Olive Press praised for bringing controversial scheme to “international audience”
SPAIN’S most controversial golf scheme has gone into the rough.
The Los Merinos project near Ronda has stopped all work at the site for “at least a year”.
Developers admit that a combination of the world economic situation, the property crisis and a lack of the correct licences are behind the halt.
The double golf course scheme with 800 houses and three luxury hotels had been continuing on Unesco-protected virgin woodland, despite opposition from both the Andalucian authorities and water board.
This week much of the machinery was being removed from the area, despite developer Copisa insisting that it was not “a total withdrawal or paralysis”.
Local sources told the Olive Press however, that a shortage of buyers, perhaps due to its controversy, had played a large part.
“This is a fantastic victory for all the brave locals who have fought tirelessly to stop it,” said Isabel Teresa Rosado, former mayor of Cuevas del Becerro, one of the towns most threatened by the scheme.
“We are all very happy and I hope the project is now pretty much dead. It has a lot of problems on a number of fronts.”
She continued: “We have been fighting this scheme for five years and we thank the Olive Press for regularly highlighting our plight in the international arena.”
The news of the halt came as hundreds of villagers undertook a weekend burial protest at Cuevas town hall.
They have long insisted that the project endangers their water supply and does not comply with environmental legislation.
They claim that it is destroying a natural site, known for its wildlife, including a number of pairs of Europe’s rarest Bonellis eagle.
Veteran politician Antonio Romero of the IU party in Sevilla, told them that a definitive stop order would be issued by the courts “imminently”.
He added: “This is the first time in Spain that a determined group of ordinary people have managed to stop an illegal project like this.”
The news that around 300 workers would now be out of a job was announced the previous day at a press conference at Ronda town hall.
Mayor Antonio Marin Lara – who is currently being investigated by the courts for wrongly issuing its licence – looked worried as he revealed the news.
“The firm wants everything well tied up and wants to avoid further problems before it begins to market the properties,” he clained.
Only last year he had stated that the development had all the necessary permits and even had permission to take water from the new Ronda sewage works.
That has since been roundly contradicted by the Junta boss in Malaga Jose Luis Marcos, who, as reported in our last issue, said there was no deal for water and the Junta continues to take the developers to court.
Ronda PSOE councillor Paco Canestro told the Olive Press: “The mayor is in a lot of trouble. We are neither for or against the golf course, just that it complies with the law.”
Boss of Ronda PP Conservative party was less happy. Begona Chacon, who has continually supported the scheme, said: “This is not good news for Ronda.”
The Olive Press has reported since November 2006 on the saga (see story below), explaining how workers continued to carve up the area that borders the Sierra de las Nieves national park.
Local businessman Azzam Qasrawi – whose German wife Petra was one of three expatriates unsuccessfully sued by the developers for criticising the project – remained cautious with the news.
He said: “While it is good news to hear the mayor and company admitting it doesn’t have the correct licences, we still need the courts to declare it illegal.
“The water issue is key and people should be reminded that despite the recent rainfall the reservoirs are still only at 30 per cent full.”
He continued: “The Olive Press should take great credit for bringing the issue to the international market and warning potential investors that the scheme is still being contested in the courts.”