The car park in Cala Llombards. | Maria Nadal

At the Council of Mallorca, there are discussions between the three governing parties - PSOE, Més, Podemos - regarding limits on the number of vehicles in summer. They have in mind, therefore, the number of hire cars, although for legal reasons there can't be discrimination - limits would have to apply to all vehicles entering the island.

In Ibiza, they are further down the road in seeking to adopt a system similar to that which operates in Formentera, a small island where control of vehicles is comparatively straightforward. It becomes more complex on the larger islands. In the case of Mallorca, it is said that there can be up to 100,000 hire cars. These are on top of the 900 cars per 1,000 inhabitants, the highest ratio in Spain.

The figure of 100,000 is pretty liberal, as car-hire associations have been saying that the number is around 50,000 this year on account of issues with supply. The fact is, though, that both figures are guesswork. No one knows how many hire cars there are, as there isn't a proper register of them. There has been a call for such a register for years, but creating one has proved to be beyond the wit of administrations.

Despite the high level of car ownership in Mallorca, it is hire cars which are the targets when looking to tackle "saturation". This ignores the number of vehicles that arrive on ferries, as they always are ignored. Figures for these are never given, yet they must surely be available from ferry operators. Likewise, you would have thought, shipping details must indicate the number of hire cars.

So the argument about limiting vehicles swirls around in a vacuum of missing information. I'm not against there being a limit, but it would be helpful if there were reliable figures before forming a definitive opinion. It's no good saying that there are "too many". How many is too many anyway?

Catalina Cladera, the president of the Council of Mallorca, says in one breath that "it is clear that we must take measures" and in the other adds that "we must first study this thoroughly and we must analyse Mallorca's carrying capacity". Indeed we must, and this capacity - an accurate calculation of it - also goes to the heart of arguments regarding growth in airport passenger numbers.

Good, but who's going to come up with these accurate calculations? Critics of airport growth plans are insisting that Aena, the airports authority, does this. But why should Aena have to? Were they to, the chances are that none of the critics would believe the results anyway. Ridiculous.

The number of cars circulating on Mallorca's roads during the summer does create problems with parking - big problems, especially parking for the beaches. These problems are not helped when officialdom decides that car parks should be closed. The car park in Cala Llombards, with space for some 300 cars, was closed at the end of last year by the Council of Mallorca's agency for defence of the territory, which argued that it was in breach of urban planning regulations. Santanyi town hall has been pleading for it to be reopened, and the Council now appears to have the common sense to ratify an amendment to these regulations so that it can be reopened.

This is a car park that serves Caló des Moro, which acquired a reputation of saturation central last summer, mainly due to the queues to get on to the beach because of Covid capacity restrictions. But Caló des Moro is, like other cove beaches, e.g. Cala Varques, all but unrecognisable in terms of the number of beachgoers compared with how things used to be.

The blame for this saturation is put on tourists with hire cars. While they do undoubtedly contribute, I'm far from convinced that they should be singled out. Nor am I convinced by an argument which maintains that this saturation is due to social media. Up to a point, yes, but certainly not entirely.

The administrations who now express the woes about overcrowding are the very ones who helped to create the momentum. Before social media truly exploded, you could already detect the way things were developing, and this was courtesy of public administration promotion of beaches and coves that had been relatively unknown.

I'll give an example that isn't a cove but is a stretch of beach - Playa de Muro's 'rustic beach'. Go back say twenty years, and there was never an issue with parking, even on a Sunday. There increasingly was an issue, the beach having been given official publicity and having attracted ever more island residents. Then came more tourists. Inevitably, as more tourists were coming to Mallorca. Nowadays, it's impossible to park, and the urbanisations in the area are rammed with vehicles.

It isn't just tourists with hire cars. And this has been so for many years now. The beaches and the coves are hugely popular because administrations have assisted greatly in boosting this popularity. But they did so without any foresight as to infrastructure. It may be anathema to now demand ever more car parking when the political narrative is one of sustainable mobility, but that is what is needed. The trouble is that there is rarely anywhere that makes sense to create a car park.