A quick overview and analysis
UPDATE: Here’s the link to the very latest plans as published on the Junta de Andalucia website: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/site/web/menuitem.a5664a214f73c3df81d8899661525ea0/?vgnextoid=15bf5f4eecac9110VgnVCM1000000624e50aRCRD
What is the POTALA?
The POTALA (Plan de ordenacion terretorial del levante almeriense, or plan for the territorial planning of the Almeria levante) is a macro plan developed by the Junta de Andalucia that intends to bring order to the overall development of this region over the next 10 years. It affects the town halls of Mojacar, Garrucha, Turre, Los Gallardos, Bedar, Carboneras, Cuevas del Almanzora, Huercal Overa, Pulpi, Antas and Vera.
The local development plans (known as the PGOU, Plan General de ordenacion urbanistico, or General Plan for Urban Planning) which each town hall is required to develop, are subordinate to the overall POTALA. Town halls are required to develop and publish their PGOUs every five years, although so for only a couple of town halls have bothered to have theirs approved.
Within each PGOU are defined the Planes Parciales of each sector within a municipality, which are often modified to the request of local residents and developers.
The POTALA is basically an attempt by the regional government to bring an overall cohesion to the local PGOUs published by each town hall. It’s a fantastically complex project that, according the reports in the Spanish media, has never been tried on such a scale before. It regulates everything from greenbelt land to transport and energy infrastructure (local, regional and national). So, it contemplates everything from the AVE station to new roads to local gas distribution.
The POTALA, which has just been signed by the bureaucrats in Seville, contemplates a 5 billion euro investment in the Levante area, the creation of 131000 jobs (of what sort is not specified), several industrial zones and the amplification of Carboneras as an industrial port and hub.
Where is it all going?
The space between the Los Gallardos – Garrucha road and Vera is known as the “Llano Central”. It’s a vast, desolate, waterless region that typically has not been used for very much, with exception of some agriculture and the water treatment plant.
Under the new plan the whole area is designated to be an “area of exception tourism”, which los politicos take to mean 3 new golf courses (all of which will be “of public use”, not associated to any particular urbanisation), 32000 hotel rooms, 25000 new homes and up to 95000 jobs.
The regional towns and villages get permission for a further bunch of houses, of which at least 9000 will be VPOs, or the Spanish equivalent of council housing.
Well, first off nobody seems to have thought about what lunatics in the current climate are going to match the government subsides to build there. Ignoring the fact that we are currently, year round, in a loss making situation for many hotels in the area, and that local hotel groups have had their fingers burnt before by the Junta and Diputacion in schemes of these types (remember El Toyo?), and the fact that most of the large promotors and builders that previously would have jumped at the offer to build there are either bankrupt or going under, until there’s an upturn in the credit and housing markets nobody is really going to be too interested. And three years down the line, no doubt the public money will have been frittered away on other white elephants.
I do applaud the continuing trend towards quality, low density tourism. Safeguards are supposed to be in place to ensure that the place doesn’t turn into another “Costa del Sol”. However, I doubt that the current infrastructure can support this many people. Water supplies will be dependent upon the desalination plants, and the current polluting power plant in Carboneras is going to be working overtime. However, the planners have given some thought towards road infrastructure, planning several new roads and bypasses and talk is afoot of developing a generic public transportation system here.
Call me a depressed old raven, but I feel that this plan, while generally needed, is too much too late. The overall concept is good, the development of light industry and other businesses is desperately needed in this area to reduce reliance on construction and agriculture, but Llano Central is going to be an eyesore for some time to come. We’ll probably end up with some scruffy housing estates and a golf courses sinking into the mud.