Virgin tycoon Richard Branson looks set for another battle over planning permission with the local authorities, with the Balearic environmental group GOB trying to block his plans to reform and extend houses on land he owns near his Banyalbufar estate, for which planning permission to develop a hotel and luxury chalets is still being thrashed out. According to GOB, Branson's plans include adding extensions to the properties in question, the sinking of a swimming pool and renovating a defence tower so it can be lived in. Apparently Branson, whose Residencia Hotel in Deya is one of the most popular luxury hotels in the Balearics, wants to install a bathroom and two bedrooms in the tower which is a property of Cultural Interest. GOB has approached the Insular Council of Majorca and asked them to deny planning permission on the grounds that renovating and expanding the properties next to the tower amounts to transforming the plot into a chalet. The organisation also opposes plans to build a swimming pool, claiming that such an operation will have a great big impact on the countryside which, lying in the Serra de Tramuntana, is protected. The main bone of contention for GOB is Branson's plan for the defence tower, which the environmental organisation says is “unacceptable.” GOB says that in accordance with the law governing sites of Cultural Interest, the public should have access to the tower, but once fitted with a bathroom and two bedrooms on the upper floors, the public could lose its right to visit the tower on the grounds of invasion of privacy. What is more, GOB objects to the renovation of the tower as it was restored in 1995 with government money and has called on the authorities to ensure that they defend the public's right to visit the tower. Branson, whose Virgin Sun tour company is bringing over 20'000 holidaymakers a year to Majorca and attracts a large number of the rich and famous to his Deya hotel, is no stranger to battles for planning permission in Majorca. His dream of establishing “one if the most beautiful hotels in the world” on his Banyalbufar estate is still waiting to become a reality nearly four years after the plans were first drawn up.


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