pi, to the commercial docks. At the same time all the merchant shipping and heavy goods vehicles will be relocated to Porto Pi from where they can find easy access to the Via Centura and are kept away from the Paseo Maritimo and the main accesses to the city centre. Moving the ferry and cruise terminal to the commercial docks will also mean that passengers are disembarking just a short walk away from the city centre. The ultimate goal is to transform Palma into one of the most functional and attractive cities in Europe.

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