STAFF REPORTER IN spite of original hostility by people living in the Palma suburb of Es Molinar to the construction of a temporary centre for the homeless and those with drug addiction problems, the initial building works finally got off the ground yesterday.

But it had not been easy - City Council sources said that from the early hours of yesterday morning, around 60 residents armed with noisy trumpets and drums had formed a defiant group in front of the site where the foundation stone of the hospice was to be laid.

At 9am, Local and National Police were called to the site to act as a preventive force in the event of incidents, and to supervise the operations of a crane contracted for the removal of vehicles parked in Calle Golf de Biscaia where the new centre will be located. At one point, a young man entered into a fierce discussion with a police officer, but he was finally arrested and taken off to a local police station.

The din made it hard for Palma's Mayor Aina Calvo to read a short address calling for civil behaviour and declaring the project officially open. But by 11am, the hostile crowd started to withdraw and at midday, the dozen or so workers on the job in the “La Gruta” area of Es Molinar were able to operate “completely normally” although about twenty residents were still making a peaceful protest against the location of the new centre which they say will bring trouble to the area. Although residents continued to throw disrespectful remarks at the labourers and police, there was no further physical resistance but a “last stand” was made at around 6.30pm in La Gruta by a hard core who wanted to maintain their opposition to drug addicts and the homeless being given shelter so close to the residential area. Council sources said the tasks of the workman throughout yesterday consisted of marking out the walled boundaries of the centre and preparing the ground within. Last August, there had been ugly clashes between residents and police when machinery from the City Council's Works and Services department had entered the ground to take samples. Repeatedly, local people had voiced their opposition to the project but the decision had already been taken - as was witnessed in the Mayor's presence yesterday to open the building programme. She did, however, confirm that the centre was not going to be in Es Molinar permanently but was to be moved “at a later date” to another site yet to be confirmed. One option has been mooted by the Diocese of Majorca - the now disused convent of Santa Catalina de Sena close to Palma's Son Castelló industrial estate, which until last year was home to nuns of the Dominican Order.