Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Into Extinction: Theme parks

On becoming tourism minister in 2011, Carlos Delgado reeled off what was either a wish list or a series of initiatives he genuinely believed that he was going to bring about. Condohotels were one. Well, they were in the tourism bill, but they have proved to be thin on the ground to the point of non-existence. Reducing IVA was another. Not sure how he proposed doing this as it was not and is not within the remit of a Balearics tourism minister to do so. And then there were theme parks. Ah yes, theme parks. Whatever happened to them?

Some time into his period as minister, Delgado was asked about one particular theme park - the one that was going to be created somewhere between Llucmajor and Campos. He replied that, in effect, he didn't know what was happening with it. In so doing, he joined a sizable club.

The age of the theme park that Carlos had seemingly been intent on ushering in has failed to materialise. Another scheme, the dinosaur park in Sineu, has gone the way of all dinosaur theme parks - meteored into oblivion by the urban planning commission at the Council of Mallorca which has archived the processing of the project. A year ago, the Council told the promoters that it had to supply proper documentation for the project and to pay a tax. The promoters have done neither. The Council has now, therefore, concluded that the project has been dropped. Another fossilised skeleton of a theme park is thus consigned to the earth of Mallorca and buried for years until someone exhumes it, comes back with another bright idea only for it to be made extinct as well.

The Llucmajor-Campos theme park is still, in theory, a possibility. Or put it this way, its website is still in existence. Where there is internet presence, there is always hope. The chances of it ever becoming a reality, though, are probably about as likely as dinosaurs once again roaming freely across the plain of Mallorca (rather than being animated replicas, which was what the Sineu Jurassic Park had supposedly envisaged). The likelihood is unlikely because the whole scheme had rather depended upon the land being reclassified. The well-publicised meeting with President Bauzá to present the project had all been part (one presumes) of an attempt to persuade the government to smooth the way with some reclassification. None has been forthcoming.

It is an all too familiar tale. Every blade of grass (some of it not even on land but under the sea) and every grain of sand in Mallorca is subject to some form of plan or other or indeed to more than one plan. One of the people involved with the Llucmajor-Campos theme park is also behind a scheme for the development of Ca'n Angelí in Palma. One of the objections to this development has been based on the fact that Ca'n Angelí is considered to be open public space under something known as PGOU. Which is? The general plan for urban organisation. Last heard of, the scheme was in any event being held up because Palma City Council had ordered a report from the Institute of Municipal Sports to check whether the project (for recreational purposes) was or wasn't complementary with existing sports facilities in the city.

Why does any promoter ever try to get any project off the ground in Mallorca? Occasionally, one gets the green light and even manages to get underway, such as the Hyatt hotel complex in Canyamel. But it takes forever for decisions to be made, and there always seems to be a threat that somewhere down the line a legal challenge will be made that means paralysing a project, demolishing it or having to restore the land to its former unspoilt state.

In another recent case, that of the project for a five-star hotel with golf course in Marratxí, documentation that had been required by the Council's urban planning commission had also not been forthcoming. The commission has, as with the dinosaur park, called time-out on the project, which cannot now be considered for being declared as being in the "general interest", which is a catch-all notion that can - theoretically - supersede plans for this or that. Perhaps the developers decided the project was a non-starter. Perhaps the dinosaur park people thought likewise. Or perhaps they thought that neither project was worth all the aggravation. 

Mallorca's land has to be protected. No one is suggesting a free-for-all, but while Paramount can plan for a theme park in Murcia and while Ferrari plans to open its theme park at Port Aventura next year (the same area where the BCN World mega casinos and theme park are going), nothing happens in Mallorca. And nothing is likely to happen. Stagnation, if not extinction.

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