If you happen to be a tourist wanting to have a camping holiday in Mallorca, it is quite possible that when consulting Google you will find links to camping in Colonia Sant Pere, the small resort in Arta on the bay of Alcudia. There will be only two things misleading about information that these links may provide. Firstly, it isn't camping. Secondly, it has been closed for years.
As is well known, there is no such thing as an official tourist camping site in Mallorca. Camping San Pedro, for which you will indeed find references which suggest it is still in operation, always had a misleading name. There was no camping under canvas. Instead, there were a number of small bungalows - 88 (28.5 square metres in size) - on a complex of 23,000 square metres with a swimming-pool, a restaurant, a snack bar and a couple of tennis courts. To give an idea as to what 23,000 square metres represent, think of three football pitches next to each other and you won't be far off.
The complex has been closed since 2003 and in 2006 the Council of Mallorca opened proceedings on the grounds that it constituted an infraction of urban planning and that the bungalows were illegal and could not be legalised. These proceedings sought the demolition of the bungalows. An appeal was filed by the owners, UPA S.A., which in July 2012 was dismissed by what is effectively the cabinet at the Council of Mallorca.
Since then and also of course for several years prior, the complex has descended into a state of abandonment and degradation. It now offers a pretty sorry sight in a gentle little resort that really could have done without the controversy, but the end of the complex is still seemingly nowhere in sight. The demolition order has been dragged through the courts and continues to be dragged through them.
The background to all this is, suffice to say, incredibly complicated. Here, as is often the case in Mallorca, is an example of a collision of different and changing administrations and different legal interpretations. One of the odder aspects of the interest of the courts in the affair was that in 2011 the Balearic High Court slashed a penalty on the owners that had originally been set at 900,000 euros to just over 17,000. The owners were to then place their own compensation claim against the regional government (and so not the Council of Mallorca) of more than three million euros for damages suffered over many years.
The decision of the High Court was clearly favourable where the owners were concerned, but it didn't remove the demolition demand initiated by the Council (and so not the government), while it was being said that the tourism ministry, i.e. the government, had on three occasions - in 1994, 1999 and 2004 - determined that the bungalows were authorised or authorisable. How absurdly complex and contradictory opinion can be. There was the ministry apparently saying authorised or authorisable and the Council of Mallorca saying illegal or not legalisable.
It is mind-boggling attempting to get the bottom of the affair but essentially it seems to centre on the fact that the bungalows were deemed to be permanent structures when they are in fact prefabs which, it is argued, are dismountable and removable. Moreover, the bungalows weren't originally prefabs with concrete. They were wood, but it was the tourism ministry which instructed the change to prefabs. So, if the ministry had said this, then what was the problem? Well, then there was an issue as to how easily movable they might be, and so the arguments went on and on.
But over and above the legal argument and the apparent discrepancies between the government and the Council, there was the political angle. It is claimed that the whole business was directed by one party - the United Left-Greens in Arta, which had denounced the prefab work at the end of the last century. Move forward some years to 2013 and there was a slightly different political element agitating for demolition - the Iniciativa Verds (Greens) in Arta and the co-ordinator of the Iniciativa Verds in Mallorca, i.e. David Abril, now eco-warrior-in-chief with Més.
Supporters of the complex maintain that a great injustice has been done and that there had been a petition signed by more than 1,500 local businesspeople, residents and holidaymakers demanding that the San Pedro be allowed to continue. But that support may well have ebbed, given the ongoing deterioration of the complex.
There's demolition and there's demolition. Sometimes it's necessary because of flagrant abuses or obsolescence, but it can also seem punitive. In effect, a death sentence was placed on San Pedro. But what harm was it ever really doing? A relaxing holiday village with small bungalows and nothing obtrusive. What seems like political vandalism condemned it.