Desalination plants: the excuse for suicidal growth

For months now, we have seen in the press, repeated articles on desalination plants. They are always presented as giving water to the population, but the information hides some points that should be kept in mind.

Desalination is much more expensive

Since the work on the desalination plant for Ciutadella was delivered, the Balearic Government promised to pay the equivalent of 8,000 euros per day for the 15 years of construction. More than 43 million euros. This is being paid by the citizens although blurred by other costs. Continue reading Desalination plants: the excuse for suicidal growth

The Exhibition for Son Bou has covered the balance of the costs for the legal proceedings

Hundreds of people visited the exhibition, “Son Bou Act”, acquired works of art and gave donations. This meant that, within five days, the necessary funds were raised to defray the costs of the legal proceedings initiated by GOB. The entity asks that public institutions will also work to avoid the enlargement of the two enormous hotels on the beach.

The hotels of Son Bou have made one of the worst impacts to the landscape of the Menorcan coastline. They were constructed in the seventies, then, in 2017, a project was submitted by the promotion company that plans to keep the height of the 12 floors of the two towers and add a five-story construction next to and between them. This will have the effect of a huge screen.

GOB found that the hotels never complied with the plot surface requirement for a licence in the seventies, thus making the buildings illegal and not able to benefit from the Provision of the Tourism law that could allow an extension. For that reason, the process has been stopped during the last six years.

In 2022, the company submitted a petition to separate and regroup the plots of land with the intention of adding more square meters as building land and so legalising the current constructions. However, GOB considers that they have taken green areas to count as building land. This is the reason for having started the contentious administrative process, since the Alaior Town Hall has rejected, through its administrative silence, reviewing this operation.

GOB considers that it is unwelcome these days trying to enlarge yet more such enormous buildings as the hotels in Son Bou on the front line of the sea.

The entity regrets that the public institutions are not working to reduce significantly the effect of the hotels on the landscape but rather apply silence and opacity to a project that aims to increase the impact greatly on the landscape of the largest beach of Menorca. This attitude needs to change.

At the same time, we would like to give our sincere thanks for the help given by more than 50 artists who donated works; to those who helped carry out the activities complementary to the exhibition (of theatre, poetry recital and the “glossat” – improvised poetry performance) and to all those who responded to the call ensuring that legal costs are not an impediment for defending the island.

Discharge of sewage water in Cap d’en Font

The presence of sewage water along the coast of Sant Lluis  led to finding a fixed installation for a discharge into the public domain. GOB documented the case and made a formal complaint to Costas and the Department of the Environment.

Cap d’en Font has a series of large chalets with enormous lawns in their gardens. For that reason, the area was chosen by GOB to show the large consumption of water taken for gardening, as part of the framework for their excursions made last year in their campaign Menorca In-SOS-tenible.

Some of the people on this excursion saw, in an open area close to one of the large chalets, an area covered by shrubs and weeds, filled with sewage water and told GOB. An inspection led to finding a pipe hidden in the vegetation, from where the discharge came.

Comments from the neighbours suggested that they had noticed, on other occasions, rocks with coloured waters and suspicious smells. It pointed to a habitual practice of the emptying of a septic tank belonging to a chalet, which, they also said, had a lot of summer tourist activity despite not having a tourist rental permit.

Cap d’en Font is one of the urbanizations that does not have a sewage system. The owner of each establishment is responsible for contracting someone to empty their septic tank when it is full.

GOB estimates that the garden attached to the discovered “facility” must use about 1000 litres of water daily just for maintaining the lawn in the summer. This is 90,000 litres, minimum, during the tourist season.

For that reason alone, these chalets should be, already, the object of systematic inspections. This is particularly so since there is a means for discharging sewage water into a public domain, including an area where people swim, which aggravates the situation even more.

A formal complaint has been registered with the Balearic Government Ministry of Sea (that assumed the responsibility of coastal surveillance since July) and with the Environmental Agencies.

Monday 28 August, benefit exhibition for Son Bou

A large group of artists are donating works to benefit the legal proceedings filed by GOB against the intention of enlarging the Son Bou hotels. The opening will be on Monday 28 August at 19.30. Different events have been organised for the following days as part of the Son Bou Act exhibition.

Numerous paintings, drawings and photographs can be bought at the GOB premises in Maó, in the Molí del Rei, that have been donated to help defray the legal costs required for the case brought against the increase in volume of the two large hotels that are on the front line of Son Bou.

