Artist’s impression of the Comendador Golf project planned for in Alhaurín de la Torre. :: SUR
The developers of four golf courses that were awarded the Andalucía Declaration of Tourist Interest (Declaración de Interés Turístico), in order to build residential areas around the courses, were given the title despite not complying with regulations. Since then, it has been decided that the building of the courses will not be able to continue. This unusual U-turn has come about due to a delay in the Junta’s handling of each case.
The second-in-command of Andalucía’s tourism department, Antonio Jesús Roldán, told SUR that the courses La Resinera Village (Benahavís), El Comendador Golf (Alhaurín de la Torre), Golf Resort Las Lomas (Casarabonela) and Finca Corvite (Almogía) were declared sites of Tourist Interest thanks to the silence procedure (this occurs when a legal application is not responded to and, therefore, automatically approved). However, the Junta has begun work to revoke the Tourist Interest Declaration.
The procedure to reverse the declaration is not easy or quick. It will involve a time period for objections and reports will have to be drawn up. Then the developers will still have a chance to appeal the final decision.
The committee in charge of assessing this sort of planning applications, made up of various Junta departments, released an unfavourable report last June for the La Resinera and El Comendador courses. The same happened to Finca Corvite and Las Lomas in December and March of 2012 respectively. Territorial and environmental problems caused the Junta to reject all four projects.
Two of the developers have abandoned their original plans and have presented new projects to the Department of Tourism. The first to do so was the owner of the Alhaurín de la Torre course in November, while the Casarabonela developers put theirs forward in December.
One of the Junta’s main objections was the question of water supply. This problem doesn’t exist in the case of Casarabonela, a project that is being designed by architect Salvador Moreno Peralta.
“Ours is one of the few projects that has justified the availability of a water supply for humans as well as for irrigation,” highlighted Moreno Peralta. He added that the development will include the construction of two water purification systems: one for the housing development and one for the golf complex itself.
“We have given up the silence advantage to start once again with the document processing,” he continued.
The Comendador Golf complex is owned by the Vega Serra family and designed by Ángel Asenjo. The architect explained that they are now trying to comply with all of the demands that the Junta has put forward.
“The process is a little backwards, they are demanding many things that can only be done once the Declaration [of Tourist Interest] has been completed,” stated Asenjo. He warns that it is a “difficult” process, although the developer is “interested” in it going ahead. Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall is driving forward an agreement with the authorities in order to guarantee water resources.
The head designer of the Almogía project, Ignacio García, has warned that the developers “are planning” as they find themselves “quite bewildered” by the Junta’s decisions.
Politically, the reactions have been much stronger. The mayor of Alhaurín de la Torre, Joaquín Villanova, criticised the “inconsistency” of the President of the Junta, Susana Díaz, because, while measures to accelerate town planning are being announced, the golf projects remain in the same position year after year. “They [golf courses] are an engine for tourism, but the Junta has them in an inescapable state of paralysis,” stated the mayor. In the same vein, deputy mayor of Casarabonela, Francisco Gómez Armada, has noted that if the Tourism Ministry does not want golf courses “it should be clearly admitted”.
Ignacio Pérez de Vargas is a lawyer representing the interests of Libyan Foreign Bank (Forebank - owner of La Resinera de Benahavís estate). He said that the developers have fulfilled all requirements set out by the Tourism Department and that the last time they were in contact with the Junta was more than a year ago. “The only communication that we have had are reports requesting corrective measures,” stated the lawyer.
Forebank acquired the estate in 1995 and in November of 2010 they filed their application to be awarded the Declaration of Tourist Interest. La Resinera has an approximate area of 70 million square metres and is located in the municipalities of Benahavís, Júzcar and Pujerra. The vast majority of the estate’s area is of environmental value and less than five million square metres is available for development.
It is in this section of the site, located in Benahavís, where there projected residential golf development would be located. According to documents, the buildings would be built in the style of a typical Andalusian village and would take up only 10 per cent of the area. The rest of the site would be for parkland and a 800,000 square metre golf course. The complex would include a hotel and 1,200 luxury homes of which, in accordance with law, 30 per cent would be subsidised housing.