Menorca is living in a boom period for countryside tourist accommodation, with many initiatives for agrotourism and rural hotels. Not all the projects are similar, as some have all the appearances of being short-term speculation for estate agents and others help in moving tourism from the coast inland.
GOB has made official complaints against the declaration of general interest by a rural hotel envisaged for the farm of Son Marquet near Ciutadella, with 129 tourist places. The project intends to use all the existing buildings to convert into a tourist establishment, that is, the houses, a large barn, the warehouse, the stables and the cattle feed storage area. There will not be any buildings left for agricultural use.
The Consell Insular normally considers submissions for a project’s declaration of general interest. The law establishes that a declaration of general interest is to enable the granting of all those activities that are greater than mere individual interest and it is to make sure that these activities are compatible with the level of protection required for the area.
Generally, the activity of creating rural tourist accommodation is considered under a different type of building permission. This permission is aimed at people who are not interested in making large hotel establishments, but who are helping to adjust the tourist season with smaller establishments, and is directed at a high level of market acquisition that is sensitive to the environment. It should serve to allow for viable farming management and for renovating the architectural inheritance of the property.
Moreover, GOB expresses its doubts concerning projects with dimensions such as at Son Marquet, promoted by Sagitario Playa SL. In order to assess whether their objectives are greater than mere individual interest, the impact that their forecast activity will have on the general interests of the island will have to be measured from both economic and environmental points of view.
In the allegations presented, considerations such as those below have been raised:
- This is about starting a project that is an activity of high human density on land of special interest, catalogued as a protected area at risk of contamination of the aquifer.
- It needs to assess the negative impact that can be caused by the traffic of supply lorries and all the people working on the establishment using the rural road. It must be kept in mind that along this same road there is approved agrotourism at Son Vell with 112 places. In addition, another project has been put forward to the Ciutadella Town Council by the same promoter as that of Son Marquet, that of Sant Pere for 116 places. The three projects use the same road catalogued as the 4th level road network.
- The negative impact on a rural area of a car park such as would be necessary for a size such as that planned.
- The negative impact on the consumption of water (which, in tourist activities, is much greater than the usual for a resident) in an area as badly affected as Ciutadella, which has required a multimillion investment in a purification plant, and where the aquifer is below the minimum level. The proposed plan is to use water supplied from a well.
- The difficulty in managing the considerable refuse generated by an establishment of these proportions in rural countryside.
- The negative impact on the image of tourist accommodation in the Menorcan countryside where such accommodation should be of a much smaller size than that forecast in this project.
- The negative impact on the agricultural potential of the farm, when all the existing buildings are taken for converting into tourist use.
- The dangerous effect on the aquifer due to the plan of irrigating with sewage water, supposedly purified, over land that does not demonstrate an ability to absorb the volume forecast without problem.
- The negative effect of contagion that an operation of this style can have on agricultural properties of similar style with consequent price increases and so eliminate the acquisition possibilities by people who really want to start agricultural or other activities more appropriate to rural land.
- The possibility based on existing precedents, that the construction of new buildings is then demanded for agricultural use.
- The contradiction with the Tourism Law, which defines rural hotels as “the establishments that provide tourist accommodation service are situated in buildings built before 1 January 1940”. This project plans to make tourist accommodation in buildings that do not appear in a photograph of 1956, nor in any dated before 1940.