January, 16 2014 11:10:31

Thousands protest Spanish town's street revamp plans

MADRID — Police have clashed with demonstrators in Madrid as thousands of people marched across austerity-hit Spain to protest against costly plans to redevelop a street in the northern city of Burgos.

Several thousand people turned out for the sixth day running to demand the authorities definitively pull the plug on the revamp, which has a price tag of eight million euros (US$11 million) and will reduce free parking spaces.

The nightly protests began on January 10 and have spread from Burgos, to Madrid and to the town of Valladolid.

Wednesday's demonstration in Burgos passed off with no incident but the protest in Madrid saw clashes and street chases between truncheon-wielding police and protesters hurling projectiles.

Anti-riot police units charged a crowd of around 500 when the march reached the headquarters of the ruling right-wing Popular Party. Police said it rounded up 11 suspects.

The protesters also called for the release of three youths held in custody after an earlier demonstration in Burgos turned violent.

Police have arrested 40 people since the demonstrations began, as protesters burned garbage containers, smashed windows and tore down security barriers.

Burgos mayor Javier Lacalle has suspended work on the redesign, which opponents argue is a waste of money that could be better spent on social services during an economic crisis that has left one in four people in Spain out of work.

The plans for Calle Vitoria in Burgos include reducing the lanes of traffic to just one each way instead of two, adding a bike lane and green spaces and replacing free parking spaces with a paid underground car park.

Lacalle argues the project will improve the quality of life of the 170,000 residents of the city, known for its dark-stone old town and castle and a statue of the medieval adventurer El Cid. AFP

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