Costa Brava in the eye of development hurricane
Campaigners condemn loophole allowing construction in coastal beauty spot despite building moratorium
Costa Brava is one of Catalonia's most highly-prized beauty spots and attracts millions of visitors every year, but that also makes the stretch of coastline in the northern Girona province a prime target for urban development, especially tourist-related building projects.
The issue of construction on the Costa Brava has recently been an issue of contention between the authorities, political parties and environmental groups, with campaigners calling for building work on a number of sites - despite a moratorium on construction - to be halted.
On Wednesday, the Catalan parliament's territorial commission called on the government to look into freezing the urban development projects of Cala Morisca in Tossa de Mar, Sa Guarda in Cadaqués, Aiguaxelida in Tamariu, and the Jardins de Sa Riera in Begur.
Custo project angers campaigners
The Sa Guarda project in Cadaqués is a good example of the type of construction project that has angered campaigners. Catalan fashion firm Custo wants to build a 4,000 square meter luxury hotel and dozens of houses in the picturesque fishing village of Cadaqués.
Work on Sa Guarda - a Unesco world heritage site - was stopped when the government introduced a moratorium on new building in the area, but that does not include such work as roads or street lighting, and Custo resumed building last week, leading to protests.
Pressure group compares Costa Brava to Titanic
The SOS Costa Brava group this week compared the situation of the Costa Brava to that of the Titanic, and warned the territorial commission that 18 urban development projects currently underway are just "the tip of the iceberg" that will eventually sink the area.
Pointing to the loophole that allows building projects, such as that of the Custo firm, to bypass the moratorium, SOS Costa Brava proposed setting up a government body that would use the tourist tax to buy land in the area so as to be better able to protect it.
"While on the one hand efforts are being made to promote the Costa Brava as a biosphere reserve, on the other we find ourselves faced with this developmental senselessness," said the representative of the Naturalistes de Girona group, Sergi Nuss.
SOS Costa Brava warns that the current situation could lead to as many as 35,000 new homes being built on the Costa Brava. Yet, the government is reluctant to take the lead and has so far said it is up to the local authorities to rule on developments such as Sa Guarda.