By Jon Clarke and Anthony Piovesan
A leading supermarket group is demanding €2.8 million from Ronda town hall.
The move comes after Eroski pulled out of a giant commercial centre project that had been more than a decade in the offing.
The Spanish supermarket chain first signed a deal with Ronda town hall in December of 2012, to build the centre on the historic town’s old football field.
But Eroski insisted there have been continual problems since then, leading to the project never being able to start.
Some of the issues related to the long-running Caso Acinipo corruption case that shamed the town hall.
The trial started this summer in Malaga where six former councillors were accused of ‘urban corruption’ and money laundering related to the giant Eroski project.
The case is also investigating other backhandlers linked to former mayor Antonio Marin Lara.
The ex-leader, who died in 2019 at 59, was behind a series of shocking projects, including allowing an illegal development in the tourist town’s famous Tajo gorge.
Worse was the backing of a double golf course scheme with 2000 houses and three hotels in a UNESCO-protected area of virgin woodland near the town.
The Los Merinos project was mired in corruption and scandal and triggered an Olive Press campaign to stop it.
Despite being supported by all but one of the 25 councillors in the town, including the current PP party, it was finally overruled due to a lack of water.
Both Greenpeace and Ecologistas en Acción opposed it, while all three main Spanish national newspapers eventually launched their own investigations against it. But ‘mafia tactics’ by developers saw individual local protesters, including three expats, caught up in long complicated legal cases, which they eventually won.
The deadline to finish the Eroski project – which would have enticed many of the existing shops from the current town centre – had been December 2022, but the ongoing corruption case meant that no project had been able to start, let alone be completed by the set time.
Eroski was projected to invest 100 million euros, with an area of 73,100 square metres, including car parking.
In 2014, the City Council announced urbanisation works in the area with an investment of two million euros, but these were not carried out and no details about the works were revealed.
The town hall has insisted it will fight the demand from the company Cecosa Hipermercados SL on the basis the license was out of date. “Every time we have been to the courts over this, the courts have sided with us,” said a spokesman.