The Loro Parque group last week publicly denounced a new administrative obstruction in their Siam Park II project in El Veril, beside the popular tourist resort area of Playa del Inglés; this time, they say, caused by the San Bartolomé de Tirajana Town Hall. Apparently referring to an unexpected demand for more than €1m in unexpected urban charges. The company now calculate that the long overdue and much maligned water park project on the south of Gran Canaria will not be opened before “two or three years” from now.
The Kiessling family company explained that the Southern Consistory now suddenly wants to impose “a new urban charge that had never been demanded previously” and has warned that this circumstance “endangers” the viability of Siam Park, “by fully affecting the financial framework initially planned for execution” of the project. For its part, the southern town hall declined initially to make statements, promising explanations which were eventually delivered on Monday morning in an organised tirade by Mayor Marco Aurelio Perez, to a room filled with his councillors, town hall staff and those scant, tenacious members of the press, those that is who did not stay away due to sheer exasperation and boredom with the ever moving feast of dramas and intrigue that is the planning execution of this major project universally touted and agreed as being of huge potential benefit to the island and the municipality.
Yet somehow there is always another twist around the corner… one has to ask… will it ever happen at all?! What political games are being played time and time again here in the deep southern heartland of Gran Canaria’s primary tourist industry?
Loro Parque, in a press release, stated that recently several media outlets on the Islands published an optimistic report regarding the the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TSJC) having endorsed the authorisation for construction of the Siam Park water park in the area of El Veril, having rejected the request of the collective Turcon-Ecologists in Action who had tried to suspend the municipal resolution authorising the works by the company Loro Parque.
“The media interpreted, thus, that this sentence confirmed the work license for the execution of Siam Park, which would have been formidable news, but the reality is quite another”. Loro Parque Group then published the following statements:
1) “What the courts have resolved is related to the course of the ravine, and this ruling only affects the challenge made against the work license of the execution of the channel – work that is currently almost completed -“.
2) “With regard to the work permit for the execution project of Siam Park, its processing has been denied by the San Bartolomé City Council considering that its granting could not be carried out until the Park’s urbanization project was approved.”
3) “From the month of October of 2017, after the construction license for the channelling of the ravine was granted, Loro Parque presented the urbanization projects and the management agreement, to arrange the reparcelación with the Town Council of San Bartolomé de Tirajana”
4) “After all these months of processing and when by this representation it was understood that all the administrative procedures for the granting of the license requested had already been exceeded, the Town Hall of San Bartolomé de Tirajana introduced a new requirement that affects the project of execution for the work to build a roundabout being developed by the Maspalomas Consortium – a project already approved by the Town Council and currently in execution-, a responsibility that does not correspond to Loro Parque “.
5) “Despite the time elapsed and the decisions taken by the Town Hall of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, they want to impose on Loro Parque a new urban charge that had never been demanded previously”.
6) “Before the processing carried out by the Town Council in the granting of the corresponding authorisations, Loro Parque from the beginning has understood that the current regulations do not impede or create any obstacle for either the urbanization license, or the parceling license and that the license for Siam Park, can be granted simultaneously, because they affect a single owner – in this case, Loro Parque -, even offering guarantees with respect to the amount of the urbanization project so that there can be no legal impediment to grant the work license for Siam Park”.
“Siam Park and Poema del Mar “, continued the company in their statement, “based on their general interest and scope, were discussed and defined at the same time with the competent authorities.” Currently, the aquarium in Las Palmas of Gran Canaria is already built and open, thanks to the fact that all parties complied with the agreement, in the case of Siam Park, there were more stones on the road, and even today we are two or three years from the effective inauguration. This makes this project, which has been declared of general interest and strategic [value] for the region, and which has the support of all the sectors involved, to be a project of approximately ten years (from its beginning in 2012 to its possible completion in three years time). This circumstance jeopardises its viability, by fully affecting the financial framework initially envisaged for its execution”.
“However,” concludes the Loro Parque statement “we hope that, in the shortest possible time, it will be possible to finally communicate that, indeed, the works for Siam Park in Gran Canaria have [a clear path forward]”.
Meanwhile the mayor, Marco Aurelio Perez, and his San Bartolomé de Tirajana town hall have returned fire, on Monday accusing the company of making “serious and insulting” accusations in the wording of their protest regarding the supposed obstruction of the southern town council to the Siam Park project. They assured gathered members of their own administration, and a selection of journalists, that the Planning and Urban Management department has acted “at all times with political and administrative rigour”.
In a statement responding to Loro Parque group’s published criticisms, the government group of Mayor Marco Aurelio Pérez consider that this company “lacks the truth about the processing of Siam Park” and has attempted to “call into question” the work of the Town Council.
This dispute between the company and the Council just adds to the long list of difficulties that this project has had, after administrative procedures were initiated back in 2012 and will not now be able to open, in the best of cases, before two or three years from now. The Siam Park project was already receiving objections on its very first step forward, the channeling of the ravine, a €2 million requirement that the company has undertaken to ensure the project can be seen through to everyone’s satisfaction.
