Month: August 2012

Spanish Mediterranean (10)

The El Toyo resort, 15 km east of the city of Almería (on the same municipality) and 3km from the airport, is at the beginning linked to the 2005 Mediterranean Games initiative, and aimed at lodging the athletes. It occupies 260 hectares, which were mainly owned by the municipality or the state prior to the operation.

The operation was launched by a public agent, the Public Land Company of Andalusia (EPSA), cooperating with the city of Almería. The program includes an 18 holes golf course (68 hectares) and seven high level hotels, three of which were to be located on the beach. The plan also defines 3.990 dwellings (418.000 built sq m), 87.430 built sq m for hotels, 41.339 sq m of buildings to be occupied by retail and leisure uses, and a land area of 614.815 sq m for public open spaces.

After the end of the Mediterranean Games the project has not yet attained a full development.

Spanish Mediterranean (9)

Costa Ballena occupies the former large agricultural compound “La Ballena”, on the municipalities of Rota (some 300 Hectares) and Chipiona (close to 100 hectares), in the Cadiz province.

In 1985 the Andalusia government enacts the “Tourism Plan for the Cadiz Bay- Guadalquivir river area”, in the wider framework of the Action Programme for the Andalusia Littoral. The Public Land Company of Andalusia (EPSA) receives the order to develop the urban planning project, with a FEDER European financial aid. Most of the original land owners participate in the management. The Plan Parcial de Ordenación del Área de la Ballena de Rota is finally enacted as of may 1990. The Junta de Compensación (an association of landowners that share the costs and benefits of the operation) is constituted in 2003 and dissolved in 2007, being substituted by an Urban Maintenance Entity (that exerts the road and infraestructure conservation functions usually attributed to the municipalities)

The project’s layout is arranged around golf courses, with a combination of individual and collective dwellings with a clear tourism orientation, and the ancillary presence of hotels and services.

Spanish Mediterranean (8)

Empuriabrava appears as a tourism initiative in the municipality of Castelló de Empurias at the beginning of the 1960s. The project implies the creation of a residential marina (similar in concept to Port Grimaud in France, a project launched a few years earlier on the Cote d’Azur), with a navigable canal network and a set of touristic housing units for which the ability to moor a boat at the door was seen as a relevant asset. The project also includes a sports airfield. Most of the lots are occupied today, with a relevant seasonality in use. The 15.000 housing units have slightly less than 8.000 registered residents (2011), but can reach a high season population nearing 80.000.

The proposed modification to the Spanish Littoral Law includes specific provisions for this case, singular on a national scale, trying to provide legal assurances to home and landowners. Up to that date, the public domain and its protection zones were defined taking into account the high tide lines, a concept with a clear impact as the canals in this area are subject to the tides. This has been polemic in the debate over that law and its impact on tourism.

Spanish Mediterranean (7)

The previous posts on tourism in the Spanish Mediterranean coast have described municipalities in which tourism has gained relevance in terms of use of the urban spaces. But there was no idea of a single project, as the chosen examples where rather an overlay of individual projects on a common geographic site. The following posts describe some spots on that littoral (Costa Ballena is on the Atlantic, but follows similar logics) that have a unifying project, with new urban tissues unrelated to previous urban areas. Their creation in different moments and under different administrations has created differences, as well in tourism positioning as in the ways in which the land is used. The touristic city develops in these spaces with the widest autonomy, for better and for worse.

Biblio (6) Urban Planning Scheme for the Catalan coastal system

The Urban Planning Scheme for the Catalan coastal system can be included in a recent generation of coastal area maps in several Spanish regions looking for a more sustainable territorial development model.

The regulation enacted in 2005 (since challenged in court) has a special incidence for tourism activities, as a use that has contributed in a large measure to the transformation dynamics of the Catalan coastal zone (one of the most important in the Iberian peninsula), as well in a direct way (hotels) as in an indirect one (harbors and seaside promenades). The Plan’s regulations, covering the whole of the Catalan coast, are binding in varying degrees for the municipal plans.

The plan defines a model for landscape and environmental quality, access strategies for beaches, harbors and tourism resources, and sometimes questions the precedent plans when they are in conflict with current criteria for those issues.

Similar plans for other regions, each with specific problems:




Spanish Mediterranean (6)

Javea shows a special situation among these examples in the Alicante coast: a seashore profile in which detached houses and low height buildings dominate. In the northern zone there is a long seaside road along which detached houses on large lots are dominant, and on the south area heights are usually five. The arrangement of the restaurant and retail areas is also based on low heigh logics, with a parking layout uncommon in the area, and there is a clear initiative to renovate and requalify the restaurant areas.

