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Hotel Formentor – it just got very messy

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The Formentor peninsula. Is there any more contentious land in Mallorca than Formentor? The road and its restrictions; limits to public access – the military base and La Fortalesa; denials of development and legal battles over the villa of the one-time president of Repsol, the late Alfonso Cortina; the hotel, oh yes, the hotel.

Once upon a time, the late fifties and early sixties, this emblematic peninsula was poster land for Mallorca Tourist Board promotion of the island. The beach was as famous as the hotel, with all its character and history that dripped with the names of celebrities, the financially shattered vision of Adan Diehl and it occupying space formerly owned by the family of one of Pollensa’s greats – the poet-priest Miquel Costa i Llobera.

Now, it is emblematic of tourist overcrowding, of the great debate about sustainability that has demanded barriers to traffic, of environmental and political objections, of foreign investment of a different kind to Diehl’s, of the arcane nature of planning regulations. The hotel is at the very centre of all this, and not just because – roughly speaking – it is centre way along the peninsula.

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The story of Villa Cortina and the battle that went to the Supreme Court is now being relived. The licence for the villa’s development was quashed by the court on account of the visual impact this would have had for the emblematic peninsula. The lawyer who successfully brought this action represents an owner of a plot who has been seeking for years (and unsuccessfully) to have a different villa built.

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Antonia Gomila, the lawyer, is challenging the licence granted by the town hall for the hotel’s redevelopment. She argues that the town hall has given differential treatment – in favour of the hotel and against other owners. This treatment, whether differential or not, has led to a total interior demolition, so advanced that a Council of Mallorca heritage department request to the town hall to include the hotel in its protected list of heritage assets came far too late.

With the work as advanced as it is, with the plan being for a reopening in summer 2023, the main opposition party at the town hall, Junts Avançam, believes that the whole matter could end up in the courts – just like Villa Cortina did. Ex-mayor, Miquel Àngel March, explains why. It has to do with the status of the land that the hotel occupies, at which point the explanation becomes lost on all of us who are not intimate with the minutiae of planning law and processes governing municipal licences.

There are two projects. One is the redevelopment, the licence for which was signed by Mayor Cifre, backed up by necessary technical reports. This kind of work is permissible. New building is not unless there is prior completion of provision of services.

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The other project, in accordance with the Balearic government’s emergency economic measures of May 2020, is for an expansion that doesn’t entail an increase in the number of accommodation places. The mayor still awaits reports from the tourism ministry and the Balearic Environment Commission where this project is concerned.

For now, however, it is the licence for redevelopment which is in the frame. Antonia Gomila wants it to be annulled.

Emblematic in a manner that Diehl could never have imagined almost one hundred years ago, controversy is the peninsula’s emblem for the twenty-first century. And it does not disappoint. See you in court?

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