Ángeles Muñoz, Mayor of Marbella, announced last week that the controversial plans to build skyscrapers in the town will not go ahead, and the debate about them is over. She did not say whether the modification of the town plan which was recently approved as a first step towards building the tower blocks would be debated again by the council with a view to annulling it.
Backtracking on her previous statement to the effect that no decision would be made until a public board had been convened and consulted, and in the face of strong opposition, the mayor said that it would not be necessary to wait for January and the advice of the yet-to-be-created board, because the decision had been taken.
In the mayor’s opinion, this means an end to the debate about the project for skyscrapers. Asked about the creation in Marbella of a citizen platform made up of promoters, architects and ecologists who are opposed to the project, she said:
“Anybody can form a group and debate. If a platform is set up we will be delighted to hear its opinions, but on the part of the local government I am telling you there is no intention to go ahead,” (in reference to the skyscrapers).
What the residents think
The plans to build several lofty skyscrapers in Marbella have been a hot topic of conversation amongst the town’s foreign resident population recently.
Under the proposed scheme six tower blocks of up to 150 metres in height were planned for five different neighbourhoods in Marbella. The Partido Popular government at the Town Hall had hoped the move would help revamp the town’s image, whilst boosting the local economy.
The towers, some of them up to 36 storeys high, would have been located at El Realejo, Rio Verde, east and west Guadaiza and on the road to Istán. However, many foreign residents living in Marbella have criticised the plans saying the towers will harm the image of the town, as the majority of its buildings are low rise.
Michael Liggan of Marbella based Altavista Property told SUR in English: “We are completely against the plans to allow the construction of skyscrapers. Marbella is neither Dubai, nor for that matter Benidorm and has no need to emulate them. Marbella is beautiful and charming precisely because it doesn’t have high rise buildings. The proposed areas are some of the most naturally beautiful areas of Marbella and these along with the classic and much loved views of La Concha which the town enjoys, would be destroyed by these proposed buildings.”
“Garden city should be maintained”
Brit Georgina Shaw, owner of Marbella based Shaw Marketing Services, added: “Marbella was developed by Prince Alfonso as a garden city and since then people have been campaigning to keep development below the height of the tree tops. Clearly that hasn’t been maintained, but I think the vision was correct and we should maintain it as much as possible. Marbella has escaped the development seen in the likes of Torremolinos and this has kept the brand strong. We should not go back by approving sky scrapers now.”
However, according to Johnny Gates, a Marbella photographer originally from Wales, the construction of the skyscrapers could be a positive step forward for the Costa del Sol town. He explained: “Personally I think it’s the way forward but the designs and where they are placed must be thought out with the utmost diligence.
“Marbella needs to jump into the 21st Century with a bang and bring serious investors and money into the area, not the crowd from “The Only Way is Essex.”
Tim Knight, 69, a concert promoter, originally from London, but now living in San Pedro, said: “I don’t think it is in keeping with the area and there have been so many disastrous planning scandals, the whole planning situation in Marbella is a terrible mess. I first came to Marbella as a tourist in 1973 and over the years there’s been no forethought in the planning whatsoever. So to add something that will stick out like a sore thumb is a terrible idea. A developer has obviously worked out that he can sell these apartments cheaply and make a lot of money.”
Ukrainian lawyer Sergio Filonenko, 28, who works at Lexland Abogados in Marbella, said: “From my point of view the skyscrapers would damage the tourist image of Marbella and destroy a lot of the green zones. However, their construction would also bring a lot more business to the Costa del Sol, whilst creating additional jobs.
“But personally, I like the fact that Marbella has this traditional image of being a small fishing village with typical, white houses and low rise, luxury mansions. I would prefer it to remain a pretty, tourist destination without the skyscrapers.”
Rob Humphries, a Marbella based radio producer, originally from England, added: “Anything that brings jobs and opportunities to this part of southern Spain would be a good thing. But you wonder on top of other high profile failures like the Marbella port expansion and the plans to make Malaga Football Club one of the biggest clubs in Europe, whether they should concentrate on walking before they reach for the sky.”
A Facebook group opposing the plans called “No a los rascacielos a Marbella! Basta Ya” (No to Marbella’s Skyscrapers. Enough is enough) has almost 1,000 members, while an online petition has attracted 1,800 signatures over the past few weeks.