A war of words has broken out over the anxiously awaited water park project planned at the gateway to Maspalomas, on a piece of waste ground that sits between Playa del Inglés and the main GC1 motorway.
It is four years since the project began going through the process of permissions, impact studies and licences to build, what was touted to be, the largest water park project in Europe. Sponsored by the Kiessling family, who head up the Grupo Loro Parque in Tenerife, the new Siam Park Gran Canaria tourist attraction is broadly seen as stark competition to the already well established Aqualand park, run by international theme park group Aspro parks.
There are, therefore, big questions over whether some local politicians even want to let the project move forward. There are allegiances, it is thought, between serving politicians and the already established businesses, that have led to hurdle after hurdle being placed in the way of the final sign off.
The project was dramatically halted last year after a court case from a hitherto unknown business, with ties to Asproparks, contended that the area should be a protected nature reserve. That suspension was lifted last summer, as no evidence could be produced to support stopping the work.
Last week, with just one single municipal licence waiting to be granted, and every other hurdle overcome, the mayor of the southern municipality of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Marco Aurelio Perez, launched a completely unexpected attack on the President of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, claiming that the Cabildo had acted against the project at the very last minute, by serving a heritage department notice of archaeological finds at the proposed building site.
The Mayor, surprisingly, blamed the ruling NC political party and the president personally, despite ample evidence that Antonio Morales has always acted in the interests of the project. The President, defending himself, has said quite plainly that he does not believe that the archaeological find should in any way hinder the project development, saying instead that such a casual find, of ancient seashells, should instead be used to enhance the project.
It all seems very confusing from the outside, but in essence the President says that the work should go ahead, and incorporate the new feature, however the local mayor insists that the project cannot go ahead in the face of the new report. The President has been clear however, pointing out that the mayor has himself been in a position to sign off all the remaining licences since last September.
It´s a political hot potato, and everyone is exasperated by it. Serious questions have arisen over who is blocking the project and why.
The new find of evidence of pre-hispanic archaeological remains, consisting mainly of two caves and a deposit of limpets and winkles, in the area of the old stone cottage, known as La Maleza (The Weed) is now being used as a reason to prevent necessary channeling of the El Veril ravine in accordance with the project presented by the Kiessling group, which will also have an affect on two of the attractions planned for the future Siam Park in the south of Gran Canaria, according to a report prepared by the Town Hall of San Bartolomé de Tirajana in the face of controversy with the Cabildo de Gran Canaria (island government) about the consequences of the discovery of pre-Hispanic remains on the development plot.
The Cabildo claims, contrary to the protests of the Mayor and the town hall, that the deposit does not in any way paralyse the authorisation granted by the Island Water Board of Gran Canaria to channel the ravine, nor does it prevent the municipal license to grant such works, currently awaited from the Town Council of San Bartolomé, who claim the archaeological find made by the Island Historic Heritage Service affects the layout of the pipes to channel the ravine and two of the Siam Park attractions nearest to the old stone house, La Maleza.
Mayor Marco Aurelio Pérez insists that it is impossible to license the Grupo Loro Parque company’s project in the current circumstances because this would present a potential illegality, specifically an administrative prevarication. As for the attractions that would be affected, two giant slides that end in a pool, sources within the town council have told Spanish language daily, La Provincia, that it should still be possible to modify their location because the plans of the Kiessling group are still in a preliminary phase and should be able to be transferred to another part of the plot. However, that would not be possible with the pipeline because the pipes run through the bottom of the site in question and link the ravine to the other side of the GC-500 road.
The Island Water Board, an organisation working under the Cabildo, have suggested that even if the site has to be protected in its entirety, there are many other technical solutions to channelling the ravine and there is plenty of time to look for them because the works will have to be started up at the other end of the plot, farthest away from this new find.
Since the beginning of the controversy, the president of the island government, Antonio Morales, has maintained that he sees no reason why the Town Council of San Bartolomé has not already delivered the work permits to Loro Parque, since the concession from the Island Water Baord and the permits from the other departments of the Cabildo have all been granted since last October.
Morales even points out that the formulation of the municipal license could be used to solve any hypothetical impediments caused by the archaeological site, without supposing any illegality. Cabildo sources have stated that the granting of the hydrological public domain to the Kiessling group has been appealed in court, and that they are not implying that the entire project must be paralysed without a firm resolution of the Supreme Court,
Pending the report of the Town Council, which should be announced in coming days, a team from the Government of the Canary Islands department of Historic Heritage will go to La Maleza, on Wednesday, to evaluate the archaeological remains. Since the find, Marco Aurelio Pérez and Antonio Morales have personally and publicly accused each other of boycotting the Siam Park project of El Veril and the tourist development of the municipalities of southern Gran Canaria.