Who Is The Twisted Firestarter?

No Progress In Hunt For Ses Feixes Arsonist, But Speculation Abounds.
Summary of Events
  • The fire took hold Monday lunchtime and rapidly burnt through 8 hectares of reed-beds.
  • Department of the Environment Investigators immediately confirm the fire to be the result of Arson.
  • Ibiza Town Mayor responds with statement referencing that the owners of the land have been locked in a legal planning battle with the Town council for many years.
  • The owners want to build on the land which has huge commercial development value, occupying a prime site bridging Ibiza Town & Marina Botafoch.
  • In a further twist it is revealed that six separate eviction notices were issued during the week.

A tale as twisted as the mind that set Ses Feixes ablaze.  Arson, Evictions, Illegal Businesses, the Mayor’s Family, Greedy Developers, and a Comedy Turn by the Daily Star – it has a lot going on. It has also raised the question of commercial development in Ibiza.  

Feixes Fire – Editorial

  • Nick Gibbs

Wowser. Love this aerial view photo. Cat Milton never ceases to amaze in what she can capture on cameraphone, but I particularly admire this image taken as she flew into Ibiza the morning after the Ibiza Town Blaze.

I love this rarely seen angle which seems to bring the Vila schematic into great clarity. It is also unusual to see the surrounding villages, industrial and commercial developments in a single frame.

Another feature of Cat’s photo is that it brilliantly illustrates the  just how valuable the burnt land must be in the eyes of a property developer. Just look at its footprint in relation to the urban areas of the city. Property developer porn.

Speculation is rife as to what motivation is behind the arson that swept through 8 hectares of land in under 2 hours.

Evictions

At the time of the blaze it was noted that a resident in an adjoining property was facing eviction proceedings. Some have questioned whether the arson was down to a landlord deciding to expedite the matter by somewhat radical means.

As events have unfolded this seems unlikely. The eviction notice was due to be executed that day, so the landlord would have had nothing to gain. In fact the police did still execute the warrant later on Monday. Some comfort for the unfortunate tenant. “Your house has burnt down mate, but don’t worry, we’re evicting you anyway”. You have to feel for him, that’s a pretty bad day at the office by any standards.

In a further twist later in the week, The Town Council confirmed that in a completely unconnected case, coincidentally completed at the same time, they were due to execute 5 eviction notices against commercial businesses that were trading on the land without any permissions.

In this situation the council went out of their way to state there was no connection to the blaze. They say the legalities had all been completed but were not due to be executed until after the fire. Seemingly having more sympathy for the businesses than the residential dweller, they deferred the evictions for 48 hours “for humanity”.

If the residential dweller is left asking why he didn’t warrant such “humanity”, he may wonder whether the fact two of the businesses evicted were owned by the Mayor’s Uncle and Father. You couldn’t make it up.

Though it would not have made sense for those enforcing the evictions to set a blaze, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that one of those being evicted might have wanted to express their anger. Nobody seems to be considering this though, so we’ll leave that there.

Landowners

Despite the level of coincidences in the timing of the blaze and various evictions, there has been far more discussion around the fact that the land owners have been locked in a development dispute with the Ajuntament  d’Eivissa for many years.

This debate is hardly surprising given that Ibiza Town mayor Rafa Ruiz chose to detail those problems at some length when talking to press after the fire. Subtle.

Thankfully nobody was hurt in the fire and so thoughts were soon focussed on the commercial development issue, both at Ses Feixes and its wider implication around the island.

Those opposing development at Ses Feixes argue that it is an area of environmental importance. I do not think you need to be what Clarkson would call an environmentalist to feel that the protection of Ibiza’s natural habitats should be an important consideration in so far as further development is concerned. At the very least we should be pushing further development to brownfield sites before destructing virgin land. There is a similarly sized area in Cala de Bou with two blot on the landscape abandoned hotel complexes. There is also the Ses Variades wasteland in a prime position on the San Antonio sunset strip. But that is not what the current market wants. It wants 5 star marina front. It wants cosmopolitan chic.  The words of my parents responding to any bout of infant whining seem apt,  that being “I want doesn’t get”.

To let the market alone dictate planning issues would be the equivalent of handing your child over to a heroin dealer. The results would not be pretty, probably irreversible, and once the dealer had taken everything they could, they would discard them without the slightest concern for the mess they leave behind. Or if you prefer a simple example over my convoluted analogy, just look at Benidorm.

Pushing developers to brownfield sites has worked extremely well in many areas. Developers may stamp their feet, but if it is all they have available, they will take it.

Outside of that argument I do not know enough about the ecology of Ses Feixes to argue one way or another for its protection. Not everybody is opposed to development.

Responding to our article on facebook, Donovan McPhail said “The area is filthy bog-like mess, spewing mosquitoes and foul smells, and little use to wildlife after being hemmed in by roads, parking lots and buildings. The land should be developed, hotels up front with marina views and social housing behind to alleviate the lack of affordable housing”.

His comments reminded me that there are schemes in New York and I expect elsewhere, offering luxury property developers permissions in return for building additional social/affordable housing units alongside their swanky developments.

The idea of using income from the luxury end of brand Ibiza to offset the problems it causes feels right. There would be a synergy, a ying and yang, that could be to everybody’s benefit.

Unfortunately the reality of Government is rarely as simple as we make it when debating in the bar, or the modern insanity that is “Ibiza Winter Residents” .

I had another very good example of that this week in discussing the housing crisis issue with the Consell. That will be covered in the next issue.

One point I think is notable by its absence. There has been much speculation of it being in some way connected to the commercial interests of the owners, but I have not seen anything that shows exactly how they would benefit by this act alone. The law throws up some unexpected surprises, but it seems most unlikely that the regulations protecting the land from development would suddenly become null and void due to a fire. Hundreds of acres were lost in a terrible fire in the north a few years ago, but we didn’t wake up the following morning to a frenzy of land-grabbing and low rent caravan parks.

Surely an owner would have realised this? So why would they do it? An act of frustration?  Seems extreme, and if so it has backfired badly. All that has happened is a huge amount of public attention, and generally negative feeling, being drawn to their wish to develop the land.

So really if anybody has gained from the fire it is the Town Hall in getting the public on their side.  Not that I’m suggesting for a moment that they would have … and really, I am not suggesting that, but always worth seeing there is more than one way of looking at things.

Relief

As it stands we do not know who set the fires, only that they were definitely set deliberately. Perhaps it was a mindless act of vandalism. Perhaps we will never know.

But we do know their actions were as twisted as the story that has evolved since.

What we can do is breath a sigh of relief, and be thankful.

Relief that nobody was hurt. On another day with fortune facing the opposite direction we could be reporting the consequences as a death toll instead of square metres of scorched earth.

We can be thankful for the emergency services and particularly the Ibizan Fire service who often face situations where nature has by far the upper hand. After the fire we always see the destruction. Spare a thought for what wasn’t destroyed. Without them things could be many times worse.

And finally we can take comfort that the readers of the Daily Star know that no Brits were hurt. I mean you don’t expect much from the Daily Star do you, but on this one they really surpassed themselves. Their report of Brit Tourists at Risk from Ibiza Blaze may be gobbled up by those mouth breathing ‘patriots’ who see a natural order in British tourists being the only group of humanity worthy of consideration in life threatening situations. Unfortunately on this occasion they did even those bottom of the food chain people a disservice in giving cause for anguish. Any of us would have been happy to assuage their fears for the Brit tourists—it’s March, there aren’t any. We should be so lucky.