GOB has spent six years fighting to have the project presented by Melia reconsidered, which aims to build five more floors between the two existing towers. On the understanding that the existing buildings have legal deficiencies and that the regrouping of the plots made by the Alaior Town Council, making green areas for building, a judicial route is being taken that is being paid for with contributions made by the public.

This is when the solidarity of a series of artists appeared, who believed it necessary to contribute to this public mobilization that favours complying with urban regulations drafted for obtaining equilibrium and respect for our land. Their willingness to help has been followed by a number of other participants who are giving works for the benefit exhibition.

At the same time, artistic events are being added to the initiative. All the activities will take place in the Molí del Rei, Camí des Castell, 53, Maó, at 19.30. Here is the programme to note in your diary:

    • Monday 28, opening and presentation of the exhibition
    • Tuesday 29, improvisation theatre on the roof terrace of the Molí
    • Wednesday 30, poetry recital from different authors
    • Thursday 31, projection of images with an explanation of the controversy over the hotels.
    • Friday 1 September, Glossat (improvised poetry performance)

Spread the word, help by distributing the attached poster in pdf and bring your friends.

Son Bou poster

S’Estany de Mongofra and the problem of microplastics

GOB organised a clean up of the coast along s’Estany de Mongofra that took place on Sunday 23 July. The topography and the enclosed coves of this unique area make it particularly prone to the accumulation of waste brought in by the sea.

The fifty volunteers that came to help were distributed to various points already identified around s’Estany. In total, they collected 83 kilos of waste, mostly plastics. The presence of microplastics in the area, with muddy or pebble beaches, made them difficult to collect, so that they could only be collected manually picking up each one by one.

It was a day of intense heat so that the mid-morning snacks, with Land Stewardship Scheme farm products, above all the melons and watermelons, helped rehydration and to give strength to continue with the task.

At the end of the day, the different types of waste were separated. This time, the remains of broken plastics made up the main part of the waste, weighing 29 kg, followed by bulky plastic waste, 23 kg, and in third place were the ropes weighing 17 kg. What is surprising is the large number of stoppers that can be found, on this occasion 3.5 kilograms that took up a volume of 30 litres.

Since 2015, GOB has organised various clean up days at the same point and something interesting has been observed that, with the passing of time, the smallest plastics (microplastics, mesoplastics and others) have been replacing the larger objects that used to represent the most common waste. These small waste objects are nothing more than the result of plastic degradation, which, as we all know, is not biodegradable so that it breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces that end up in the trophic chain and become ingested by humans.

We are grateful to all the volunteers that took part on this day and we encourage everyone to take advantage of their beach days and collect the plastic waste they are sure to find in the sand.

This event was supported by the Island Governing Council and the Menorca Preservation Fund.

For photographs, please look here

Illegal swimming pools in Menorca and closure order in France

It is now known that the developers of certain illegal swimming pools in Menorca are also having a major conflict in France, in the Provence Region, where the city council is preparing a closure order of an establishment in the chain.

The same developers that are managing Sant Ponça and Torre Vella in Menorca (under the Group name, Domaine de Fontenille) have opened recently a new luxury hotel in Sain-Remy-de-Provence that is generating a lot of controversy in the area, which is being spread via major media outlets.

In agricultural areas of this region, it is only possible to process tourist accommodations, called guesthouses, of five bedrooms. The problem is that the hotel in question would have been inaugurated with 19 bedrooms and a restaurant without a licence or municipal authorisation. The different administrations have made negative reports that will probably result with a closure order. In fact, some major booking platforms no longer operate with the hotel.

The new establishment, called Domaine de Chalamon, is located in an area that, like Menorca, opted for strict urban planning, in order to avoid unwanted development. The authorities do not want to allow precedents that would encourage future disastrous planning.

The authorities have shown greater courage than in Menorca

Seeing the publicity that announced the details of the building (19 bedrooms, swimming pool, restaurant…) did not coincide with the characteristics of a guesthouse, the different administrations coordinated and visited the establishment and issued negative reports. A closure order seems imminent if it has not already occurred.

It should be remembered that in 2019 GOB denounced the presence of swimming pools that should be troughs for saving water in the agro tourism of Torre Vella as well as other irregularities. As a result, in 2021 the Consortium of Urban Discipline opened a file with the proposal of a sanction for about one and half million euros (486,000 for each one of those responsible – the developer, the architect and the builder.)

