Entities voice concerns against airport runway expansion proposal

Environmental group and farmers union against business group's project, government avoids evaluating idea

An airplane flies over the La Ricarda natural park and lagoon, located beside the Barcelona airport
An airplane flies over the La Ricarda natural park and lagoon, located beside the Barcelona airport / Àlex Recolons
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | El Prat de Llobregat

October 25, 2023 11:52 AM

October 25, 2023 07:17 PM

Various entities and groups have come out against the proposal of the business association Foment to expand the runway of Barcelona's airport into La Ricarda Natural Park. 

Barcelona-El Prat Airport has seen huge growth in the past couple of decades, and the debate over whether or not to expand the facility is a longstanding and complex one.

The Consortium for the Protection and Management of the Natural Areas of the Llobregat Delta says the proposal would mean the "destruction" of La Ricarda, a wetland area in the nearby delta that is home to much biodiversity. 

"La Ricarda is the jewel of the Llobregat delta, and any proposal that affects it would have an impact on all the natural spaces in the area," the Consortium's biodiversity technician, Enric de Roa, says.

He points out that the lagoon has a history of more than 300 years and believes it should be protected with investments to improve the quality of the water, adding that La Ricarda is "irreplaceable." 

"These are spaces that have been historically reduced by all the industrial and urban expansion," de Roa explains.


The La Ricarda lagoon is an area "with the most mature and valued habitats, which make it a natural jewel of the delta," he adds. 

Meanwhile, the Farmers' Union, Unió de Pagesos, also rejects the 11 proposals made by Foment to expand the runway.

In a statement on Tuesday, the union criticized the group for having drawn up the report "without taking into account the professional farming community or any of the most representative agricultural organizations."

The group also criticized that the Catalan Agricultural Institute of Sant Isidre was taken into account in the commission, since the group is "a member of Foment and historical representative of the absentee owners."

Extending the runway "would mean that several hectares of productive agricultural land would have to be abandoned" in order to comply with European directives, they said.

Watch our report on the La Ricarda natural park and lagoon from 2021 below:  


Catalan government avoids evaluating proposal

Spokesperson for the Catalan government, Patrícia Plaja, refused to comment on the proposal at a press conference on Tuesday.

"We do not prefer any specific proposal, and there are many," she said.

Plaja said that the government will convene a committee to analyze the future of the airport before the end of 2023.

However, she clarified that this will not be a space to "study the expansion but to analyze how to improve and reorganize the airport, without a priori, always respecting the government's red lines but analyzing all proposals for improvement."

The Farmers' Union called on the Catalan and Spanish governments to take a position on which model they back: either expanding the airport or conserving the surrounding nature. 

Foment's proposal

Catalonia's largest business group, Foment del Treball, has proposed expanding one of Barcelona airport's runways 840 meters into the Ricarda Natural Park. This would result in a 3,500-meter runway, allowing larger aircraft to land and take off from the Catalan capital. 

The runway in question is the 24L/06R, the closest one to the sea, and any renovation would affect the lagoon area.

However, for the business group, it is one of the most viable solutions after analyzing 11 different proposals, including the expansion of the same runway by 500 meters, as proposed by Aena (Spain's public company in charge of managing airports) or by 350 meters, as proposed by Barcelona Global. Other options on the table included building a sea runway or using the existing airports in Reus and Girona instead of expanding the Barcelona one. 


"Today is a historic day for Catalonia," Josep Sánchez Llibre, President of Foment, said at the event on Monday morning. 

After analyzing several proposals, this opportunity allows the group "to say that the expansion of Barcelona's airport will be a reality," giving a "solution to passengers traveling to other airports to fly to other destinations," Sánchez Llibre added.