TORREVIEJA City Centre is renowned for being a motorist’s nightmare, with other drivers abandoning cars wherever they can…and often where they cannot.
However this is all set to change, according to a new initiative being enforced by the Local Police. The idea is to reduce the number of accidents and traffic jams within the centre by penalizing as many “Illegal” parkers as possible, as well as capitalizing on their lack of respect for the rules through the imposition of heftier fines.
A spokesperson from the Local Police announced that the agents who operate the gruas that tow the illegally parked vehicles have been given strict instructions to be more vigilant, particularly against vehicle owners who double park, or park in front of driveways with vados (no parking permits) and other restricted areas.
These practices have continued for years, and the authorities have historically turned a blind eye to much of it, particularly in the roads Ramon Gallud, Caballero de Rodas, Plaza de la Constitucion and adjacent side streets, so much so that those who visit the centre frequently, either for work or recreational activities are becoming increasingly annoyed by the random parkers.
They have raised the point that they are forced to pay large sums of money to use the municipal car parks every day, or have the option of walking long distances from wherever they could find an allocated free parking space.
There has also been the question of why there are no designated “blue zones” where shoppers can park on a meter at a cheaper rate, as in other towns.
For those who have not had the misfortune of having their vehicle towed away, the system is very simple. The Local Police make a note of the vehicle registration and instruct the grua to remove it, transferring it to the municipal deposit, where the owner must pay a parking fine to the “Suma Gestion Tributaria” and additional fee of €51 for the grua service.
To date, the Police have waivered the grua fee and allowed the owner to pay the fine alone if they returned to the vehicle before it had been removed. However, for economical reasons, the two fees will now be payable as a complete package.
The Valencia based grua service, contracted to Torrevieja since February 2008, receives a fixed annual sum of €404,515 to carry out the service. Besides this, an additional 44 per cent commission of the €51 sum is paid for every car towed on its release from the depot.
In this sense, the more vehicles which get towed, the more income is received by the company and the Town Hall, which in 2010 amounted to €466,000 worth of fines plus €282,000 from the gruas fees. According to state figures, the vehicle towing service carries out an average 4,382 operations each year, and 800 of these were conducted during August alone this year, which is always their busiest month due to the massive influx of tourists.
On the vehicle owners part, on top of the fine, which is usually around €40, plus the gruas fee, there is often a taxi fee of around €6, if they have no other means of getting to the deposit in poligono industrial Casagrande, where their car is being held. City centre users have commented that it is annoying how an abundance of free parking is offered to those making use of the large commercial centres on the outskirts of the city, where there are few parking restrictions or gruas, whilst those in the centre really struggle.
Some City Centre businesses offer allocated parking permits to clients, but they are often afraid of using them, for fear of their car being towed anyway. “Although I only live in La Siesta, just outside of Torrevieja centre, I avoid going there at all costs, and prefer to use the out of town shopping zones, or travel to Ciudad Quesada to use the bars and Restaurants there” said 46 year-old Gina Davies.
“It is a shame because I really love to walk along the seafront and it was one of the main reasons why I purchased property in this area, but it is just so difficult to park, particularly in the Summer, that I end up getting annoyed and flustered and it spoils the whole experience.”
The argument was reflected by Barmaid, Gill Taylor from Playa Flamenca, who agreed that “although Torrevieja is our nearest city I rarely ever go there, even for shopping and recreation. I prefer to travel to Dos Mares in San Javier, and for bars and restaurants there is plenty to chose from in Orihuela Costa without having to do battle through the streets of Torrevieja!”
By Heidi Wardman