After presenting the idea to the Insular Council of Waters (the water board), other companies suddenly appeared on the scene to wrangle for the concession of that space, previously abandoned and unwanted (with the brief exception of a phantom train project) for other proposed actions, including ideas such as an urbanization, a botanical garden or a recreational park. All denied.
Another mercantile entity appealed the project in the courts with the argument that the channel is public, and therefore the property of the State, understanding that the Cabildo did not have the power to grant the authorisations. In addition, the tourism group Hermanos Santana Cazorla went to the courts claiming that they owned part of the land bought by Loro Parque from the aristocratic Del Castillo family.
The penultimate setback arose when the Cabildo ordered the works stopped provisionally following the surprise discovery of some long overlooked archaeological remains. On that occasion, the Town hall of San Bartolomé “put the cry in the sky” and suddenly made a lot of noise, after having previously stayed studiously quiet, accusing the island’s President Antonio Morales of halting tourism development in the south because of the appearance of a deposit of limpets shells. Following urgent intervention from the Archaeology department of the Government of the Canary Islands, the work was authorized to continue the canalisation works in the ravine.
A war of words throughout produced a local mayor who doth protest too much, and unseemly insults levied, toward the island’s president Morales, who though apparently frustrated, remained calm and unyielding in his efforts to expedite the necessary technical assessments that allowed the project to continue forward.
Last Tuesday, after the Superior Court of Justice of the Canary Islands (TSJC) rejected the most recent claim, from the environmental group known as Turcón, who wanted to suspend the license of works in the channel, the Loro Parque company issued their statement to make clear that the works license for the Siam Park project has been “denied by the town council when considering that its granting could not be realised until the urbanisation project was approved”. According to the company, the municipal government group “wants to impose on Loro Parque a new urban charge that had never previously been demanded.”
Marco Aurelio Pérez raged on Monday that he considers it “intolerable” that Loro Parque, in their communiqué, questioned the political and administrative rigour with which the City of San Bartolomé de Tirajana has acted at all times and until now with regard to file No. 28/2017 of Siam Park. “For a simple reason, because the promoters of the Aquatic Park can not enter like an elephant into a pottery shop. The law is the law and is to be fulfilled. Here, in Germany, Valencia or Madrid, “he said.
Marco Aurelio insisted that those responsible for Loro Parque “have and will have in this municipality the same obligations and the same rights as any other resident. Not more, not less, but exactly the same,” he said, and stressed that the promoters of the Siam Park Water Park Maspalomas will always have the support of the Town Hall,” as long as they comply with administrative and urban planning legality.”
The mayor insists, in no uncertain terms, that the Town Council has been repeatedly reminding the owners of Loro Parque of their obligations as developers who want to develop a parcel of land such as this: to pave the streets, build the sidewalks, build the networks of rainwater drains, sewage and waste disposal, the electricity distribution network, and free spaces and, among other obligations, correctly quantify the 10% that must be paid to the public administration because it can not pay with urban plots, in addition to doing so without equating units of use with square meters “because that is another insurmountable error,” said Marco Aurelio Pérez.
The Aquatic Park project must solve the problems of access to public green areas, says Perez, the transfer of the sanitation network, connections to service networks, and carry out the simplified environmental assessment to comply with the regulations of the current Land Law of October 2017. However, claims the town hall on their website, instead of solving these deficiencies, back on February 26, 2018, the promoters instead asked the Town Council to cancel the requirements for resolution of these documentary defects, and grant a license of works for the Aquatic Park with “a permit to combine urbanization and building works”. Perez says that this is what motivated the express denial of the license.
In its negative report of March 15, 2018, the Town Council reminds the promoters of “the incidents that must be corrected” in the documentation of the urbanisation project that Loro Parque presents for the Aquatic Park in El Veril, at a cost of € 1,254,898.21.
The saga continues…
Lots of questions keep being raised, again and again, regarding what could the matter be, really. There is talk of funny handshakes, local ‘special’ interests and political horse trading in an inflexible, rigged and monopolised business environment where outsiders will seemingly always hold the wrong cards, and insiders will always get their way, eventually.
Whether or not there is corrupt practice, we simply cannot say; however it seems extraordinary in a municipality where an estimated half or more of the residents are foreign born, and where 90% of the revenues come from foreign business and investment, not least of all in tourism, that such a major project should be so continually mired in so much back biting, hand wringing and finger wagging. We really need a local government who can simply get this done, without all the theatrics and the beating of the chest!
Municipal town hall elections are scheduled for next May, if you really want to affect the outcome of issues as important as this, there is no point complaining from the sidelines. You need to get involved, use your voice, and register to vote before December if you want to have any say whatsoever about who it is that is calling the shots on the south of Gran Canaria. The people who live here, or the people who live off them?
One thing is for sure, nobody really knows whose interests are being best served by the continual stop-start of a project on this scale. And no amount of teeth gnashing, caterwauling, chest beating or finger pointing will be worth a damn if the local population are not prepared to stand up and fight for not only what they want, but for their right to a say in choosing what happens around them.
Who are you? A resident voter, or a stranger without a voice?