Luxury island development Isla de Valdecañas in Extremadura sentenced to demolition costing 145€ million

isla valdecañas island resort extremadura
Marina Isla de Valdecañas island resort, Extremadura

The Marina Isla de Valdecañas residential golf resort and hotel on an artificial island in Extremadura is the latest example of a major urban planning disaster ending in a demolition order that will probably never be executed.

The Marina Isla de Valdecañas urbanisation on an artificial island of 130 hectares in the Valdecañas reservoir in Cáceres province, Extremadura, an hour and a half west of Madrid by car, was started at the height of the Spanish property boom in 2006 with the support of the regional government. The plan was to build hundreds of “luxury” homes, a four star hotel, 18-hole golf course, sports centre, communal pool, marina and artificial beach. In the end only around 185 villas were built and sold to the “Spanish jet set” including celebrities and royalty, and the resort became known as the “Marbella of Extremadura.”

From the start the urbanisation was opposed by environmentalists on the grounds that it was built in an area of ‘special environmental protection.’ The Ecologistas en Acción-CODA group challenged the legality of the development, and in 2011 the high court of Extremadura declared the development illegal, so the regional government changed the planning laws to legalise it. The case then went up to Spain’s constitutional court, which ruled the planning law change illegal in 2019, opening the door to demolition.

However, in 2020 the court in Extremadura decided that, although nothing new could be built, the existing facilities and homes should be allowed to stay on the grounds that demolition and compensation would be too costly, estimated at close to 150€m that the regional government would have to pay. The Spanish Supreme Court has now overturned that decision, bringing the demolition order one step closer. 

Murcia’s regional government has said it will continue fighting to save the resort, which the Spanish press reports is suffering from neglect as the legal problems have discouraged investment in its upkeep. Defenders of the resort still have options with the Constitutional Court and the European Courts. As a last resort the regional authorities can appeal for constitutional protection (recurso de amparo constitucional) to stay the demolition. 

Even if the defenders of the resort lose their fight to save the Isla de Valdecañas from a final demolition order I doubt the environmentalists will see their dream of returning the site to its original natural state come true. Just like the planning disaster in Marbella, the hundreds of thousands of illegally built homes in the Andalusian countryside, and the hotel Algarrobico in Almeria, demolition will never happen. Much more likely is that the luxury island development of the Isla de Valdecañas will be left to rot, and investors will be trapped indefinitely.

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