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Hard Rock Entertainment World faces political challenges


Hard Rock International’s integrated resort project in Tarragona province has come in for criticism from opposition politicians in the Catalan parliament.

 

The Hard Rock Entertainment World development in Catalonia has come under fire from opposition parties in the Generalitat.

Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP) deputy Natàlia Sànchez announced the left wing party’s intention to present a complaint against the government’s handling of the integrated resort development with Catalonia’s Anti- Fraud Office (OAC) in mid-November.

“We’ve presented this complaint, not just because we want to halt the project, but also to indicate those officials which are accountable for it,” she said.

CUP is calling upon the agency to investigate alleged “misappropriation and malfeasance” related to the project. “We will deploy all the available tools put this fraudulent operation under the spotlight,” she stated.

Sànchez claims there were irregularities in how the Ministry of Economy and Ministry of Territory and Sustainability conducted the licensing process for the Hard Rock project, together with the government’s plan to purchase the land for the development from La Caixa, Spain’s third largest financial institution.

At the start of September, the Generalitat confirmed it would advance 80 percent of the EUR120m required to purchase the land for Hard Rock Entertainment World, situated adjacent to the PortAventura World on the Costa Daurada. The purchase will take place via Incasòl, Catalonia’s government- owned land development institute. The land will then be sold on to Hard Rock International.

The hundred hectare parcel is currently owned by Mediterranea Beach and Golf Community, which is in turn owned by Criteria Caixa, a development arm of La Caixa.

Hard Rock will repay the figure in three instalments, with the full sum due to be paid off by June 2022 at the earliest.

The government’s move to purchase the land has generated political controversy. Sánchez had previously questioned the government’s decision to “risk public funds” for such a “speculative operation”. She claims there are “up to fifteen cases” in which Hard Rock could “return the land and recover the investment and expenses”, potentially leaving the government to foot the bill.

Nevertheless, Pere Aragonès, acting president of the Government of Catalonia and minister of Economy and Finance, affirmed the development would “not have any cost for either the public or government finances”.

“Not one euro of public funds will go towards the implementation and development of the Centro Recreativo y Turístico [the formal title for the Hard Rock Entertainment World project] in Vila-seca and Salou,” he added.

In October, a plenary of the regional parliament rejected a motion by Catalonia in Common–We Can (CatECP) to halt the land purchase. The motion, which was supported by CUP, also urged the Government not to appeal the TSJC ruling. “The Generalitat is playing roulette and Monopoly with the funds of the Catalonian people,” alleged CatECP deputy David Cid.

Meanwhile, in a fresh blow for Hard Rock International’s integrated resort in Catalonia, a court ruling in late September partially annulled the master plan for the project.

Natàlia Sànchez
Natàlia Sànchez

Catalonia’s High Court (TSJC) said the Hard Rock Entertainment World development was situated in a zone which was “at risk of serious accidents” due to its close proximity to Tarragona’s petrochemical industry. The ruling came following a legal challenge against the project by environmental groups.

“We cannot reach any other conclusion than to verify that most of the spaces and equipment would be located in an area at risk of accidents from the chemical industry, which contravenes the regulations,” the TSJC stated.

Following the ruling, Laia Estrada, a CUP councillor in Tarragona, argued the project “does not reflect the interests” of the province. “We have always claimed that it is irresponsible to bring together so many people next to a petrochemical complex,” she contended.

Despite the criticism, Hard Rock Entertainment World still has the backing of local leaders in Tarragona province. Pere Granados, the mayor of Salou – close to where the integrated resort will be situated – has called upon the parties in the Generalitat “to act responsibly and leave aside electoral politics which put the project at risk”.

Meanwhile, Damià Calvet, the autonomous community’s minister of Territory and Sustainability, affirmed the project was now “more necessary than ever”, given the social and economic crisis caused by COVID-19.



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