By AJ Linn
I HAD been relaxing at home, near Marbella old town where I have lived for over four decades when I heard an interview on the radio referring to a town hall decision to ‘authorise’ the construction of six skyscrapers in the town.
The interviewee was my friend Viruca Yebra and she was unsurprisingly explaining that the town hall ‘had clearly gone mad’.
Who on earth, in their rightful mind, could possibly conceive that Marbella would be better off with 30-storey skyscrapers dotted around its landscape?
She questioned who would benefit except the town hall (income from building permits) and the developers.
The minute the interview was over I phoned Viruca and we agreed that immediate action was required. From that moment it was a non-stop deluge of support from the four quarters of the globe, but mostly the good local people of Marbella.
I received a call at home that evening from Pedro Rodriguez, developer of Sierra Blanca and a long-time friend (maybe I should use the past tense now), and potentially the promoter of the first skyscraper.
His argument was almost convincing. ‘Marbella has to compete with the rest of the world, with Dubai, Miami, and Singapore, and this project puts the city on the 21st-century map’.
He explained that leading Catalan architect Ricardo Bofill had been commissioned to prepare designs and they were really rather attractive.
But I wasn’t to be swayed and I contacted everyone who, I believed, would be against the plan and within days we had formed a platform ‘No to Skyscrapers in Marbella’.
A host of local personalities, including Pablo de Hohenlohe and Matias Villarroel, helped to steer this coherent opposition group under the stewardship of lawyer Carola Herrero.
We met in the Hotel El Fuerte within hours, and the following day national daily El Mundo’s front page featured our stance, attracting more support from higher up the social scale with the Duquesa de Alba and Beatriz de Orleans reportedly weighing in.
Many established property developers, while wishing to remain in the shadows for the time being, also promised to come to the barricades if necessary.
Pablo de Hohenlohe wrote a personal letter to the mayoress telling her that his uncle – who had set up the Marbella Club hotel in the 1950s – would never have approved of such monstrosities, and Juan Orbaneja published a list of the various ‘skyscraper’ projects that had been proposed unsuccessfully over the years.
Soon, a social media campaign showed that 86% were against and only 3% in favour. News reports appeared all over the world, and even the BBC ran the news.
Next came a news report that the coast’s richest summertime visitors, the Saudi Royal Family, had also threatened to cancel their annual sojourn. After all, at least one of the blocks overlooked their main palace on the Golden Mile.
In less time than it takes to read this (well, almost) we got the news we were waiting for.
The town hall backtracked and at a special council meeting on January 10 this year the initiative was cancelled.
It was a fantastic lesson in people power and we should, of course, also thank the mayoress and town hall for fortunately listening to us.