Friday, October 18, 2013

A Torrent Runs Through It: Sa Canova

Sa Canova in Artà lies just over the municipal border with Santa Margalida. One way of getting to Sa Canova beach is to go to Son Serra de Marina and then take a short walk. The other way is to walk from Colonia Sant Pere. Sa Canova was in the news earlier this year because the first official naturist hotel in Mallorca was opened nearby; part of the beach of Sa Canova has long been popular with naturists. It is in the news again because four municipalities in Mallorca have placed it in the news. Two of these - Santa Margalida and Artà - have a clear interest in Sa Canova. But why are Petra and Manacor getting involved?

Council meetings at the four towns have all voted in favour of rejecting a development proposal for Sa Canova. But the rejection is not just confined to Sa Canova, its beach and its dunes, it also includes the torrent of Na Borges. This is the longest torrent in Mallorca. It originates between Porreres and Felanitx and passes through Petra on its way to the bay of Alcúdia. There is a torrent from Manacor which joins it. Na Borges is, where the four towns are concerned, a "place of common interest" which requires a specific plan of management to look after it. Studies have been going on for several years into the torrent's sediments and drainage and also into erosion of farming land that it passes through, so ecologically it is far from unimportant. The torrent enters the bay of Alcúdia at Sa Canova. Indeed, it is the torrent which forms the borderline in Son Serra de Marina between Artà and Santa Margalida.

While this is all very interesting in its own right, it is what has been proposed for Sa Canova which is very much more interesting and which is why the four towns have objected. The development envisaged at Sa Canova is for a holiday complex comprising some 200 bungalows. It was one which the Balearic parliament approved last year, despite Sa Canova being protected as an area of special natural interest and also despite the fact that, in theory, Artà town hall have the final word as to any development.

Artà's word is no. But one doubts that its word is the final word for a development which would occupy some sixty hectares of land that had been earmarked as a golf course back in the 1980s. This development was stopped when the land classification was changed, but there is some development there - five houses, roads, water supplies but not full electricity connections. Some of you might know this area. It is a semi-urbanisation called Ravenna.

The plan for the Sa Canova holiday club would entail the bungalows being built to five-star standard. There is much provision for environmental management, while investors behind the project have proposed that they fund restoration and maintenance work on the various prehistoric sites in the area (one of these, along the coast in Son Real, suffers from almost complete financial neglect). The club would employ up to 150 people in summer but, and crucially, it would remain open all year.

It is the all-year nature of the development, its location in an essentially rural setting and the fact that the investors are Belgian that makes one think of certain other holiday clubs. It is a coincidence that news has come through of Pierre & Vacances Center Parcs opening an all-year holiday complex in Benidorm. P&V, a French company, has its sights set on expansion into Mallorca. It might not create the type of Center Parcs that exists in, say, the Netherlands, but maybe it would.

The Sa Canova development would be in a location that would fit quite closely with the original Center Parcs concept. That's not what it would be, just as the P&V Benidorm complex is also not, but I am far from alone in having thought for many years that it is precisely this type of concept that should be considered for Mallorca.

I know the Sa Canova area reasonably well. There is much to be said for it keeping its "rustic" and unspoilt charm, but then the development wouldn't sit right on top of the beach. It would be set back and probably mostly obscured. As a project it has much to commend it, but whether it would ever go ahead is highly questionable. One thinks of the objections to the development at Es Trenc and so one knows how vociferous the lobby against such developments is and knows also that the competing demands of the environment and of tourism commerce seem to be almost irreconcilable in Mallorca.

* Photo of Sa Canova from Wikimedia Commons

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