Rare it must be for Alcudia town hall to have previously been sparked into quite the frenzy of municipal website postings as it has been over the past few days. It is quite possibly an all-time record, although admittedly there have been just the three posts on the same subject - the project for the beach club in Corral d'en Bennàssar (some say Barcares).
Firstly there was a press release. The town hall wished to put on record its total rejection and indignation at the project presented by the company Barcares Beach Club S.L. Then there was a meeting of town hall councillors and residents at which the mayor, Barbara Rebassa, made clear that the town hall was committed to the defence and protection of Alcudia "territory and landscape".
Soon after, as in Wednesday, the town hall was able to announce that the developer would be withdrawing the request for the project that had been sent to the Costas Authority. The beach club will not be going ahead, the developer having become aware of the "public pressure" against the project, the "social alarm" that had been caused, and the opposition of the town hall. The mayor and the councillor for urban planning, Joaquín Cantalapiedra, took themselves off to Corral d'en Bennàssar, where the IB3 broadcaster was conveniently waiting for them, and the social alarm was - not in so many words - declared over.
Quite some years ago, I wrote an article with a headline (if I remember correctly) of 'Barcares: Something happened'. It was, on the one hand, a paean to this quiet part of Alcudia, where about all that was happening one September morning when I was there was the dog which had the habit of going into the sea and barking at fish.
On the other hand, it was an attempt to find out what was going on in respect of a plan to redevelop the little marina. That, I was under the impression, had caused a stink among residents. If it had, the residents I encountered were relaxed about the plan - to the point of having been unaware that there was a plan. But there were nevertheless some residents who had voiced their opposition (the town hall confirmed this), and I concluded that the plan (which was to be resurrected some years later, seemingly without much objection) was the first thing to have happened in Barcares since ... . Well, quite possibly ever happened.
If one wishes to go back around fifty years and more, Barcares does have some notoriety. It was where the 'most dangerous man in Europe' had his summer residence. The British and American allies considered Otto Skorzeny to be the most dangerous man in Europe. An SS-Obersturmbannführer and lieutenant colonel in the Waffen-SS, he was just a witness at Nuremberg but had been interned after the war, only to escape and to eventually be given a Nansen passport (for a stateless person) by Franco.
Skorzeny was unpopular in Barcares because he in effect privatised land leading from his chalet to the sea by putting up a barrier. This one-time 'privatisation' was what sprang to mind when looking at the plan for Corral d'en Bennàssar. Something was most certainly happening in Barcares, or may have been happening, and it looked very much like a takeover of what you would actually be hard pushed to describe as a beach. The indignation was perfectly understandable.
What is rather less understandable is the background to this story. It has emerged that the project was first presented seven years ago. This was to the Costas, as the legal representative for the company has explained that in June of that year, the two individuals who had presented the project and who later formed Barcares Beach Club S.L., were advised by the Costas that there were some administrative deficiencies with the proposal. These were apparently rectified a month later.
So, the idea for the beach club had been in existence for seven years. In which case, what happened to it? Or was it the case, not uncommonly perhaps, of it having been presented ahead of far more detailed planning? As reported last week, there was some processing around the time of the election in May 2019. But this processing was rather more than just a notification to the Costas and some administrative procedure, which was the impression that had been given. The project, it has now been clarified, was in fact put out for public consultation in April 2019. Something may have been happening in Barcares recently, but nothing happened at the town hall eighteen months ago. Cantalapiedra felt the need on Tuesday to publicly apologise for a town hall failure to present its submissions against the project at that time.
That failure doesn't mean that it would have gone ahead, as there would - one would think - have been the need for further reports, e.g. environmental. Nevertheless, the company had apparently overcome at least one hurdle, and no one otherwise seemed to have any clue what was going on - the town hall and residents in particular.
The implication is that the April 2019 consultation got lost amidst activity leading up to the election. If so, it was a heck of an oversight, and the seven-year-old project seemingly only came to light because Podemos in Alcudia, who didn't have town hall representation prior to the election, got wind of it. The frenzy of website postings and the town hall's total rejection of the project were something of an acknowledgement of the failure in April last year.
Still, all's well that ends well, one guesses, and there has been further town hall activity to protect what the project had earmarked for conversion into a restaurant - the Civil War-era machine gun nest. The mayor has met with the Balearic government minister for public administration, Isabel Castro, and the regional secretary for democratic memory, Jesús Jurado, to discuss a town hall proposal that the government officially protects this nest (and others) under the terms of democratic memory legislation. The machine gun nest in Barcares was built by Republican prisoners.
