Wednesday, December 7

The controversial reform of the Formentor hotel, refuge of celebrities such as the Dalai Lama, Chaplin or Camilo José Cela

The Hotel Formentor (Pollença), located in one of the most idyllic enclaves of Mallorca, has been the ‘home’ of artists and celebrities for almost a hundred years. From Winston Churchill or Charles Chaplin to the Dalai Lama passed through there, although what most characterizes it is its status as a literary heritage. That is where Camilo José Cela promoted the Poetic Conversations and where the Formentor Prize was created, which has awarded famous writers from all over the world. We are talking about a paradise of letters located in a small natural paradise that today is resurrected among alleged illegalities.

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At the end of 2020, the hotel changed hands: the Barceló group sold it to an Andorran investment fund called Emin Capital for 165 million euros. With this purchase, the intentions of reforming the space were also made clear, due to the state in which it was found. Now, it is intended to become a luxury hotel operated by the Four Seasons hoteliers. The reform actions, worth 25 million euros, in principle, should be ‘just’ that: a reform. Over time this has not been the case and what should have been a face lift has become a complete demolition and a reconstruction from scratch of a new building. It is here that environmentalists and the opposition in the Pollença Town Hall have denounced the situation.

“Everything that surrounds the Formentor theme is strange and scandalous, especially the hotel. It’s one scandal after another.” With this forcefulness speaks the leader of the opposition in the municipality, Miquel Àngel March, who was also mayor of the town last term and who is part of the Junts Avançam coalition (PSIB-PSOE, MÉS, ERC and independents). His party, as well as the environmental group GOB Mallorca, filed a complaint in early October for urban planning illegality. Why? They maintain that the licenses that the company has obtained, with the pertinent tourism reports in favor, were first to reform the hotel and then – and as a result of the law of urgent measures for economic reactivation, which allowed 15% extensions in hotels – for renovation and expansion. But nothing else. “The surprise came when we saw that the reform became the demolition of the entire interior”, explains March, and later “of all the exterior walls”. That is, a complete demolition.

The complaint had the objective of paralyzing the works until a demolition license was obtained. “They had no choice but to open a file,” says March. In fact, on October 24 of this year the stoppage of the works was ordered. A stoppage that never took place and that, despite having two months to present the necessary papers, the construction company obtained the permits in just a few days: on October 28 the town hall already granted them a demolition license. In this sense, Margalida Ramis, spokesperson for the GOB, assures that “the City Council has always played a favorable role in hotel ownership. Instead of demanding, he has given his approval and made things easier. Even when it was from the Barceló group”.

For his part, March insists that “the license they have is for reform, but if the hotel no longer exists, there is nothing to reform. They have done what they wanted.” And he continues: “Tearing down the hotel would imply granting a new construction license and, at this time, they do not exist in Formentor”, given the urban situation of this natural and protected enclave of Mallorca. In fact, according to the GOB, this project that is being carried out now is not the one that obtained the approval of Tourism and the one that could be covered by the law of urgent measures for economic reactivation. “The license has to decline, because it is not the first project and because if they asked for it again from scratch, they would not be able to give it to them. These comprehensive demolitions are not allowed,” Ramis stresses.

The reconstruction has begun and it also has no licenses

In fact, the other controversy that is taking place right now focuses on the reconstruction of space. The GOB maintains that the City Council is downplaying the matter, since they are covered by some processing problems. But with the reconstruction, the situation changes: “Now there are serious urban infractions. The demolition has been saved, the City Council has done them an immense favor, but the reconstruction is not so easy to save”, reasons the environmental spokesperson. In fact, both the GOB and the opposition denounce that they do not have a reconstruction license, but that three floors plus a basement have already been built. “They themselves have put themselves in check,” says Ramis, who does not rule out taking legal action if this new license is granted, even if the process takes years.

It was on the ZOOM program, from IB3 Televisió, when in 2021 the former communication director of Emin Capital, Sergio Azco, literally said: “The hotel is going to be torn down and a new one is going to be built.” Something that, due to the urban situation of Formentor, was impossible. For this reason, both Junts Avançam and environmentalists have denounced all this time that the company has “made up” the demolition and reconstruction under the reforms. Now, Emin Capital, which has refused to make any new statements, sticks to the statement made public at the end of October: “Since the beginning of this project, all the work carried out has been in accordance with the legal requirements and municipal permits necessary to be able to carry it out” . They also threaten the GOB with legal action if they do not retract their words.

Pollença Town Hall, which has been asked about the issue on different occasions by this means, has not been willing to make any statements.

More scandals in Formentor

March also denounces that the hotel is just “one of the scandals surrounding Formentor”. He refers, specifically, to different events that have happened as a result of these works. One of them is that when the reform license was granted, the hotel had to cede some roads, green areas, pedestrian crossings and parking to the municipality. Theoretically it should be municipally owned from mid-June 2021, explains March, but denounces that whoever has continued to operate the car park has been the property of the hotel. “These two summers we have calculated a million euros of income from operating the car park, which does not have any type of concession,” he asserts.

He also recalls how the result of the excavation and demolition of the hotel was to dispose of all the rubble in a protected area of ​​Formentor, without the necessary permits. “The City Council has not acted since we denounced all these events. They said they had the permits and it is not true. The City Council is legalizing what they do wrong”, insists March.

On the part of the GOB, they emphasize that, if it were up to them, the entire urbanization “could be perfectly disqualified and thus we would not have these battles.” “In these plots, people have been doing what they want for years,” they add. In this sense, it also denounces that there are single-family houses without any type of license in its surroundings. However, they are aware of the difficulties of the process, since they consider it unlikely that it will be forced to demolish what was built and recover the original land.