That order of paralysis of February 21, 2006 of the Litigation Court 2 of Almería had only 11 pages, a trifle compared to the thousands and thousands of pages that the case of El Algarrobico now accumulates . Two days later, just 15 years ago today, the works of this symbol of the brickwork in Spain were stopped cautiously.
The cranes stopped and the 20-story, 411-room hotel was stranded like a whale on the beach of El Algarrobico de Carboneras (Almería). It is already condemned to disappear due to several rulings, but the judges have yet to hand down the final demolition sentence. The other way, faster, is the negotiation between the Board and the promoter of the hotel for the demolition.
José Ignacio Domínguez, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit calling for the stoppage of the works three decades ago, believes that that 11-page car is the most important judicial ruling of all that has been on the illegal building.
“The promoter was following a policy of fait accompli, if the works had not stopped, today the hotel would be working.” This lawyer is one of the three protagonists of this story; the other two are an activist and a judge.
“It has become clear that environmental regulations are above urban planning”, summarizes 15 years later Jesús Rivera, the magistrate who was then the head of the Almería court that stopped the works. Rivera declines to offer any opinion or value judgment on this case.
Among other things, because he is now a magistrate of the Superior Court of Justice of Andalusia (TSJA) and there are still some fringes of this interminable matter on which his section must rule.
The National Court denies the compensation of 70 million to the promoter of El Algarrobico. Greenpeace activists who painted El Algarrobico in 2014 on trial for damages and disobedience.
The judge limits himself to stating that it has been “very clear” that the works were carried out on “undeveloped land of special protection in the Cabo de Gata-Níjar natural park, as established by the Supreme Court ruling of February 2016 “. This was one of the reasons that led him in 2008 to cancel the license that the Carboneras City Council had granted him.
To paralyze construction two years before, Rivera’s car also cited that the building was in breach of the Coastal Law by partially invading the easement area for the protection of the maritime-terrestrial public domain, which is located 100 meters from the sea (the hotel is located had lifted about thirty meters from the water). The Supreme Court also ratified this other illegality in 2012, recalls the judge.
The hotel no longer has any means of salvation and its destination is demolition, although there is still a further court ruling to be able to carry out the demolition. Or that agreement between the Administrations and the developer, Azata.
Domínguez already has 37 cars and sentences against the building. The latest ruling is from the National Court and exempts the Administrations from compensating the hotel promoter with the 70 million they claim.
The lawyer has sued against this mass in the hands of Ecologists in Action, Greenpeace and the association Salvemos Mojácar and Levante Almeriense. This last organization was the one that presented the lawsuit that led to the stoppage of works in February 2006, a milestone in the environmental judicial struggle.
Jaime del Val, the third protagonist in the story, is the president of Salvemos Mojácar and recalls how he had to visit the headquarters of the different Administrations to be able to assemble this judicial case.
His association had been born a couple of years before, in 2004, to denounce the urban excesses in Mojácar. “But we saw the atrocities that were being done not only in Mojácar but in the entire Levante of Almeria, where there were 500,000 homes planned,” recalls Del Val. The economic crisis put a stop to those urban megaplans, but the El Algarrobico hotel did get up.
The works were at 94.41% when Rivera stopped them and the plans were for the four-star hotel to be operating at full capacity in the summer of 2006. “The environmental movement was not as strong then and they saw us as four cowboys who were going against something that was going to give employment ”, remembers Domínguez. Del Val criticizes the support given to the project by the City Council and the Junta de Andalucía.
Fifteen years later there is an agreement between the Board and the Government to demolish and restore the area when possible. “We have presented an appeal to order the demolition,” says Del Val. Once the illegality of the building and the lawsuit over the patrimonial claim have been resolved, the main question is when the pickaxe can enter.
The TSJA is pending to set a date to rule on the demolition petition. And Teresa Ribera, vice president for the Ecological Transition, has assured on Twitter that her department will study whether the latest ruling by the National Court on compensation “allows the demolition to be accelerated once and for all.”
For her part, the Andalusian Minister of Sustainable Development, Carmen Crespo, said yesterday that the latest ruling of the National Court is “positive” and could accelerate the demolition they are negotiating with Azata.
November 2005. The BOE publishes the demarcation of the coast that affects the hotel and the central government begins the expropriation process.
February 2006. Judge Jesús Rivera for the works.
May 2006. The Board announces that it will exercise the right of withdrawal and will buy the land.
March 2012. The Supreme Court ruled that the hotel violates the Coastal Law by partially invading the protection zone of the maritime-terrestrial public domain.
February 2016. The Supreme Court establishes that the hotel was built in an area where the Cabo de Gata-Níjar park could not be built and that the withdrawal executed by the Board to keep the land was legal.
February 2021. The National Court rejects that the Administrations compensate with 70 million to the promoter of the hotel.