It´s been a busy week with regard to El Veril and Siam Park Maspalomas with questions being asked about the long awaited hundred-million euro Gran Canaria water park that was “green lighted” three years ago, to be built on a large piece of wasteland between the main GC1 highway and the entry point to the prime resort areas of San Agustin, Playa del Inglés and the Maspalomas Costa Canaria on the south of the island.
About the only thing that is clear is that those involved are becoming more and more impatient.
The Canary Islands government declared this project to be of strategic importance to the tourist economy, meaning it should have been fast tracked. Island President Antonio Morales says that all feasibility studies have been favourable, and all licences given green lights. It appears, however, that the local town hall keep finding reasons to hesitate, despite having had unprecedented cross-party support at the highest institutional levels. They say they haven’t formally received the works plan for the project, and have been awaiting the outcome of archaeological reports to be able to continue forward, blaming a lack of timely information, to the consternation of island government and regional government, all of whom seem to be saying that they can not understand what the hold up is.
Make no mistake, this project is a huge deal for the island, on a wasteland plot that nobody has shown any interest in for many years, after all the work that has been done it seems most odd to find the town hall dragging their feet.
Surprisingly the normally capital oriented, right wing press and politicians in control of the south have recently found themselves unexpectedly giving support to arguments laid forward by socialists and local ecology groups to prevent the project from continuing forward. Local Mayor Marco Aurelio Perez, self-styled as a man who is pro business and tourism economy development positive, may have found himself aligned with ideas from the other side of the political spectrum, while claiming to simply want to make sure everything is correctly assessed. Questions are being asked as to where his administration’s focus really lies.
Wolfgang Kiessling, and his son Christoph, who have been promoting the project for their company Grupo Loro Parque, held a press conference last week where they made clear that they cannot hang on indefinitely for Gran Canaria’s institutions to clear through the bureaucratic hold ups with which the project seems to have been plagued.
A new request for an urban terrain report has once again returned to the spot light what seems to be an ongoing conflict between the island government, The Cabildo, and the municipal council of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the ayuntamiento, who for eight months appear to have been in some sort of deadlock regarding the granting of the last remaining permits for work to start on the new highly anticipated tourist attraction. Back at the beginning of the year the conflict even came down to a trading of personal insults and accusations, via the media, between the mayor and the island president.
The sudden discovery, last December, of residual archaeological remains on the plot, known as El Veril, has now led to a municipal request for information from the government of island president Antonio Morales to find out whether or not territorial reclassification of the land should be carried out. Wolfgang Kiessling says he hopes that he will continue to be “enthusiastic” about the project, adding that “one day we will have to say enough is enough” if the investment continues to be blocked.
The Kiessling´s have been extraordinarily patient throughout this process. More than ten years after the first Siam Park was built on Tenerife, having originally been proposed but blocked for Gran Canaria, operators Loro Parque have managed to negotiate their way through all of the hurdles on this island to a point where now, three and a half years after having acquired the plot at El Veril, from the heirs of the noble Castillo del Castillo family, they are expressing regrets at not having been able to even place the first stone in the construction of what they have touted to be the largest water park of Europe.
In a press conference overlooking their newest development in Las Palmas, the Poema del Mar aquarium, the work and permissions for which, in comparison, advanced like a “bullet” at the capital’s main tourist port, the promoter said he would be “unable to continue” with Siam Park if the southern town council does not grant him the last outstanding license to channel the ravine.
“If they give me the license and someone can manage to take away my fear of being stopped every two or three steps along the way, I promise that within three days we will commence the works and will work day and night to open the park within two years,” he said. While emphasising that he still feels “excited” by the initiative, Kiessling made clear that “to continue like this I cannot see the park and I do not feel able to continue” with the investment.
Like the investors the president of the Cabildo, Antonio Morales, reproached Maspalomas town hall for not having yet granted Siam Park permission to channel the ravine. In his opinion, they seem to just be wasting time more than 6 months after the discovery of some minor archaeological remains in El Veril the southern ayuntamiento have now “raised a question to the Cabildo asking if new territorial qualification is necessary, although there are two different departments of the town council that say it is not necessary” said Morales.
The Federation of Hospitality and Tourism of Las Palmas (FEHT) yesterday asked the administrations for greater “awareness” and support to Siam Park, which has been promoted by the Kiessling group in El Veril for three years. Faced with new administrative obstacles to the investment, the bosses have pointed out that the future water park will generate employment and greater competitiveness to the tourist destination.
The FEHT president, José María Mañaricúa, stressed that at the moment Gran Canaria “can not afford the potential loss of new jobs, let alone jeopardize the competitiveness of the destination” attracting about four million visitors a year .