On March 5,6 and 7, the Barcelona Provincial Council, through the Department of Road Infrastructures and Mobility, promoted the Congress on Pathways and Local Roads with the aim of creating a meeting and a reference point for professionals and policy-makers of this field.
The Congress dealt with pathways at the municipal, regional and the provincial level, and their relationship with local roads. Mr. Jordi Fàbrega i Colomer, responsible for the Mobility and Road Infrastructures, underlined in a brilliant way how pathways are roads channelling significant mobility in urban, metropolitan and rural environments that, depending on the area, may have different characteristics. For 10 years now, in accordance with the demand of the territory, the Barcelona Provincial Council has given technical and economic support to municipalities and county councils regarding pathways. In addition, during the last few years, the Barcelona Provincial Council has created a Zonal Plan of local roads that has been presented during the Congress by several speakers, including the brilliant explanation developed by Mr. Valentín Aceña Ramos, Head of the Technical Office for Planning and Activities in relation to Infraestructures.
The director of the TransJus Research Institute was invited to participate in two sessions of the Congress. In the first presentation, on March 5, pathways were connected with various aspects linked to sustainable economic, social and environmental development, and rural development, as well as with legal principles and rights (freedom of movement ̶ and possible restrictions ̶ the right to private property ̶ and social function of the property̶ , environment, the existence of rights of public domain, the right to good administration…).
Rules affecting pathways have been analysed and the need for a specific Catalan Law on public roads ̶ which, unlike other Autonomous Communities like Extremadura, La Rioja, Galicia, Andalusia and the Balearic Islands, is nowadays lacking ̶ has been remarked. It has been also addressed the important role of municipal ordinances in the protection of collective interests and individuals’ rights, the limitations derived from the legal obligation to rule through the standard parliamentary proceeding, and the need to mind the better regulation of these rules and put them in accordance with the mandatory legal principles of good regulation and with other measures that are in force since an act came into force in October 2016.
In addressing this regulation various issues related to public pathways tend to arise; among those which have been analysed there were: the difference between the public ownership of the soil of a pathway and the right of way, the defence of the public ownership of a pathway and the means and jurisdictions to certify that ownership; the possibility of restricting the use of public pathways and the need ̶ or non-need ̶ of some kind of compensation; the possibility to charge a price for the use of a public pathway or the potential liability of public pathways that has been linked to the right to good administration which is included in the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia and the mechanism of administrative management of the Citizen´s Charts provided by the Catalan law of transparency, access to information and good government in 2014.
The second session to which the director of the TransJus participated, was international and took place on March 7. It has been characterised by presentations and a round-table of specialists from 4 European Union (EU) Members States. The director of the TransJus talked about the situation of pathways in the global European ambit, the different perspectives of Member States and the reasons leading to choose Italy, France and the United Kingdom as examples of the day.
From the European standpoint mention has been made about the rights involved in pathways, which are the same for the states bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and part of the European Union, and an overview of legal and management frameworks has been given to these countries.
Reference has been also made to the current situation regarding the distribution of competences on this matter in Spain, in the light of the recent decision of the Constitutional Court n. 118/2017, of the 19th October 2017 which solved an action of unconstitutionality brought by the Government Council of Andalusia in relation to different precepts of the Act number 21/2015, of the 20th July 2015, amending the Act 43/2003, of the 21st November 2003 on mountains, as well as the draft of a a regulation of the national net of natural pathways which is now being prepared. Moreover, the local level of management in Spain has been specially considered by taking into account the local legislation, including the LRSAL of 2013 and the existing case law.
After the presentations of Mr. Hugh Craddock, of the Open Spaces Society, the oldest environmental group of the United Kingdom, founded in 1865 by John Stuart Mill among others, Camille Mialot, Professor at SciencesPo Paris and Gregorio Arena, director of Labsus, an interesting round table took place and, by collecting questions from the audience of all over Spain, various issues have been addressed: the role of citizen participation in the care of commons such as pathways and local roads, the different models of distribution of powers and management of pathways, the present and future role of the European Union and the need to strengthen the legislative framework in the French and in the Catalan case.
The Congress was closed by Mr. Vicenç Izquierdo, manager of the mobility and road infraestructures of the Barcelona Provincial Council. Mr. Izquierdo emphasized the success of the Congress which had a perfect organization. He underlined the need for knowing better the reality of pathways and local roads, planning in a coordinated way, passing good regulations including a new Catalan Act on pathways, having a general and coordinated policy and developing the idea of a sharing administration able of caring the commons.
An annual seminar on the issue is expected to be developed in the future.
More information about the Congress can be found at: