The site where the Saudi royals plan a luxury residential complex. SELENE VEGA
The urgent decree passed by the Junta de Andalucía last November to protect the region’s coastline will affect numerous development projects waiting to get under way.
The measure, devised by the PSOE - IU coalition government, answers the demands of some political groups, including Izquierda Unida itself, as well as environmentalist organisations. It prohibits construction within 500 metres of the shoreline, with the aim of “scaling down growth forecasts established years ago (mainly in the eighties and the nineties) that are not in line with the current situation”.
In the province of Malaga the decree affects eleven municipalities where the local PGOU development plans designated land for the eventual construction of thousands new homes, hotels and golf courses in line with mid-term growth forecasts. Now these projects are up in the air with the corresponding effect on the economy and employment.
The issue has created further conflict between the Junta de Andalucía and the town halls on the Costa del Sol, the vast majority of them governed by the Partido Popular. The figures relating to numbers of projects affected produced by the local authorities differ greatly to those of the town halls and the Junta has accused the Town Halls of exaggerating the effects to create further political confrontation.
Estepona is one of the most affected areas where the construction of 16,751 properties, planned for in the PGOU, is no longer guaranteed.
The biggest project currently on hold is a scheme linked to the Saudi Arabian royal family that is pending final authorisation. These plans are for a luxury residential development with 1,477 homes, a hotel and a golf course on 60 hectares of land. The deal, made with the previous PSOE government, would mean an income of some eight million euros for the Town Hall. The project has several reports in its favour and involves land redesignated for construction in 1994.
Councillor Susana Arahuetes complained that now the Town Hall has to adapt its urban development plan, PGOU, to the Andalusian plan, the POTA, even though the schemes now up in the air had been incorporated into the 1994 PGOU that was approved in its day by the Junta de Andalucía.
In Arahuete’s opinion, “the hold-up in planning activity will have further repercussions on unemployment and will scare investors off to less complicated areas”.
The Junta de Andalucía agrees with the town hall’s arguments but adds that the development forecast for Estepona is much higher than the limits set in the POTA (Andalusian development plan), therefore it says the town must reclassify land where construction had been envisaged to compensate if the Saudi project is to go ahead.
Mijas Town Hall believes that the decree could also affect the area designated for the new CHARE hospital that will serve patients in Mijas and Fuengirola. The site in question is in Cerros del Águila. According to an agreement signed three years ago, the land could only be made available with the approval of partial development plans that are now affected by the decree. The Junta de Andalucía maintains however that the hold-up in this project has nothing to do with the decree but that the Town Hall has to modify its development plan.
On the eastern Costa del Sol, still waiting to go ahead in Nerja are projects to build some 3,000 properties in areas such as Punta Lara, La Noria and Fuente del Badén. Then there is the Playazo beach, which the Axarquía development plan (POTAX), drawn up by the Junta in 2006, envisaged as a focus for tourism development with several hotels and tourist apartments. These plans, however are not included in the town’s own development plan (PGOU).
Gloria Vega, secretary general of Territorial Planning at the Junta de Andalucía’s Environment Department, has accused the Town Halls of inflating the impact of the new decree, including projects that they hadn’t even put in their own PGOUs. As far as the Playazo beach scheme is concerned, Vega pointed out that the land was still designated for agriculture and the Town Hall had had plenty of time to put a hotel there.
Mayors boycott meeting with Junta
On Wednesday the PP mayors in the affected coastal towns boycotted the meeting called by the Junta de Andalucía to discuss the decree.
In the end the only municipal representatives came from town halls governed by parties other than the Partido Popular: Torrox (PSOE); Algarrobo (PA); Manilva (IU) and Casares (IU).
One councillor from the PP-run Estepona town hall did turn up at the meeting, but by mistake.
The meeting was presided over by Gloria vega, secretary general for territorial planning, and Javier Carnero, the Junta’s delegate in Malaga for the Environment. Carnero simply stated that the invitation to discuss the issue was still open, adding that in other provinces all parties had attended.