Thursday, July 18, 2013

Judges On The Beach: Es Trenc hotel

Judges at the higher courts in Mallorca and Spain must be longing for August to come, so that they can pack their robes away, head for the beaches and forget about having to make legal decisions for a few weeks. The judges have been super-busy of late. And a couple of them, from the Balearics High Court, may well opt to head for Es Trenc beach, safe in the knowledge that their vacation peace and quiet will not be disturbed by the sound of bulldozers moving in and levelling ground in preparation for a five-star hotel complex. The great hotel-next-to-Es Trenc controversy is on hold. At least for now.

One of the judges, Pablo Delfont, will have the additional satisfaction of glancing over at the site of what once were apartments. They aren't there now. They have been demolished, and Judge Delfont was the judge who ordered the demolition and the fining of the mayor of Campos for not pulling his finger out earlier and bringing the wrecking crews in.

The higher courts, when not being bombarded with originals of allegedly illegal accounts kept by former Partido Popular treasurers, spend a good deal of their time deciding what can be built, what can't be built and what has to be demolished. Along with the demolition orders, they also spend time working out fines for dilatory mayors. Pollensa's Tomeu Cifre is another council leader who is going to find himself out of pocket because a house on the Calvari steps is still there. It shouldn't be, says the Balearics High Court. And it finally made the order at the end of last year, a mere twenty years after the case first arose. There are administrative procedures that have to be gone through, pleads mayor Cifre. There certainly are.

But back at Es Trenc, Judge Delfont can bask in the sun, content with a job well done. He, rather than the environmental opponents, the propaganda handed out to tourists at the airport or the bluster from opposition parties, has put the kibosh on the hotel. And he has done so, thanks to the discovery of a simple item related to the planning for the complex.

The Council of Mallorca, which had given the go ahead for the building as part of the island's land plan, had spotted a mistake in this plan as it related to the hotel complex. Where it said that the complex would require two hectares, it should have said 21 hectares. The Council, in a sense, just tippexed out the two and wrote in 21. It was a mistake. Anyone could have made it. Of course they could have. Two hectares, twenty-one hectares; neither here nor there. If you aren't au fait with the hectare, it equates to 10,000 square metres or just under two and a half acres. Lord's Cricket Ground in London is roughly two hectares in size. The hotel complex would need ten and a half Lord's rather than one.

It could have all been an administrative error, but the judges plainly thought otherwise. Indeed, they were of the opinion that this error was a strategy of concealment and have therefore annulled the Council's approval. It will either now have to draw up a new plan or the hotel will be dead in the Es Trenc water.

The court was responding to challenges brought by opposition parties and by a company called Zarpimi, which has a fairly long history of dealings with the Council of Mallorca and with judges in Mallorca. In 1998, the Council imposed a moratorium on urban developments. Zarpimi was one company which challenged this, and the High Court agreed that the Council had gone too far in blocking some one hundred developments on the island. The Council then underwent a shift in political complexion and in 2004 it drew up a "definitive" land plan and it also, with an agreement authorised by the then president of the Council, Maria Antonia Munar, came up with a plan for Sa Rapita, i.e. near to Es Trenc beach, for a much bigger project than the one that the High Court has now put on hold. It would have involved construction on an area at least twice the size. The constructor was to have been Zarpimi.

A combination of a rival company, opposition parties and the judges has done for the Es Trenc project for now. Whether, even with a revision of the land plan, it ever gets built, who can say. Nothing ever runs smoothly in Mallorca. Which is why the judges are kept so busy. They deserve their holiday.

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