Urbanistic Plan For Valdevaqueros, Tarifa
Since it was first ‘discovered' by surfers back in the 1970s, Tarifa has become a Mecca not just for lovers of wind- and kite-surfing, but also for tourists seeking a different summer and winter holiday experience. What made Tarifa different and appealing to such groups, who came from abroad but also from different parts of Spain, was the fact that it didn't look and feel like conventional tourist resorts do. What grew out of this over the years was a small town with a distinct surfer's culture and a trendy hippy ambience that some have described as ‘Tarifa chic'.
Tarifa is therefore characterised by boutique hotels, beach clubs and low-rise resorts and campings that occupy restored old town buildings or lie within the pine groves that run right up along the beach in a westerly direction. Many would understandably like it to remain this way, but perhaps excessive restrictions on development limited the facilities available and the ability of the region to make the most of its tourist potential. Though still very popular with surfers and day-trippers, Tarifa has lost a lot of potential visitors to the luxury beachside resorts and amenities of Novo Sancti Petri and Conil, just up the coast.
Earlier schemes to emulate the high-rise hotels and multiple golf courses of large resort towns were thankfully shipwrecked on tight planning restrictions, and so the area remains largely unspoiled, yet the economic downturn has done Tarifa no favours, resulting in a marked increase in empty commercial spaces and rundown buildings. The town's mayor, Juan Andrés Gil, is determined to reverse this situation and bring growth and employment back to Tarifa. His initiative, to develop 1423 hotel places and 350 residential properties overlooking Playa de Valdevaqueros, forms the spearhead of this policy.
In a bid to use the natural beauty of the region to draw visitors and to become more competitive with other resorts by providing more up to date facilities, the mayor and his team have approved the development and commercialisation of this 700,000m2 area located on the north-side of the CN340 coastal road along the Costa de la Luz coastline west of Tarifa. The plans have been made possible by a relaxation in the regional planning regulations, and though the mayor represents the PP (Partido Popular), he has the support of the majority of the other political parties.
There has, however, been opposition to the project, and though the Junta de Andalucía has given assurances that it will ensure compliance with environmental laws, protection groups have taken their objections to the European Union. The mayor, meanwhile, backs the Town Hall's approval of the plans on the grounds that they involve a sustainable model of development focused on low-density, low-rise construction that will aesthetically blend in with the environment and greatly improve the quality and offer not only of tourist facilities, but also public amenities.
Not actually built within the dunes and beach area of Valdevaqueros, but across the road from it, the proposed development promises to have less visible impact than the many hundreds of wind turbines that have sprung up all around this region - including on the ridge behind the area in question. Moreover, the project itself represents a sizeable investment that will certainly bring employment to the town and enhance the standard and variety of its tourist infrastructure, potentially opening up this surfer's paradise to a whole new kind of tourism.