Battle of The Theme Parks Gran Canaria
The court order, reported yesterday, once more halting the long touted new Water Park development in Playa del Inglés, promoted by Loro Parque founder Wolfgang Kiessling and family, at the main entry point to the southern Gran Canaria tourist resort of Maspalomas, could be delayed by up to three years, according to sources close to the case.
The president of the Cabildo, Antonio Morales, has said “the administration has done its homework” commenting that he regrets that some, referring to competitor businesses, “do not to accept free competition” in the market.
The company Lebensraum Wasser, which has been rumoured to have links to Aspro group, the operators of Aqualand and Palmitos Park tourist attractions, complained to the court that both the Island Water Board and the Gran Canaria Cabildo violated the law in granting to the Loro Parque Group, who are the promoter of the new Siam Park attraction, licenses to allow the channeling of some public lands in the area of El Veril, according to an adviser to the Kiesslings, Jose Carlos Francisco.
The applicant developer states in its defense that the permission for canalization of the ravine, work valued at around €2 million, was solely a decision for the island’s water authority to make, and did not require the granting of a contest, as claimed by the petitioners Lebensraum Wasser.
Jose Carlos Francisco, points out that it is solely the “land owner”, having already reserved a budget of €60 million euros investment for the plot, who would have any interest in completing these works. “What other entity would want to bear costs of up to €2million without having particular interest in the area?” asked the director of the tourism group Loro Parque yesterday, in a quote to investigative journalist Thaidi Llamas for Spanish Language Daily La Provincia.
The precautionary suspension of works it is thought now jeopardises not only the €7million that the Kiessling group has already invested in El Veril, with the purchase of the land from the heirs of the noble Familia del Castillo, back in February 2014, and the project design, but also funding for the construction of the park and the accompanying hotel on a side plot, which was granted just over a month ago.
The further delays in construction of the park, according to legal sources from the project’s investment group, could take up to three years before a decision is properly arrived at, the company would have to repay the tax benefits it has received from the Canary Islands Investment Reserve. The company has a maximum of four years, starting from 2013, to realize at least a €40 million development for which it has been granted tax relief.
“We hope that the judge imposes a bond, which will be presented to the company that has brought the action. We will ask for a guarantee for damages caused, which could exceed €20 million,” Francisco revealed to La Provincia.
For his part, the president of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, has said the legal department of the island government is considering whether the institution will be required to attend at the hearings or only after a judgement has been arrived at. “In the first instance I do not think we need to act in this case,” said the president.
Morales has insisted that “the administration has done its homework” in regard to this agreement, which was approved by the unanimous vote of the political groups within the Cabildo, in the previous legislature, when the procedure was originally launched. “In the last six months it has fallen to me to streamline some of the administrative details, such as easement for roadways, which are now already resolved. But it must be remembered also that the Committee of Planning and Environment for the Canary Islands (Cotmac) has expressed its approval”, the president pointed out.
In his view, “in this case, as in others, this is an action by those who defend the free market and which in turn has paralyzed significant investments to Gran Canaria, for their own interests.”
“This is not the first time, unfortunately, the private sector has shown that it does not accept free competition” said Morales without directly addressing the likely motivations behind the company Lebensraum Wasser having appealed to the Administrative Court.
Like Morales, the mayor of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Marco Aurélio Pérez expects judgement of this litigation to be resolved in a “quick and agile” manner. “My job is not to express an opinion for or against the dictates of the court room, but to wait for the court to resolve it as soon as possible,” said Pérez.
The Town Hall of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, according to estimates from the investment group, chaired by German entrepreneur Kiessling, could lose up to €2million in revenues from the Tax on Construction Facilities and Works (ICICI), in the first year alone of project execution.
It is important to remember that in this particular case the development has received unprecedented support not only from the various Gran Canaria institutions involved, all the way up to the primary island government, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, but also has be designated a project of strategic importance for the future of the canary islands economy and development of tourism by the regional Autonomous Government of The Canary Islands.
Although links have been rumoured between the petitioners Lebensraum Wasser and Aspro Parks (the Aqualand and Palmitos park operator); this publication has yet to see any direct evidence of the link, which has for us been limited to the suggestion that both companies share the same legal advisors.
Lebensraum Wasser was set up in 2014 not long after the completion of the land deal and around the time of the announcement that the project had been accepted by the institutional bodies involved. Nobody seems very clear what their function is as a company, however it is noted, possibly in preparation for this action, that they announced a significant increase in share capital over the summer, presumably as some sort of war chest with which to fund the hampering of the new development.
As President Antonio Morales has pointed out, for once this is not a development that has been obstructed by governmental institutions, but instead the action leading to the suspension of the project has come wholly from the private sector, and many suspect solely from the vested interests of a rival company who do not seem to welcome any sort of competition.
The project on the whole enjoys unprecedented institutional and public support and so it is the opinion of this publication that it is only a matter of time before the development is allowed to continue forward, so long as the promotors are able to bide their time, and the judicial system is able to function within the time allowed.
This is certainly not the end of the Water Park project, which remains as one of the most likely and significant advances to tourism infrastructure to be completed within the coming years. The burning question is simply: When?