The center-right majority controlling the local government in Sardinia has proposed a bill that aims to modify the Regional Landscape Plan (PPR)—protection rules that since 2006 have preserved the island’s coast from property speculation and cementification. On Wednesday, the Regional Council took up the legislation on Wednesday and has continued discussions and all week, with Thursday’s debate lasting until 3:30 a.m., when it was adjourned for Friday. The opposition is waging a tough battle against the assault of the majority, and is using filibuster tactics, filing no less than 690 amendments to the proposed bill, of which 500 still have to be debated.
With this proposal—with the ostensive goal of completing the construction of a four-lane road between Sassari and Alghero, which has faced objections from the Superintendence of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the provinces of Sassari and Nuoro—the center-right wants to “correct” the PPR in order to circumvent the landscape preservation constraints, both regional and national. The center-left minority has prepared for a fight, convinced that the four-lane road project is only a pretext to attack “protected areas” such as agricultural areas, the land along the coast and identity-related heritage.
The center-right has the numbers to achieve its goals, and the group leaders have already reminded their councilmembers that it is essential for them to be present in order to avoid the possibility of not reaching the quorum. On the side of defending the PPR, the center-left is in full agreement with the environmentalists: last Friday, a summit was held at the Regional Council building in which the representatives of the environmental organizations Legambiente, the Legal Intervention Group (GRIG), Italia Nostra, FAI and WWF took part. All these organizations are ready to ask the national government to contest the measure in court if this regional bill is passed. “We don’t deny that [the PPR] can be added to and improved,” says Councilor Maria Laura Orrù from Progressisti, “but using the tools provided by law (co-planning involving both the Rregion and the state), and certainly not with this last-minute shortcut slipped into an ordinary bill.”
From the Democratic Party, Councilor Valter Piscedda has called “the majority’s argument … entirely disingenuous,” i.e. the claim “that an ‘authentic interpretation’ would be necessary to unblock great infrastructure works. There are other ways to complete the Sassari-Alghero road and overcome the doubts expressed by the Ministries of Infrastructure and the Environment.”
Other points that the minority can leverage in the regional council debate concern the archaeological site of Tuvixeddu, currently the most important testimony of the funerary architecture of the Punic period (6th – 3rd century BC) in the whole Mediterranean basin. At least two-thirds of the necropolis, which stands on the hill of the same name within the city of Cagliari, has been destroyed by the real estate policies in operation between the 1950s and 1960s, and archaeologists have been fighting for decades (with protests that have been gathering steam organically since 2008) for the increasingly urgent goal of preserving this multi-layered area, which is rightly classed as a “cultural landscape.”
With the new rules of interpretation of the Landscape Plan that the center-right would like to introduce, the co-planning between the region and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities currently required by the PPR for coasts, agricultural regions and identity-related heritage would be eliminated, exposing the Tuvixeddu Park, which belongs to the latter category, to the concrete risk of disappearance.
And it’s not just the center-left: the Five Stars Movement is also against the bill proposed by the junta led by Christian Solinas. ”I call on the government to intervene to save our coasts and to prevent the dismantling of landscape protection regulations,” was the appeal from M5S Deputy Mario Perantoni, who, together with his colleagues Alberto Manca, Paola Deiana and Teresa Manzo, have presented an official question to the relevant ministries. According to the MP from Sassari, with the proposal for Regional Law No. 153 of 28 May 2020, which would claim to “interpret” the PPR in an “authentic” manner, “the constitutional requirement which, in Articles 9 and 117, guarantees full protection of the landscape is being trampled on.”
“The preservation of the natural, environmental and identity-related heritage of Sardinia must take precedence over the speculative interests of a few,” stressed Perantoni. “The reasons stated are absolutely disingenuous, and the underlying issue—the completion of the new State Road 291, Sassari – Alghero—is being resolved within the Council of Ministers. If we set aside the issue of the juridical interpretation, this is yet another demonstration of the single-minded and unidirectional character of the policy of this majority, which seems to have only speculative aims and exploitation of common goods, whether landscape or others, as its goal.”
The regional government had already presented to the Regional Administrative Court (TAR) its opposition to the negative opinion from the Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Events on the four-lane Sassari-Alghero road. However, the issue of the PPR will remain on the agenda for the rest of the month, since the majority intends to bring up for a vote in July the “Housing plan” launched by the council in December, called by the regional councilor for urban planning, Quirico Sanna, “a very courageous bill that will have effects in a concrete way in areas hitherto untouched, such as touristic F areas, and this will allow a review and a major redevelopment, allowing the restoration of ruined buildings that will, in turn, restore value to the sites where they are located.”
On behalf of the environmentalists, a reply to Quirico Sanna’s remarks came from Stefano Deliperi, coordinator of the Legal Intervention Group, who called for compliance with regional and national regulations, as the construction of the new Sassari-Alghero state road is “extraneous” not only to the PPR but also to the constitutional requirements.
“Resuming real estate speculation along the coast is a narrow-minded and self-defeating aim,” Deliperi said. “This is the most valuable part of the island’s environmental and landscape heritage, the core tourist attraction, an element of great importance for an increasingly devastated local economy—thanks above all to the lack of effective interventions in the key sectors of transport and education policy. It is enough to look at the fact that hotels are being used at 54% capacity in August, compared to only 1% in the months between January and April.”
Meanwhile, the popular petition to save the Sardinian coastlines, launched by Deliperi on Change.org and addressed to the Minister of Cultural Heritage and Activities, the Ministry of Tourism and the Presidents of the Region of Sardinia and of the Regional Council against the dismantling of the PPR has reached almost 30,000 signatures. This is a good sign, coming in a summer full of uncertainties from COVID-19, although it would be desirable for Sardinians to make their voice heard in the offline space as well.