IT is a massive victory for common sense.
Ronda’s ill-conceived Los Merinos double golf course macro-project has been finally bunkered by the Supreme Court after over a decade of legal warfare.
Spain’s top court has backed a decision by the Andalucian High Court (TSJA) that the 783-home housing project on UNESCO-protected virgin land should be scrapped.
One of the most controversial schemes in Andalucia’s history was only finally stopped due to the bravery of local people, green groups and a campaign by the Olive Press.
So heated was the opposition to the plan – promoted by a former boss of the Junta’s Department of Public Works – that thousands protested on the streets.
The small town of Cuevas del Becerro, which feared it would lose its water supply, called a general strike.
But arrogant bosses of the Club de Campo and Golf de Ronda ordered work to go ahead regardless – cutting down hundreds of protected oak trees – despite not having the final work licences.
So involved was Ronda Town Hall that incredibly, two local green policemen (‘patrulla verde’) were removed from their posts and put on traffic duty for daring to submit negative environmental reports.
When a trio of local expats joined a campaign by the Olive Press to oppose it, they were wrongfully sued by the developers to the tune of 21 million euros.
While later dubbed as ‘mafia tactics’ by a Judge, it came too late to prevent the untimely early death ‘from stress’ of green campaigner Alastair Boyd, aka Lord Kilmarnock.
Luckily, the British press, including the Times and Independent, picked up on the story following our exposes.
With Ecologistas en Accion and Greenpeace also weighing in this eventually led to in-depth stories in all of Spain’s main newspapers.
However, in the end, it was not local opposition that stopped the 2000 hectare scheme, alongside the Sierra de las Nieves Natural Park, but the fundamental issue of water.
Despite numerous appeals from the developers and Ronda Town Hall, the Supreme Court has backed the TSJA Andalucian High Court ruling that the multi-million euro project would have affected the water supplies of at least seven neighbouring towns and villages.
Spain’s Hydrographic Confederation expressed its ‘overwhelmingly unfavourable position’ on the development, which led to the TSJA court’s retraction of the licence.
The first ever issue of the Olive Press campaigned against the proposal back in November 2006, when developers blocked a national footpath the GR-7, and we have followed the case’s twists and turns ever since.
Ronda Town Hall announced a few months ago that it was negotiating hard to try and preserve the project, proposing 400 houses and one golf course less.
Developers Copisa are now demanding €8.5 million back from Ronda town hall in licence fees paid.