The boathouses are in the public maritime domain. | Archive

In Port des Canonge (Banyalbufar), there are boathouses which have been threatened with demolition since 2009. In that year, the national environment ministry denied concessions for occupation of land in the public maritime domain.

This was due to the "marked regressive nature" of this part of the coast and to a prioritising of the right to free public use of the beach. The ministry concluded that the cove was too small to permit this use.

The owners, eighteen of them, went to court to prevent demolition. They lost. There were two judgements - one in 2012, the other in 2013; pleas for preservation were ruled out.

They argued unsuccessfully that there had been favourable reports - one from the regional environment ministry in 2001, another from the merchant marine directorate in 2002, and a third from Banyalbufar town hall in 2004. An argument that the boathouses provided "an important function of containment of the natural slope of a regressive beach" was dismissed. There was even a report from Tragsa, the state company which acts both as a consultancy and manager for environmental projects. This had been requested by the Costas Authority (a division of the national environment ministry); the report did not envisage demolition.

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Following the Unesco declaration of World Heritage Site status for the Tramuntana Mountains in 2011, there was an attempt to ensure preservation on the basis of heritage value. However, the courts concluded that being within this site did not imply that the boathouses are assets in the cultural interest.

Council of Mallorca powers allow it to protect old boathouses by applying cultural interest status. To date, no boathouses on the Tramuntana coast have been given this protection, although there are some in Campos, Llucmajor and Santanyi.

With the transfer of coastal responsibilities from the Costas Authority to the regional government, there may be hope that demolition will be reconsidered. However, the exact scope of this transfer has to be clarified. Can it, for instance, be a means of overturning historical decisions made by the state, even assuming the regional government wishes to challenge these?

The Port des Canonge boathouses aren't the only case - far from it.