By James Bryce
IT has been described as another nail in the coffin for one of Andalucia’s most controversial developments.
And in the words of Ronda’s mayor Mari Paz Fernandez, it could also be ‘the ruin’ of her town.
But the days are certainly numbered for the illegal Los Merinos macro-project that would have seen nearly 800 houses, three luxury hotels and a double golf course scheme built inside a UNESCO-protected zone near the town.
It comes after Andalucia’s TSJA High Court ruled that the passing of the development was illegal and cancelled its licence.
In the landmark ruling, the judge said the project had failed to get permission for water and could harm the supply to nearby towns, including Arriate and Cuevas del Becerro.
The licence was originally granted by Ronda Town Hall in February 2006, despite the Andalucian water board refusing to allow developers to use local acquifers.
Now the town hall may be forced to return a total of €14.2 million that the developers, Catalan firm Copisa, has so far paid in license fees.
Meanwhile, a gagging order has been lifted on 1,075 files used as evidence in a corruption case against former Ronda mayor Antonio Marin Lara.
A number relate to the Los Merinos development.
Lara, who is still awaiting trial, is said to have taken backhanders and destroyed a number of documents relating to the case.
Malaga University’s criminology department followed the money trail that began way back in 1995 when plans for the development were first published.
It described the situation as a classic case of developers and politicians working in collusion.
Juan Terroba, spokesman for Ecologistas en Accion told the Olive Press: “It confirms what we have been saying all along, that developments like Los Merinos were illegal.
“We have been fighting for years and no one was listening and now finally we are seeing justice. It is better late than never.”