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Are neighbors required to clear the street? Thanks to the lawyer who won the city council, no

Madrid

Publication: Thursday January 14, 2021 21:50

Appealing to the civic feeling of citizens, some politicians such as the president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, or the regional vice-president, Ignacio Aguado, who came to record a video shovel in his hand, have encouraged the citizens to roll up their sleeves and collaborate with cleaning services to remove snow from sidewalks near their homes. The gesture has a lot of solidarity with people who have more mobility difficulties, but, beyond these good feelings, do citizens have the obligation to clear snow or is it a responsibility of public administrations that some want to dry up? ?

The answer lies in the municipal cleaning ordinances, which vary depending on what the municipal council of the city in which you reside has, but the legal criterion that prevails throughout Spain is that established by the Administrative Contentious Chamber of the Supreme Court in a judgment rendered on November 7, 2012. And its response was that the responsibility for removing snow from the road lies with the public administration and not with the citizens and, more importantly, that they cannot. not be penalized in any way for refusing to do so.

The litigation began in 2009, when lawyer Alfonso Cañizares brought before the Superior Court of Justice of Madrid (TSJM) the ordinance on cleaning of public spaces and waste management which had been approved a few months earlier by the plenary. municipal council for the initiative of the government team of the then mayor, Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón. “I saw the rule and it felt unfair to me, which is why I appealed. The interest that has always guided me as a lawyer has been to fight against abuse, ”recalls Cañizares, about to turn 90, in conversation with LaSexta from his home, where he was confined for many years. months by storm. snowfall and coronavirus pandemic.

The municipal ordinance included in its article 10 “the duty of collaboration of the citizens” to clean the sidewalks on a minimum width of two meters for those who live in the adjoining buildings or carry out their commercial activity with direct access from the public road, the administrations that manage public buildings or owners of unbuilt lots.

And he added in particular that in case of snowfall like that brought by storm Filomena, “those who live in urban farms and those who are in charge of cleaning public buildings and establishments of all kinds, will collaborate in the cleaning. of ice and snow from the sidewalks in the length corresponding to its frontage, and in a minimum width of two meters, if the sidewalk is wider, depositing the snow or ice accumulated along the edge of the sidewalk “.

A resource that has nothing to do with snow

In his contentious-administrative appeal, Cañizares stressed that the obligation of citizens to clean their streets could lead to a minor offense punishable by a fine of up to 750 euros, in case they did not carry out this work. . However, this was not the main reason for resorting to municipal regulations, let alone the part of the provision that requires residents to clear snow or ice from the road. “At that time, there was no heavy snowfall,” he recalls.

What really moved him were two other points of the ordinance (76 and 78.3), which established the possibility for municipal officials to inspect garbage bags at the homes of individuals and businesses, businesses and desks; as well as the obligation of communities of owners to clean garbage cans and common areas. “It was an absolute injustice because the city council charged a garbage fee and then handled the raw material it was dealing with with recycling,” he explains.

However, the Supreme Court agreed with the city council on these two precepts, maintained in the current ordinance, and upheld the cancellation of the precept which established the obligation of residents to clean the streets. The Contentious and Administrative Chamber argued that this imposition helped “empty the content” of the municipal competence for cleaning and waste collection and transferred to the administration an obligation which, despite the appeals of Díaz Ayuso y Aguado, did not corresponds to administration.

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