Brussels has put the magnifying glass on Ponzano, and on all the streets of the capital where leisure and the proliferation of terraces have become a headache for residents. Last April, the European Parliament admitted for processing the petition from the association El Organillo de Chamberí, which called for “immediate” measures to put an end to noise pollution in hotel and catering establishments and, this week, the Commission has responded. The executive arm of the European Union will open a "preliminary investigation" into noise in Madrid.
“This endorses that we are right in our requests,” the president of El Organillo, Julio López, celebrates by telephone, who signed the neighborhood letter sent to Brussels in October 2021.
. The bureaucracy is slow, but the process is already underway. “Now we have the official communication from the Petitions Committee and they are going to ask the city council for information about what measures they are taking,” says López. "I am pleased to inform you that the Committee on Petitions has examined your petition and declared it admissible," begins the letter from the committee's president, Dolors Montserrat, "I have asked the European Commission to carry out a preliminary investigation into this business".
The association of El Organillo began the war against noise with protests and banners, went to the Ombudsman —who agreed with them with his non-binding verdict— and to the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid TSJM), last November, where he filed a contentious administrative appeal against the city council for "not restoring the fundamental rights of the neighbors". Again, it's time to wait; to the judicialized case and to the European investigation. "Of course, if we saw political will, the times would be shortened," adds López.
Noise “is a chronic problem in Chamberí”, in the words of López. In particular, in Ponzano street, which concentrates more than fifty terraces in 800 meters of road. "The situation remains the same," corroborates the president of the association, very active on social networks and in whose email the complaints of dozens of neighbors are piled up. “It affects the entire neighborhood, whether you vote for one party or another, it is a very transversal request,” says López, “it is to protect the right to rest and health.”
The neighbors also wait for the council to protect Ponzano under the figure of the Special Acoustic Protection Zone (ZPAE). The Environment and Mobility Area carried out measurements of noise excesses in 2018 and 2019, which recorded an average of between 60 and 65 decibels at midnight at various points in the district, "well above the values that the WHO considers safe for avoid cardiovascular problems or psychiatric illnesses, ”said the association in the petition sent to Brussels. In September 2020, the procedures to make the shield effective began, but the pandemic froze the process and frustrated the last measurements, as they did not correspond to the usual pre-Covid normal values.
In 2021, El Organillo made its own calculations: the noise in Ponzano is 39 decibels higher, 10,000 times higher than the permitted level. The last time the Chamberí District Board met, they transmitted news in this regard: "They told us that the last part of the implementation of the measure is beginning, which we hope will be as soon as possible," says López, although he doubts that that is enough. "The Gaztambide ZPAE has been operating for years and even though we have insisted on the board to make a monitoring commission, control measures have not yet been created or taken," he criticizes, "the underlying problem is that the city council does not has taken into account all the recommendations and proposals of both the FRAVM [Regional Federation of Neighborhood Associations of Madrid] and El Organillo».
It's still early. The city council has not received any notification or request for information from Brussels, according to municipal sources. "Measurements have already been made in Ponzano and ZPAE will be declared at the end of the year," they recall. Between September 2021 and February 2022, the Environment and Mobility Area has recorded 15,410 hours of sound measurements in 22 locations around Ponzano and Trafalgar. There they verified, once again, that all the points exceed the acoustic quality objectives during the night period.