A DESPERATE battle is being waged to stop the iconic Trafalgar lighthouse being privatised and lost as a public monument.
The historic landmark, close to where Admiral Nelson’s British navy defeated an allied French and Spanish fleet in 1805, is loved and cherished by many expats.
The emblematic lighthouse, built in 1860, is also in a spot of serene natural beauty, located near Caños de Meca, on the Costa de la Luz.
But now, 200 years after Nelson died in a heroic victory, a second battle of Trafalgar is being fought.
For a German firm has been awarded a contract to convert the stunning landmark into three luxury holiday apartments, and in the process cutting it off from the public.
Under the controversial agreement, company Floatel is to take control of the 34-metre lighthouse for the next 30 years, with the option to renew for another 10.
However, a group of Cadiz businessmen including long-established expat James Stuart, is taking up arms against the project.
Joined by local environmentalists, Stuart, boss of the Califa Hotel group in Vejer, has now filed an official complaint with the Cadiz port authority over ‘irregularities’ in Floatel’s application.
The businessman, who runs a string of hotels and restaurants on the Costa de la Luz, has united with a group of key Spanish businesses in a bid to keep it entirely open to the public.
“We firmly believe the lighthouse and its environs should be in the public domain,” Stuart told the Olive Press.
“It should have the same status as the Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia, near Tarifa, where there is a museum and the site is free to the public.”
His group believes the Port Authority is simply looking for a way to ‘relieve itself of the financial burden of maintaining the site.
Insisting the last-ditched protest has nothing to do with his group’s own application being turned down, he added: “We would also take over the running and costs of the lighthouse, but at the same time keep it open for everyone to enjoy.”
The Califa group’s proposal, which came second, guaranteed to maintain the appearance of the lighthouse, as well as add a free interpretation centre, restaurant and picnic area employing 15 to 25 staff.
By contrast, Floatel’s plan involves employing just two staff, closing the main entrance and cutting off more than 50% of the land and buildings to the public.
It also plans to charge for entry with limited opening times.
Stuart was motivated to challenge the decision after being swayed by local opinion.
In particular, green group Ecologistas en Accion has filed a complaint with the Bay of Cadiz Port Authority against Floatel’s plans.
The port authority has not yet responded to the complaints.