WOLFGANG Kiessling, President of the Loro Park Group, has been trying for at least six years to build what was described as Europe’s biggest water park, in Gran Canaria.
The original Siam Park was actually suggested more than 15 years ago, but Gran Canaria’s red tape and bureaucracy, it appears, led to the first park opening in Tenerife in 2008.
That’s where his successful, if sometimes controversial, parrot park zoo has been operating since 1972. And that has grown 10-fold in size, now covering more than 33 acres.
After securing a 2013 Gran Canaria land deal with the aristocratic Del Castillo family, and, a year later, clearing what appeared to be the last administrative hurdles with the Island Water Board and Spanish, state-owned lands, Kiessling felt sure he had finally secured the site needed.
He even predicted his finished €100m landmark attraction would probably complete construction within two years.
But it seems that the battle to get this major tourist attraction built is still far from over, with several groups opposed to the development, and tying-up the project in court cases and administrative objections for several years.
Works to channel the El Veril ravine started in 2017, as a
pre-requisite to the park’s construction. But a storm in a tea-cup about “aboriginal seashell remains” led to a public spat between the local Mayor and the island’s President.
Then, what appeared to be a moving of the goalposts, the local council changed its by-laws to demand a further €2m extra to the project’s originally-agreed budget, to develop public roads on the perimeter of the site, without which the Town Hall would refuse to grant the final works licence, which would allow the project to begin.
Meanwhile, lots of acrimony and finger-pointing ensued. At last year’s tourism fair FITUR, Grupos Loro Park said they were only awaiting the San Bartolomé de Tirajana Town Hall, and that they were ready to begin construction.
But another public spat resulted in a court case, with the developer accusing the local administration of contravening the group’s fundamental rights.
Although the judgement, last October, did not agree with this view, the judge clearly stated that the local council appeared to have been obstructive, and been dragging their feet, purposefully.
The Spanish state had already stepped in, claiming dominion over parts of the land they still own, and demanding clarification of what monies they would be owed for the project.
All seemed lost! And only last week, Kiessling claimed to have lost his motivation, somewhat, saying he had already spent €20m and still had no licence to begin work.
Now, though, with the 2020 trade fair Fitur completed, a positive shine has been put on the entire affair.
According to news agency EFE, following a meeting last week with the new President of the Canary Islands Government, Ángel Víctor Torres (PSOE), the President of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales (NC), and the new Mayor of San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Conchi Narváez (PSOE), Kiessling says he has “reached an agreement to find a way to eliminate the difficulties in the construction of the park”, and hopes that the project can begin this year.
The German-born business man has stressed that Loro Park Group has always followed all steps demanded by the various administrations “100%”, and that they are now continuing to work on resolving “this difficult situation in which the previous government of San Bartolomé has put us”.
The final project, he says, will total around €120 million in the end, and will create 600 jobs, as well as providing a significant tourist attraction for the Playa del Inglés and Maspalomas area.
Christoph Kiessling, his son and Vice President of the Loro Parque group, has said that since 2012, they have invested “around €20m” in this project, from when the search for the site and preparation of the first plans for the park began.
He added: “We have always envisioned that the construction of the park could be done within two years, although it could extend to up to two-and-a-half years.”
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