Spanish Treasury claims land ownership confirmation and rights to compensation for the Siam Park project
The Spanish Treasury have reportedly demanded the stoppage of the long awaited and controversial Siam Park water park project, with local Spanish language daily La Provincia reporting that this has been caused by the inaction of the insular government, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria.
The Ministry, through the delegation of Economy and Finance in the Canary Islands, have, say sources, since January been requesting that the Gran Canaria Island Water Council clarify State funds that correspond to urban development on the grounds of the El Veril ravine, between the main GC1 highway and the tourist resort of Playa del Inglés, where it claims shared ownership of several plots with the Loro Parque Group, but they have reportedly not received any answers.
In the absence of a response from the Island Water Council, which is an agency of the governing Cabildo, who received an official letter dated January 8, 2019 urging clarification on the interests of the State and the use of public land by Loro Parque Group, the Spanish Hacienda has now directly addressed the Town Hall of San Bartolomé de Tirajana (SBT).
Ironically it was, in the end, the delays and refusals of the SBT town council in failing to issue the final works licences that once again paralysed this project at the beginning of this year, while they sought an extra €2m, that had not originally been planned for, which the Loro Parque Group refused to pay, following several difficult years of protracted delays while spurious legal claims and games of blame were thrown around and then out of the courts and then a series of very public attacks on the Cabildo, and its President, by the now-ousted, then-governing, PPAV party and the local ex-mayor, who had during the delay presided over critical changes in local ordinance which had led to his administration demanding the extra monies from the developer. No pay, no play seemed to become SBT’s position on the project, while pointing the blame elsewhere.
In a new official letter dated October 17, 2019 the State requests that the Southern Consistory, responsible for such developments in the municipality, act to ensure “the management and urban execution be paralyzed in the registration and physical transformation of the affected properties, since these lands are not [owned by a] sole proprietor”, according to the document, to which reporters say they have had access. That is, they say, that although Loro Parque own 174,827 square meters, following its purchase back in 2013 from the aristocratic Del Castillo family, the plots appear to have a double registration in the Land Registry as they are listed also in the name of the Spanish State. A peculiarity indeed which has never previously been at issue.
Sources close the Grupo Loro Parque, operated from Tenerife by the Kiessling Family, have expressed their surprise at this revelation, as this information was, it seems, completely unknown to them previously. While it was known that State lands were involved, no objections at any stage had been made throughout this lengthy saga running for many years now.
In addition, the ministry has informed the Consistory that they have initiated procedures to demand ownership of the land located within the public hydraulic domain of El Veril, which corresponds to the channels along the Guincho, Buenavista and Cañizo ravines. A maneuver that once again calls into question the possibility of building a theme park and a 300-room hotel in which the company has long planned to invest €60m and to attract a further €40m in investments which would bring jobs, revenues and an expected increase in tourism to the area.
In the spaces the State claims as hydraulic public domain, Loro Parque, at the end of 2017, undertook canalisation works in the ravine, which had been stipulated to be required by the Island Water Council, after having obtained in July of that same year an urban planning license from the SBT Town hall to carry out the works in which the company invested the first €2m so as to expedite and enable the permissions for breaking ground on the planned water park development, and for the use of this space, Grupo Loro Parque has an administrative concession.
In its letter to the Island Water Council, which has thus far gone unanswered, the Treasury have also required that once there has been clarification of which area is public land and which is private, that the State be granted rights over the urban uses generated by those plots in the public domain, that is to say, that the Government now wants to be paid for the use of any publicly owned lands. Something that has never previously been requested.
It remains unclear as to what possible outcomes this new claim might lead to, as much as it may hinder the development it could well end up being a blessing in disguise as local authorities have successively failed to bring the project to fruition. The influence of the Spanish state may well be expedient to finally resolving the question of this project breaking ground or not.
While this clarification occurs, the Spanish Ministry of Finance has demanded that the Island Water Council appear before the competent public administrations, in this case the Town Council of San Bartolomé de Tirajana and the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, to defend the urban interests of the Spanish State, derived from the incorporation of these public domain lands into the existing El Veril Plan for Mondernisation, Improvement and Increase of Competitiveness. They have also required, as official managers of the public water domain, that the Water Council adhere to the constitution of the State Compensation Board. This will set the meter for how much the State will expect for any use of public lands affected by the projects, which have been long addled by the associated sagas of unfulfilled announcements, administrative battles, court hearings, inaction and recriminations.
In the second letter, now sent to San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the Ministry of Finance, demands that the Local Municipal Corporation take account of the General State Administration as a holder of part of the plots located in the El Veril Barranco. “In the drafting of the mandatory compensation / reparcelación project; the right to use that corresponds to it, its location, as well as the distribution of charges and benefits, must be included as it is an area of action with several owners,” the official letter says.
This new claim from the Spanish Treasury comes just five years after the Spanish State gave free access to the construction of the new water park, specifically by not submitting any claims or objections to the Kiessling family project, which was processed at the Gran Canaria Island Water Council, despite already knowing they were co-owner of the lands located in El Veril. Having not presented any objections, the agency responsible for hydraulic management on the Island thereby understood in 2014 that the State had cleared the way for the German-born investor, Wolfgang Kiessling, to promote his long awaited water park and a new hotel.
These newly voiced requirements of the Ministry of Finance potentially represent a major blow for the newly inaugurated current quadripartite coalicion local government of San Bartolomé de Tirajana in their stated intentions to expedite the administrative file & finally grant the works license to Loro Parque, by constituting it as one of the strategic investments for the development of the municipality. The project had already been declared of major strategic importance for the island and for the region.
The Kiesslings themselves, owners of Grupo Loro Parque, have repeatedly shown their fatigue at the paralysis of this major investment on Gran Canaria and their extreme displeasure at the repeated delays to execution of an urban development project that was, they thought, long ago agreed and green lighted. Construction work of the theme park was originally to be completed two years ago, in 2017, and yet it has not even obtained the construction license to begin work, with €2m already spent and another €2m demanded.
During the administrative process, various public accusations were levied toward the Cabildo de Gran Canaria by the Local Council, with both institutions then blaming each other for stopping this otherwise universally agreed project of great importance for Gran Canaria.
The project began to drift, after all external objections had been overcome in the courts, with the apparent discovery of archaeological remains, namely shellfish remains of little significance, leading to the then PPAV mayor (Marco Aurelio Perez) suddenly pointing fingers at the island government in the press, and then continuing with the construction of a roundabout, for which the Kiesslings had expected the town hall to pay, as originally defined, only to be presented with a €2m demand; Infrastructure that the Prosecutor’s Office validated after the filing of a complaint by an environmental group. The Spanish State has been openly able to participate in as many meetings as necessary to clarify how much money it is owed for the land, over the course of several years, and yet has never done so to date.
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