The Binigarba property is obliged to make restitution of all the illegal works carried out without licence on various areas. The City Council of Ciutadella communicated, seven months ago, the obligation for immediate restitution, but there has been no compliance with the deadlines. Continue reading Binigarba – the seven month wait
Twelve different non-profit making entities that work together closely for the Camí de Cavalls, have written to the President of the Consell Insular (Island Governing Council) to inform him of the uneasiness that has been generated since the announcement of the modification of the Law of the Camí de Cavalls. Continue reading Camí de Cavalls: 12 collectives write to the President of the Island Governing Council
The case of the illegal swimming pools of the agro tourism hotel Torre Vella continues to generate controversy and headlines. This is because the file has become stuck without any resolutions. The case is better understood when the chronology of events is known.
On the 17 October 2019, GOB informed the Consortium for Urban Discipline of some alleged irregularities in works carried out at the agro tourism hotel. In March 2021, the Consortium announced the opening of a file of disciplinary proceedings for actions not included in the licence, such as the construction of seven swimming pools, huts, pergolas and concrete pavements on paths and terraces.
As a result of learning about the matter, the Commission for the Environment, that had approved the environmental authorization to the agro tourism hotel with a series of conditions, also ordered an inspection by the Environmental Agencies. In addition to the things detected by the Council Inspectors, they found two landfills of rubbish of more than 2,000 square meters, the opening of expressly denied roads and the paving of others.
The case, then, has two types of breaches. Some urban and others environmental.
The proposed fine made by the Consortium (for the urban part) is 486,844 euros for each one of the three main managers, that is to say, the developer, the builder and the director of architecture of the works.
Any file like this has the possibility of asking the relevant town council if the works not covered by the licence can be legalized. If so, then the fine is reduced by 90%.
Non-compliance with environmental authorization cannot be legalized. The work must be reversed and adapted to the conditions put by the Commission. The body responsible for processing disciplinary proceedings is the Island Governing Council.
This raises one of the main problems of the case. The developers did not want to reverse the illegal swimming pools into rain water and waste water tanks, as they were meant to be originally, but tried to legalise the new pools. Legalising an environmental violation is not possible.
When that intention was known, GOB asked the Alaior Town Council if they could look at the files and understand what logic could be applied for legalising swimming pools made from water saving tanks. The answer from the Town Council was to deny access to the files stating that they were “being processed”.
To combat the dangerous dynamic of leaving cases of urban violations in the dark, GOB is searching for ways to obtain transparency. Looking for a way that is more rapid than contentious litigation, the criminal route was taken, on the understanding that not allowing access to environmental information nor who has generated the opening of a file could be considered prevarication.
The Chamber’s response was that it understood that this was to be treated as a legal dispute that was not for them to resolve. They added that there was no evidence of activity “grossly contrary to the law”. They aimed, therefore, to use the route of administrative legislation.
It was then decided to wait for some months in case the legalization file was progressing and to return to request consultation of the file with the Town Hall. The response was again one of denial, again alleging that there was onlydocumentation presented by the developers and some reports from other administrations.
Before opening the legal route (both expensive and slow) it was decided to check if the Council of Transparency and Good Governance an administrative organ, not judicial, wanted to intercede in this matter. But that route has not worked either. The Council of Transparency says that the Alaior Town Hall has told them that within the file in question, it claims, “the simple request of the interested party is intended for obtaining the corresponding licences”. It is hard to understand why the developers have not incorporated technical nor legal reasons for their legalisation petition, but this is what is claimed.
It also says that the Town Hall assures that there are two new documents, prepared by non-municipal bodies (the Consortium and the Island Governing Council) and that they have sent GOB’s consultation request to these two organisations so that they can show, in any case, the reports that they have issued. With this response, the Island Governing Council takes it as acceptable.
GOB has directed various briefs to the Island Governing Council to be able to see how the disciplinary proceedings resulting from the environmental breaches are evolving, without having had any response yet.
This battle for transparency is not going to be abandoned and a legal team is analysing the case in order to decide what steps should be taken before each implicated institution.
All this, without taking the focus from the important part, is that two and a half years ago, disciplinary proceedings were opened, that the Alaior Town Hall has not decided if it is possible to legalise swimming pools. In the meantime illegal pools continue to be part of the usual activity of the agro tourism hotel, as it says in their advertisments.
A few days after the weed killing along the roadsides of urbanizations on the Sant Lluis coast, the effects of the product used are evident where dry and blackened grass has been left. It confirms that a herbicide product was used from Cap d’en Font to Binibèquer Nou .
GOB estimates that they have sprayed weed killer along some 7 kms of sidewalks adjacent to houses. The treatment has not gone as far as the eastern area from Cala Torret, where the contrast with the island greenery at this time of year that still exists can be seen. (See attached photos.) Continue reading Sant Lluis weed killing
Failure to pay attention to orders for stopping unlicensed works can be very costly. Some urbanising activities on rustic land in Mahón have cost 614,000 euros in fines and a potential crime for disobedience for having twice breached the orders given by the inspectors. Continue reading 600,000 euros for not stopping illegal works
The projection of 490 villas on the Sant Lluis coast has had an official complaint made by GOB as a result of finding many important deficiencies in the forward planning.
The official plans for plots in Binisafuller and Cap d’en Font, with a projection of nearly five hundred villas, of which nearly half are already built, implies a projected population of 1,470 inhabitants, that must be supplied with drinking water and must have the management of sewage. Continue reading The provision for 490 chalets, in distress
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.
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.
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.
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: