Aguirre fell into sand trap with her Madrid golf course, top court rules

GreenCanal nine-hole facility and driving range is "not in public's general interest"

The view of the GreenCanal course from a Canal Isabel II facility on Filipinas Avenue.
The view of the GreenCanal course from a Canal Isabel II facility on Filipinas Avenue.RICARDO GUTIÉRREZ

The Supreme Court has ruled that Madrid's GreenCanal Golf Course, located in the city's Chamberí district, is an illegal recreational facility, given that it does not comply with city regulations geared toward making sure that the land is used in the public's general interest.

In its ruling, the top court dismissed a petition filed by the regional government to annul a 2010 decision handed down by a Madrid provincial court that also stated that the nine-hole course, practice putting greens, 300-meter driving range and buildings did not have the necessary permits to be built.

Dated December 12, the Supreme Court ruling states that the course - inaugurated in October 2006 by then-regional premier Esperanza Aguirre, who is also a golf enthusiast - was "an attempt to skirt the application of rules regarding authorization and the use of urban spaces."

"The regional government declared the project of general interest to sidestep the filters of licenses it had to go through because it did not comply with City Hall's rules," said the ruling.

We love this sport. I bring my son here so we don't have to travel so far out"

Before its inauguration, hundreds of neighbors held a series of protests to demand that the regional government found a better use for the more than six hectares of land, which is located on top of a water-storage facility that belongs to the Canal Isabel II waterworks. The site was originally intended to be used as a public park. Besides the golfing facilities, the park also has paddle-tennis courts, a soccer pitch and a large fountain.

The Madrid Architect's Guild went even further with its criticism, saying that a golf course is "unacceptable" in the space, given that it is "an area that needs green spaces" and that the course was "built with a license that originally permitted something completely different: a public park."

Spokespeople for the regional government are now looking for ways to observe the court's ruling without having to close GreenCanal. One of the options is to outline a new argument in its license application - other than the general public's interest - to keep the course and driving range. Another alternative would be to work with City Hall to modify the terms of an overall plan for the area, but that would depend on the local city government.

"One thing is for certain: you can't just chuck this ruling in the trash," said one regional government official. "To ignore this would be crazy."

Upon hearing the news, several golf enthusiasts in the neighborhood were unhappy.

"This location is good for us," said one father, whose 10-year-old boy appeared to be on the verge of tears when told the course might close. "We love this sport, and my son has taken it up. We can come here to practice without having to travel so far out," the father said.

Compared to other courses in the Madrid area, golf lessons at GreenCanal are inexpensive. Prices start at around 12.80 euros per hour for adults and 13.04 euros for children.

But there are still people who believe that the golf course is for the elite. "What is needed here are more trees; this golf thing is just another fad," said Saúl, a 75-year-old retiree who comes to the park to relax.

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