A little while afterwards, the Environmental Commission also raised reports of environmental breaches and proceedings have been initiated with the Island Governing Council, as the body that must enforce environmental issues.

The developers allocated all the existing buildings for tourist use and then asked to build new ones to maintain the farming activity, then petitioned for legalising water troughs made into swimming pools. The Alaior Town Council did not allow GOB to see the documentation and this obstruction has been reported to the Council for Transparency and Good Governance that is processing the file.

A case that creates comparative grievance between the Menorcans

Torre Vella continues, in the summer of 2023, promoting the bedrooms with the illegal swimming pools. It seems that no administration decides anything and meanwhile, the promoters do business when their facilities are illegal.

To allow this impunity transmits an inequality in the application of the rules (many illegal works on the Island have ended in demolition as established by law) and generates a sensation of favourable treatment by the Menorcan authorities.

What a difference from the reaction of the French authorities. There, despite the French millionaires mentioned putting forward their usual arguments of giving jobs and restoring the archaeological heritage, the public institutions have replied that the rules are equal for all as was known by the developers from the first day that they were interviewed.

Look at the following images:

Formal complaints about the new pontoons in the Fornells Port

Puertos, the Port Authority of the Balearic Islands, have opened a file for a concession to build and make use of five pontoons in Fornells Port. GOB has made formal complaints in order to remind that these new facilities were approved with a series of environmental conditions that must now be followed.

Let us remember that the project of remodelling the Fornells Port was conditional on a series of measures that had to be carried out prior to the commissioning of the new pontoons. Let us look at the conditions:

  • The Balearic Port Authority has to contribute 30,000 euros per season to the Posidonia Fund, in the form of an anchorage monitor who, in the summer season, daily monitors all the LIC (Communal Places of Importance) of the Marine Area of the North of Menorca and all the LIC of Punta Redonda Arenal de un Castillo. The first payment made before the occupation of pontoon L.
  • Send to the Environment Councillor of the Balearic Islands, underwater photographs of the pontoons A and B with their surroundings to show that they have not dredged the red zone of the posidonia reef outlined in plan 1 of the attached cartographic image, as well as a map of the new bathymetric levels resulting from the dredging.
  • Photographs of the pontoons F and G where it shows that the fingers and rings of the 41 mooring places to be removed have been dismantled.
  • Photographs of the beacons installed that delimit the prohibited navigation area so as not to affect the seabed, as well as the entry and exit channels.
  • Copy of the announcement of the tender of the works concerning the installation of the ecological buoy fields in the bay of Fornells.
  • Photographs of the buoys already installed in the coves to the east of the bay and along the north side of the dock.
  • Copy of the tender announced for the contract of service, or in this case, of the signed agreement, or of whatever other type of valid agreement, for the execution of the restoration of 5119.92 square metres of Posidonia Oceanica and Cymodocea nodosa. (This activity must be associated with the tracking of the meadows in the whole of the port area, especially in the restored area, following the criteria of the agreement of the Nature Network Committee of 27 May 2008).
  • Propose means for minimising the visual impact of the bollards to the General Directorate of Natural Spaces and Biodiversity.

GOB also asked that criteria for historical heritage and sustainability of boats be applied when prioritizing the allocation of moorings. Specifically, it asked for priority to boats of traditional construction of less than 8 metres, those that move by sail, electric motor or powered by technologies more sustainable than fossil fuels.

It should be borne in mind that studies carried out on nautical load capacity of the Menorcan coast shows that the defined maximum has been exceeded for 13 years. For this reason, the final increase in moorings that is to be carried out in Fornells of 77 new points, is also dependent on the financing, installation and management of the 77 ecological buoys in coves within and outside of the bay, given that this area can no longer accommodate more boats in high season.

Volunteering to clean up the coast at Mongofra

GOB is organizing a clean-up day on Sunday 23 July at s’Estany de Mongofra, one of the most beautiful places on the island.

Owing to its northern situation and the topography of the coves, a great deal of rubbish coming in from the sea accumulates there. In 2018, a rubbish collection was organised and nearly 500 kilos of waste was collected, but, as we have seen the beaches are once again full of plastics, especially micro plastics.

