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Inés Rey is the first democratically elected female mayor of A Coruña, Source: Concello da Coruña

Inés Rey: We’ve been a 15-minute city even before the term became widely known

Inés Rey: We’ve been a 15-minute city even before the term became widely known

An interview with the mayor of A Coruña (Spain)

Inés Rey (A Coruña, 1982) is a graduate in Law from the University of A Coruña (UDC). She later studied at the “Decano Iglesias Corral” School of Legal Practice of the A Coruña Bar Association (ICACOR), passing the entrance exam. She began as an intern in 2006 attending the ICACOR in March 2007.  Member of the Socialist Youths from the age of 18, she then joined the Socialist Party of Galicia (PSdG-PSOE) in 2002.

Before taking office as a Councilor and being proclaimed the first democratically elected female Mayor in the history of A Coruña, in the Plenary Session held on June 15, 2019 (after the local elections that year), she had dedicated her entire professional life to the practice of law. She is married and has two children.

Madam Mayor, how would you describe A Coruña in your own words?

A Coruña is known as a city where no one is a stranger. It is a phrase that defines very well the Coruñeses (as the locals are known). We are a city open to the world. A city bathed by the Atlantic Ocean and open to the sea. One of our main symbols is the Tower of Hercules, a World Heritage Roman lighthouse that was built 2,000 years ago.

Something that also defines A Coruña is the density of the population. It is the city with the highest average height of buildings in Spain. How does this affect urban housing policies?

A Coruña is, together with Cádiz, the smallest province capital municipality in Spain, but it has more than 200,000 inhabitants and whose area of ​​influence concentrates more than half a million people. This explains the high density that does not occur in other larger municipalities. This, however, does not have to be a problem with the criteria of sustainability and improvement of urban mobility that we are developing.

We’ve been a 15-minute city even before this concept was generalized: on foot you can reach almost any area of ​​the city very quickly. In this sense, we are working on increasing pedestrian spaces with the aim of building a new 3.5-km pedestrian ring road that connects the city.

In relation to the housing policy, we developed an active rehabilitation policy to recover and modernize the city's stock of buildings. In the last two months, we have approved almost 2.5 million euros in aid for rehabilitation.

What are the main economic sectors of the city and how were they affected by the Covid pandemic?

A Coruña is a city closely linked to fashion. Inditex (owner of brands like Zara, Bershka and Pull&Bear) was born in A Coruña and has grown in the city and its surroundings to become one of the largest companies in the world. There are many A Coruña men and women who work directly or indirectly for Inditex, in the same way as many other companies that carry the A Coruña banner around the world.

As for the pandemic, all sectors have been affected, but I would like to focus on small businesses, culture, hospitality and leisure. From the City Council of A Coruña we wanted to actively support these sectors from the beginning of the pandemic with our Economic and Social Reactivation Plan (PRESCO), a plan that has been running for two editions and to which we have dedicated 20 million euros of municipal funds to help thousands of freelancers and small businesses and also tens of thousands of local residents through trade incentive plans.

What is the purpose of the seal 'Peixe da Lonxa da Coruña'?

The objective of this recent initiative of our City Council is to strengthen the Coruña fishing sector and bet on the quality of the local product, which has a direct impact on the local economy.

In addition, this seal allows customers to know the origin of the fish that is bought in the markets, fishmongers and other shops and restaurants in the city. Since we presented the initiative in December 2021, almost a hundred professionals from the sector have joined it.

The UrbanbyNature program is considered a pioneer at the European level. Could you tell us what is it?

It is a project based on the exchange of knowledge and capacity building that will allow local governments like ours to take advantage of the potential of Nature for sustainable urban development. It is a daunting challenge to be the first European city to take the step of joining this community project and I am sure it will bear fruit.

What is the future of renewable energy in the territory of the municipality and on the Galician coast?

The commitment to renewable energies, both in A Coruña and in the rest of the cities on the planet, cannot turn back. From this City Council we are fully committed to decarbonization and the 2030 Agenda.

An example of this is the Bens Water Treatment Plant facilities, of which the City Council is the majority shareholder. These have a solar power station that makes it a zero-consumption building. In this same place, we also have a biogas station as an alternative to other fuels, in fact, we are pioneers in the injection of gas generated by treating wastewater in the commercial gas network. Our idea is to move towards greater energy efficiency in the different municipal buildings and encourage citizens to use more and more renewable energy.

As for the Galician coast and its role in this matter, it is a reality that the macro offshore wind farms are there. But in any case, we must be very careful with these types of facilities, since we cannot harm other sectors considered essential, such as fishing, and we must guarantee exquisite care for the environment.

Do you have any advice or good practice to share with the mayors of other port cities in Europe?

In A Coruña we are experiencing a very important moment of transformation in relation to our maritime façade. The port lands will be permanently open to the public in the near future.

This will allow the creation of large public spaces and the transfer of traffic to the Outer Port of Punta Langosteira. We are fully committed to this port model and it is necessary to seek synergies and share experiences with other cities in similar situations.

Collaboration between City Councils, both in this and in other matters, is essential to advance a model of a sustainable and friendly city for its inhabitants. A Coruña, like other large European cities, must integrate its old docks into the urban fabric, and in this, we have made decisive progress during the current mandate. Today the people of A Coruña can enter areas of the port that until very recently were closed off.

That is the direction and that is how we will continue, seeking to generate new spaces of great urban quality and recovering access to the sea for citizens.

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