Madrid overrules plans to save controversial Cabo de Gata hotel
BY MARK ROULSTON
THE demolish it-save it soap opera surrounding Almeria’s controversial Algarrobico hotel continues apace.
A month after a proposed change in land status effectively legalised the hotel, judges at the nation’s highest court have declared that the 411-bed complex is illegal and will face demolition.
Built upon virgin sands in the ecologically-sensitive Cabo de Gata Natural Park, it seemed Algarrobico – dubbed ‘the El Horrible’ by the Olive Press – had received a stay of execution after local authorities moved to declassify its plot.
As reported in the Olive Press three issues ago, under Junta plans the complex looked set to lose just its swimming pool with its plot being downgraded from protected to semi-urban status.
But now, with Brussels promising to investigate, the Supreme Court has stepped in and ruled the hotel is indeed illegal.
Under a new ruling, the court claims it is built on protected land and breaks legislation that seeks to protect Spain’s coast from over-construction.
The hearing in Madrid followed an appeal from the PSOE socialist town hall in nearby Carboneras that the development was passed before the Coast Law of 1988, which forbids construction on the first 100 metres of coastline.
However, the court dismissed the appeal, stating that as work began on the hotel in 2003,in was in clear contravention of the law.
Moves are now underway to reclaim the land, with government officials in discussion with developer Azata to strike a deal for compensation.
Exact figures are, as yet, unknown, but it is believed that the developers are hanging on for the 500 million euros they claim the land and complex is worth – a figure far-removed from the 2 million euros offered by the Government in 2006.
“We have had independent evaluators assessing the value of the land. When we receive these figures, we will approach the development company with a suitable financial offer,” Environment Minister Cristina Narbona said.
Talk of recompense, however, has angered many opponents, with some claiming Azata should face tough penalties and foot any bill for demolition and restoration work.
“The developers should meet the costs of any demolition,” said Green party spokesman Andres Sanchez.
“Something that was going to destroy one of the few unspoilt stretches of Spain’s Mediterranean coastline should never have got permission in the first place.”
Following protests from environmental groups, including Greenpeace, an Almeria court declared the hotel illegal in February 2006.
Then in May of that year, the Junta announced demolition plans, which were contested by Azata – whose officials were holding out for a huge payoff before any expropriation went ahead.
Then late last year, proposed modifications to the PGOU development plan for Cabo de Gata seemingly legitimised the complex before this most recent legal ruling.
The Supreme Court has also annulled a decision by the Andalucía’s high court (TSJA) that work on a marina at Agua Amarga can go ahead.
The Agua Amarga development included 350 homes and a 350-bed hotel on 48 hectares of protected land.