Alcudia and the sunlounger income that wasn't
At the end of the first week of June, Phase 3 of the de-escalation kicked in. There were just two more weeks before the arrival of the new normal. There was the anticipation that Spain's quarantine requirement for foreign travellers would be lifted, and the pilot tourist plan was gathering momentum.
Leading up to Phase 3, by when beaches could be fully open (as in having sunlounger services), Alcudia had been prominent as Alcudia was the only coastal municipality in Majorca which ran its own beach services. There were no concessionaires to worry about (other than those for the beach bars). There was Costas clearance, and the town hall had set up a specific beach management task force for overseeing the Covid-secure introduction of services.
The whole beach workforce, some sixty people, were guaranteed work, and this workforce was hard at it in the days before Phase 3 dawned on June 8. The parasols were planted, the sunloungers were being disinfected, and the beach workers were kitted out with Covid backpacks (gel and so on).
The vastness of the main beach was such that even cutting the number of sunloungers by over sixty per cent (in order to ensure social distancing) would mean 1,100 sunloungers. In a normal summer, the town hall could expect revenue of two million euros from all its sunloungers. Councillor Domingo Bonnin, responsible for beaches, recognised that this wasn't going to be a normal summer (as of course did everyone else). "We knew that it (the revenue) would be deficient, but we were committed to portraying a good image and to providing quality to tourists."
On June 8 there weren't any tourists. Nevertheless, Alcudia had its beach services, and all looked good, despite some fairly pointless complaints about parts of the beach being 'privatised', as the sunloungers were roped off: pointless because there was never going to be any shortage of beach without sunloungers. A couple of weeks later, and Alcudia received a smattering of the pilot tourists before - come the start of July - the gun went off for the season to get into full swing.
Well unfortunately, that didn't really materialise. My occasional observations of the beach and its sunloungers suggested that there were plenty available. It rarely looked as if anyone was using them. Or maybe my observations were at the wrong times of day. Anyway, as it has turned out, the revenue for this season is just 7.5% of that in 2019 - around 150,000 euros.
It's a shame, it really is a shame. The town hall did a first-rate job with the services and it did make sure that everyone had a job. It wasn't to know how things would pan out and it certainly had no control over what happened. The revenue may not have been great, but at least the town hall tried its best.
Formentor ... the film
Begur is a small tourist resort on the Costa Brava. It has its own film festival - the Begur International Film Festival. Last Sunday, a documentary film about Formentor opened the Mediterranean section of the festival.
The film is specifically about the Hotel Formentor. The Barceló Group, in the process of selling the hotel, are the producers. It was shot last year both in Majorca and in Argentina. The link with Argentina is clear. The Argentine Adan Diehl and his wife had the inspiration for the hotel ... and the money.
An iconic establishment not just in Majorca but in the whole of Spain, the hotel - as the documentary explains - has hosted many a famous name over the years: Audrey Hepburn, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Cary Grant, John Wayne, Winston Churchill and Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier of Monaco, who honeymooned at the hotel.
The film's title is 'Formentor el mar de las palabras', the sea of words, a nod in the direction of the hotel's literary connections that go right back to the early years after its founding.
Saturday, 17 October
· 09.00: Challenge Vuelta a Mallorca para Masters - International Masters Cycling Week. From C. Corb Mari.
· 22.00: Jarabe de Palo tribute (Jarabe de Palo were a Spanish rock group whose singer and guitarist, Pau Donés, died in June.) Auditorium, Plaça S'Abeurador. Five euros.
Sunday, 18 October
· 19.00: Empordà Chamber Orchestra - theatrical concert. Alcudia Auditorium, Plaça Porta Mallorca. 12 euros. auditorialcudia.net.
· 18.00: Xavi Clota & Maria (Rumba fusion). Convent dels Sagrats Cors courtyard, C. Mallorca 30. Telephone reservations: 971 530 667.
· 11.00: Challenge Vuelta a Mallorca para Masters - International Masters Cycling Week. From C. Corb Mari.
Saturday, 24 October
· 18.00: Adéu Peter Pan - theatre with actors and puppets. Auditorium, Plaça Porta Mallorca. Six euros. auditorialcudia.net.
· 20.00: Show cooking with Miquel Calent (Can Calent restaurant, Campos, and Cuit at the Nakar Hotel, Palma). Muro Theatre, C. Joan Carles I. Five euros.