Jason Moore and I had the exclusive honour of being shown around Sir Richard’s Son Bunyola estate in 2001 while he was locked in a battle with the local mayor and environmental groups over his plans to develop the property into what he planned on becoming "the best eco resort in Europe".
He showed us around the estate and explained his project, a dream for the tycoon whose relationship with Majorca stretches back decades, an island he has never fallen out of love with. But he grew tired with the opposition to his project, even though the locals we interviewed welcomed the project on the grounds of the jobs it would create and wealth it would bring to the village.
Maybe Branson, as is his trait, was thinking ahead of his time. He wanted to restore the ground and the old castle main house to its former glory, in keeping with the surrounding landscape, in keeping with the local environment and preserving the exterior of the historic property, but his message failed to get through.
The brick wall was not coming down and he gave up wasting his precious time and effort and pulled out of the island, much to the disappointment of the tourist industry in general considering how he had helped to put the island on the map when he owned La Residencia Hotel in Deya.
Now, however, it appears that his project is just what the authorities want for the Tramuntana.
While he has always maintained two, now a third, luxury villas on the sprawling coastal estate and the grounds, in particular the olive groves etc., have been restored, little else has been done and a property now considered a listed building and part of the region’s natural heritage is rapidly deteriorating. The mayor of Banyabulfar, Mateu Ferra, believes it is high time to allow someone to come and save the property and create the jobs and wealth the mountain village desperately needs and since Branson bought the property back in 2015, the local authorities are more than willing to allow Sir Richard to go ahead with his eco plan, providing the project remains within the perimeters of the planning laws.
The Council of Majorca could have the ultimate say, but it is generally thought that it will not object, far from it. Having Branson back in Majorca will be a boost for the whole island and tourism in general, let’s hope it’s a smooth return.
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