The news of permission for a small hotel to be allowed in the Cabo de Gata, facing the famous Beach of the Genoveses, came as a shock last week, and a petition calling for its summary removal is going strong.
In fact, there is already a building there, some distance away from the beach and partially hidden by a decaying prickly pear plantation (the ecologists are generally against chumbos as they are an ‘invasive plant’). The construction is an old vegetable-rope factory, of all things, and has been used recently as a modest tapa-bar with space available for rent for weddings and other events. It's called el Cortijo de las Chiqueras ('The Pig-farm' in colloquial Spanish).
The Cabo de Gata is important because, although 73% of Almería is ‘protected’ one way or another, much of the province is inhospitable desert and this, without doubt, is the first bit that developers would be pleased to get their hands on. The Cabo de Gata – Nijar Natural Park is 45,663ha (176 sq miles) in size and we are told, ‘…is Andalucía's largest coastal protected area, a wild and isolated landscape with some of Europe's most original geological features’.
It’s certainly very pretty (once you have successfully passed the distressing belt of plastic farms that guards it).
The plan is to turn the building into a small four-star hotel with, we are told, thirty rooms and a pool.
The nearby resort of San José (here) would normally be enough for any visitor’s needs, with several hotels and innumerable restaurants, and there are many campsites and hotels stretching towards the nearby provincial capital which is less than 40 kilometres away.
Oddly, just one family owns much of the park surrounding the superb beaches of Las Genoveses and Mónsul, a family that successfully stopped the coastal motorway from passing through the park many years ago. Doña Pakyta (as the old matriarch was known) famously left her home in the city to become an art museum. The future hotelito belongs to her heirs.
But now, with local people clamouring for jobs in the tourist sector, and the lesson of the Hotel Algarrobico gently rotting in the hot sun some 60kms to the north-west apparently forgotten, the prospect of a new hotel is being well received locally. Permission, that hardest of all indulgences, has now been granted by the Junta de Andalucía (the Junta, now under the control of the PP, looks favourably on investment, it says, ‘to offset the huge losses caused by the pandemic’) and all systems are ‘go’.
Many years ago, there were people living in what is now the park, and today, there are a number of abandoned and ruined cortijos. Will these all be available for conversion into summer homes, or boutique restaurants, or perhaps a camp-site or two in the years to come?
The PSOE-A talks of the threat of ‘cementing the natural park’ and calls for the Junta to reverse its ruling. As we know, the party has always been ferociously against urbanising anything outside the cities, but maybe it has a point here. The party has made a complaint to the European Commission saying that the Andalusian Government is putting the Cabo de Gata ‘at serious risk’. An article in another local newspaper says that the PSOE was once in favour of the project and that it was the PP who nobly pared it back to the current 30 rooms. So, in politics, you pays your money and you takes your choice, as usual. El Mundo ingeniously says that the Junta ‘…has not authorized a hotel establishment, but merely "a rehabilitation of the Las Chiqueras farmhouse"’. Really? I’ll take vanilla.
From the evidently back-to-nature Ruralidades we read, ‘…It is clear that tourism or rather, tourism entrepreneurs, pay no attention to anything nor to anyone; for them the environment is nothing more than something one either puts in the safe or in the bank. We have seen it in all the municipalities of the coast. Everything is designed for the opportunities of tourism, that tireless and insatiable predator of the territory, as if the entire coastline were its property…’.
The location of the proposed hotel, plus a blistering attack against the plan, can be seen at a page run by Los Amigos del Parque Natural de Cabo de Gata - Níjar here and Change.org has the petition to sign here.