32.649 registered residents in 2011, of which:

–           55% non-Spanish

–           43%  citizens of other states of the European Union

–           26% British

–           7% Germans

–           2% Moroccans

By large age groups, only among those under 16 years are Spanish citizens a majority. Among registered residents over 64 there are nearly 2,5 times as many foreigners as Spanish persons.

Spanish Mediterranean (5)

Altea has three main areas: a historical center in the hinterland which still has some rural characteristics, a linear development along the national road on which sit hotels and apartments among cultivation lots, and large residential areas of detached houses on large lots in the Altea Hills subdivisions. These subdivisions occupy south oriented hill slopes, with views over Benidorm, including developments of tens of serial standardized houses as well as more individual projects.

24.056 registered residents in 2011, of which:

–           38% non-Spanish

–           26%  citizens of other states of the European Union

–           6% British

–           5% Romanians

–           3% Germans

View looking south from the hills, with Benidorm in the Skyline

Residential area in the Altea Hills development

The coastal corridor





Spanish Mediterranean (4)

The main tourism area in Calpe occupies a coastal fringe marked by the Ifach Rock, a large formation on a peninsula similar to Gibraltar Rock and other similar elements on the Spanish Mediterranean coast. This coastal fringe shows similitudes with Benidorm, as high hotel and apartment buildings are dominant, but the municipality also has a sizeable number of holiday homes on large lots, on the hills that surround the coastal plain, which is linked to tourism of the more or less permanent presence of foreign residents; these represent most of the local registered population and whose origin makes it a good guess that they settled for reasons linked in a way or another to tourism.

The Rock, the pond behind the hotel area and the coastal cliffs are relevant in ecological and landscape terms, which implies the need for a delicate balance with the urban impact on the environment.

29.718 registered residents in 2011, of which:

–           62% non-Spanish

–           50%  citizens of other states of the European Union

–           15% British

–           13% Germans

–           6% Romanians.

By large age groups, only among those under 16 years are Spanish citizens a majority. Among registered residents over 64 there are nearly five times as many foreigners as Spanish persons.

Spanish Mediterranean (3)

Denia still shows the races of a territorial role organizing a hinterland by trade and services before the arrival of mass tourism; combined with a harbor role (it is a point to access the Balearic islands through fast ships). While all the municipalities in the area have an old city, in Denia it is clear that its evolution has been gradual, with a more classical centrality in terms of retail and services.

In contrast with Benidorm there has been no rush to build towers. The center, with tourist functions that have colonized partially a harbor seafront of small buildings with restaurants, has grown to the west around the beach with a tourist zone in which there are still clear signs of it informal origin covering previous orchard areas. To the east growth has colonized a low lying rock cliffs coast with small beaches, under a big mountain, with a detached house on large lot pattern with a much higher socioeconomic level. Hotels and rental apartments coexist with ownership apartments and houses.

The old city is especially well maintained, with a good level of vitality for retail and restaurants.

44.726 registered residents in 2011, of which:

  • 30% non- Spanish
  • 18% citizens of other states of the European Union

Spanish Mediterranean (2)

View of the eastern beach towards the initial settlement

The western beach, with the new seaside promenade (on the right), by Carlos Ferrater, one of the most relevant architects in Spain


Benidorm is a classical image of Spanish tourism. It is the representation of the development movement of the 1960s, with large, high buildings on the beach for hotels and apartments. Even today, the height records for buildings in Spain correspond to hotels in Benidorm.

It is a popular tourism model, apparently surpassed by other more innovative models, but in continuous transformation. There is still live music on the sefront promenade, but the promenade itself has changed. The original village sits on a small hill between two beaches, whose south orientation allow high towers to be built without receiving cast shadows on the sand. The eastern beach is the one developed most intensely during the 1960s-1970s, while the western has also been developed, but on a lesser scale due to a less flat profile; on the back of that beach there are more recent developments, that are also using high buildings.

Current lots

Lot surface in sq m

Built surfaces by lot, in sq m

Benidorm is like a “big box retail” for tourism in this territory: hotels and rental apartments in large buildings are dominant, set in towers (often beyond 40 storeys), as opposed to lesser density models based on sales of apartments or houses.

72.062 persons were registered in 2011 as residing in the municipality of Benidorm, of which:

–           34% were non-Spanish

–           20% were citizens of other states of the European Union

–           8% were British

–           5% were Romanian

–           1% were Moroccans