August 3, 2021. “The Board considers that this investment will contribute to the creation of employment and the use of natural and economic resources.” This is how the Andalusian Government explained its decision to promote the ‘Castellar Golf’ project, located in the municipality of Castellar de la Frontera (Cádiz). In the last meeting of the Governing Council after the summer break, on August 31, the Board gave exactly the same reasons to speed up the ‘Atlanterra Golf’, this time in the municipality of Tarifa. These projects are preceded by the Següesal golf course in Barbate, again in Cádiz.
The Board promotes a tourist and sports complex in the Cadiz municipality of Barbate that is equivalent to 700 soccer fields
“The creation of stable and quality employment in all production sectors and the use and enhancement of natural and economic resources, under the principle of sustainability and the promotion of public and private investment” are the arguments of the Executive in his recovery plan after the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Junta sees no future for Andalusia than golf courses surrounded by luxury developments”, he denounces Ecologists in Action of Cádiz. For the ecologist Juan Clavero, these plans “suffer from serious legal irregularities” and he hopes to cancel them. With respect to the last announced project, that of Tarifa, Clavero has a “moderate confidence” in winning the legal battle since the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) has not been presented as required by community and state regulations. The association has already “knocked down” the modifications of the General Urban Planning Plans (PGOU) of the Cadiz municipalities of Chiclana de la Frontera, Valdevaqueros and Prado del Rey.
These initiatives are joined by the Valle del Golf Resort complex in Mijas (Malaga) and three “high quality” hotels in Marbella. All are included in the Accelerating Unit for Projects of Strategic Interest in Andalusia (UAP), a body that makes “the effective start-up and execution of the project”, as stated in his web page, through the “streamlining of all the actions and procedures of the Andalusian public administrations”.
“The Andalusian Government assumes as one of its priorities to adopt all the necessary measures to boost economic activity,” they explain from the Junta de Andalucía.
Companies can access the Project Accelerator Unit if their proposals are declared of “strategic interest” by the Delegate Commission for Economic Affairs of the Junta de Andalucía. This grants “urgent and preferential processing” as well as a “reduction of administrative deadlines”, when possible, as noted on the UAP website.
In this way, the expansion of the Gibraltar-San Roque refinery, the consolidation and expansion of the Cosentino Business Park in Almería, the construction of a heparin plant at Laboratorios Rovi in Granada and the construction of 12 photovoltaic solar plants are already being managed. by Solarbay in Seville.
Furthermore, the Governing Council may consider these initiatives of interest because of “their special relevance derived from their magnitude, their economic and social projection or their importance for the territorial structuring of Andalusia”.
The latest projects assigned by the Andalusian Government to the UAP, which depends on the General Secretariat for Public Administration and directed by Ana María Vielba, have the tourism and construction sectors as recipients: three “high quality” hotels in Marbella, the ‘Valle del Golf Resort’, the ‘Següesal Golf Resort’, the ‘Castellar Golf’ and the ‘Atlanterra Golf.’ Previously, other initiatives had also been approved, such as the construction of the cities of Justice in Seville and Jaén and of a new hospital in Malaga.
“Tourism has the ability to reactivate the economy”, has expressed the vice president of the Board and Minister of Tourism, Juan Marín, who argues the action of the Andalusian Government. And he defends himself: “We have not given any license. These projects already have it from the City Councils. What we have done is to make life easier for those who invest in Andalusia.” Faced with criticism, Marín insists on “bureaucratic simplification” and that “nothing will be developed that does not comply with the law.”
Tourism activity, according to Marín, is a “strategic sector” that provides work for some 450,000 people and generates 22,000 million to the Andalusian Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 13%. The “generation of employment” is one of the arguments most used by the Andalusian Government to defend this type of projects that, according to the sources consulted, add an investment of 4,460 million and that, they estimate, will create some 10,000 direct and indirect jobs.
For the economist Juan Torres, these initiatives are “a commitment to an economic engine that generates little added value, low-quality employment and that squanders and overexploits natural resources.” The doctor in Economic Sciences rules out that golf courses and hotel establishments are “the sources of employment that must be discovered and exploited.” “Employment and the best use of resources occurs when an economy is industrialized from its endogenous resources and this strategy is linked to high value-added service networks.” “[La UAP] It is an initiative that involves the entire Government, not just Tourism. Each council proposes projects of its competence. There are many that have nothing to do with mega-developments or with golf, “emphasize the sources of the Executive.
The province of Cádiz, according to the latest Labor Force Survey, registered in the second quarter of 2021 an unemployment rate of 25.55%, four points above the Andalusian figure (21.58) and almost ten more than the national value, which stood at 15.26%. Cádiz is the Spanish region with the most unemployment. The mayor of Barbate, Miguel Molina (Andalucía Por Sí), where the ‘Següesal Golf’ is planned, defended the “dynamic” nature of this project whose objective is to “lower unemployment” in the area.
“I trust that the UAP will give results, but always complying with all environmental procedures,” says the socialist mayor of Castellar de la Frontera, Adrián Vaca. Its consistory approved the modification of the PGOU in October 2020 to adapt it to the requirements of the Junta de Andalucía to declare the project of “strategic interest” and activate an initiative that began 20 years ago. “It can be a project that generates employment and brings development not only to the municipality, but to the entire region,” he says.
The mayor of Tarifa, Francisco Ruiz (PSOE), points out that the ‘Atlanterra Golf’ has been developing since 2008 and applauds the coordination between promoters, the City Council and the Board to “favor the economic, social and sustainable development” of the municipality. “We do not want to create new tourist centers, but I cannot stop an already approved partial urban plan,” argues Ruiz, who explains that Tarifa “not only advocates this type of project.” In any case, the mayor of Tarragona recognizes that these initiatives “are not the way to go” and agrees with critics that “other ways of development” should be considered.
“This unit is becoming a great predator of the Andalusian ecosystem and frustrates the opportunity to change the productive model for our community,” says Adelante Andalucía spokesperson, Angela Aguilera. The electoral program of this party highlights that tourist activity in the region is “one of the pillars of its economy and employment”, but criticizes the precariousness, seasonality or overcrowding, as well as the overexploitation of the Andalusian coastline caused by this sector .
For his part, the president of the Andalusian regional organization of Real Estate Developers (FADECO), Francisco Martínez-Cañavate, applauds the “magnificent initiative” of the Board. “It is a formidable idea for any sector that the administration overturns with some projects throughout the bureaucratic tangle so that they do not remain in a drawer,” he points out.
Martínez-Cañavate fears that “if Andalusia is not competitive, the investments will go to other communities and countries” and hopes that both private and public initiatives will be added to the UAP. “We must not deny these projects. We must do what we know how to do. If Mercedes arrives, we will open the doors, but if it does not arrive, what alternatives are offered?” Torres crosses out the “very little imagination” of the leaders that “are due to the interests of the dominant power groups and are incapable of dealing with inertia to give way to innovation, new ideas and transformation.”
Juan Clavero is clear: “Construction and tourism give money in the short term. R + D + i and technology do not imply an immediate hit”. The member of Ecologists in Action from Cádiz believes that the region “misses” the opportunity given by the COVID-19 pandemic to change the production model and bet on other development paths.