The event is open to everyone, and we encourage you to invite your families and friends. It is suitable for adults and children.

On this occasion, two meeting points have been organised for sharing cars. At 8.15 in the parking area of the poliesportiu of Maó. For those who do not come from Maó, at 8.45 in the car park of the Tramuntana School (Ses Escoles, ctra Favàritx 24).

In the middle of the morning, there will be a break for a snack of products from the network of Land Stewardship Scheme farms, for all participants.

GOB will take all the necessary materials for the cleaning operation, but if you have your own gloves, then take them. It is important to be well equipped with closed shoes, sun hat, sun cream and bottles of water to cope with the heat. You will have to walk about 20 minute from the houses to the base point where we will organise groups and select the types of waste found.

If you wish to participate, please complete this form . Or telephone GOB (971 350 762), or go to the office any morning from 9.00 to 14.00 H, at Camí des Castell 53, Maó. It is important to state how many people you will be, your telephone number or email, and which meeting point you choose.

The volunteering day coincides with the general elections, but it is expected that the activity will end at 13.30.

We look forward to seeing you!

Letter to the new president of Melià about Son Bou

To Mr Gabriel Escarrer

It has recently been published that the Melià company, owner of the large hotels at Son Bou, has changed directors. You, Gabriel Escarrer, son, have taken over as director from Gabriel Escarrer, father. We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your new role and wish you every success.

As you surely know, in Menorca we have a certain argument over one of your establishments. We thought that, now, at the beginning of this new position, it would be useful to explain to you the reasons for the disagreements that GOB has over the modernisation project for the hotels at Son Bou that your company is trying to process on our Island.

In the seventies, on the largest beach of Menorca, two towers were built with 12 floors that had some constructions added to the sides and made into a hotel given the singular name of Milanos-Pingüinos. The Melià Company acquired it some years ago and, in 2017, presented a project to modernise the building.

The supposed improvement is not accompanied by a reduction in guest places, as might be expected, but plans to maintain the current number of 1,140, most of which function as “all included”.

In summary, the action that your company wishes to carry out means maintaining  the current height of the towers cutting only 428 square meters off a corner between floors 9 and 12 and adding a lot of new volume (6,000 square meters) between the ground floor and the seventh floor. This will mean affecting the landscape because now, at least, the sea can be seen between the towers, but with the new project, it would be screened off.

In addition, it is proposed to double the swimming pools area, the intention being to make 2,245 square meters available for them on a plot of land that is on the first line, less than 90 meters from the sea.

These figures, Mr Escarrer, seem to sit badly with the sustainability declaration that your company makes and with the promises announced in its publications.

We cannot quite understand how the energy consumption of the establishment could be made, how to imagine that the objectives announced for the Agenda 2030 can be completed, nor how the improvement in the water footprint could be achieved, if the hotel were to be enlarged, the number of guest places maintained and the swimming pools doubled.

We explain all this to you because we know that it is common for the top management not to know the details of the information published by their company. For example, you may not be aware that they boast making a reduction in carbon emissions of 51% (which is a huge percentage) but the example used is for 2020 (the year of the pandemic when all the world came to a standstill.)

Mr Escarrer, we think that you have a golden opportunity to show your real commitment to an island like this, a Reserve of the Biosphere. You have the possibility to present a new project that adapts to the current urban parameters, of a ground floor with two more levels thus freeing Menorca of one of the worst attacks made on its coastal landscape.

When deciding, keep in mind that GOB has repeatedly written to the Alaior Town Council warning them that the hotels are in an illegal position, as confirmed by several court reports commissioned by the Council. There is not sufficient area in the plot of land.

Recently, our entity, with the help of many people, has filed a lawsuit against the group that has tried adding square meters to legalise the hotel. It seems that in so doing they have taken green areas but, even so, the enlarged area is insufficient.

Depending on the result of this litigation, it will also be possible to see the degree of responsibility of those people who worked to stop any prior consultation of the documents, who prepared reports and gave the orders to carry out manoeuvres that are now being analysed in detail by the lawyers and designated experts.

These are some of the issues inherited from the past. However, you are starting a new period and perhaps could make things happen differently. In our opinion, companies can play a very active role in restructuring for the world’s needs. If at any time you would like to discuss this matter directly, you would be welcome to get in touch.

Yours sincerely,

GOB Menorca

Conscientious Ecology