By Jon Clarke and Wendy Williams
ONE of Spain’s last unspoilt stetches of coastline has been saved from two huge megaprojects.
Environmentalists on the Costa de la Luz are overjoyed that both schemes – a 200m euro port expansion for Tarifa and a golf development in Vejer – have been turned down by the Junta.
The golf project next to the Mangueta beach comes after a complete U-turn by the Junta’s environment department.
The scheme that originally included three hotel projects and 2,600 homes, was given the thumbs up by Vejer town hall and the Junta’s minister for public works Rosa Aguilar last year.
Now, despite fury from Mayor Antonio Jesus Verdu, it has been turned down after the area was re-zoned as ‘an area of special territorial interest’.
It is joined by two other nearby areas, Seguesal and Bujar, in Barbate.
“This is great news for the environment,” local hotelier Collette Bardell, told the Olive Press. The owner of hotel Casa Cinco added: “Putting a golf course there is totally out of keeping with the area.”
Lourdes Benito, 43, from nearby clothes shop Camisetas La Pajara, added: “The scheme was completely crazy and there are already plenty of great boutique hotels in the area… It certainly doesn’t need another three enormous hotels.
“Of course, with the recession, people will do anything to create jobs but the plan is short sighted. The environment is much more important.”
Local environmentalists and campaigners around Spain have long been trying to protect the area from development.
In particular Ecologists in Action has welcomed the decision having fought the project since the land was first bought for 30 million euros in 2004.
“We’ve helped to save the Mangueta from the speculative greed of financial institutions and the town hall.
“This virgin beach will be a future asset for Vejer town hall when it finally values its beauty and natural areas.”
However, local group Salvemos El Palmar is still left fighting another nearby scheme beside the Trafalgar lighthouse.
So far the group has raised nearly 100,000 signatures against the El Palmar Beach Eco Resort, which is due to start construction this year.
Green campaigners have had more luck however in Tarifa, with a marina and port extension scheme that would have taken up a staggering 46 hectares of coastline with four new ferry berths and two more for cruise ships.
The scheme – designed to increase the port’s growing trade with North Africa – was overruled by the Environment Ministry after seven years in the pipeline.
It issued a resolution rejecting the 200 million euro project – which was previously backed by the Junta – after analyzing 26 studies conducted over seven years.
The project – which would see development along the Parque Natural Del Estrecho – was deemed a threat to wildlife habitats and species already under threat of extinction in the Strait of Gibraltar.
“This is a very good decision,” said Gaspar Cuesta from the Tarifa-based language school Hispalense. “It is much more important to protect the environment. The studies have shown that it will have a negative impact so it needed to be stopped.
“I know it would have created jobs, but the negative environmental impact by far outweighs the positive.”
Despite the mounting opposition, the Algeciras Port Authority (APBA) has vowed to battle on with the scheme.