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Why the Puerto port project still generates scepticism and that big question: “Will it really happen?” 

Am I supposed to be feeling excited? At the very least, I guess, I should be enthusiastic.

About what, you might well ask. Why, the latest press release concerning Puerto’s new port, of course.

A new set of plans, produced, and announced to the public along with the ever familiar amount of trumpet fanfare, flag waving, back slapping, look how well we’ve done, and don’t forget to smile for the camera.

Yes, another set of plans, the third, or maybe the fourth, to be honest I’ve lost count over the years. I can remember the first ones, a long time ago now. Then, long before the debatable merits of social media, a copy was simply pasted on a board and erected in the harbour for everyone to peruse.

It was in itself a very ambitious project showing two or three cruise liners in berths. Too ambitious as it happened, the purse string holders at that time must have run a mile to distance themselves from it. Of course, at that time the eventual outcome was the decision to build the port at Garachico, and look what a rip-roaring success that has turned out to be.

What is different about this new set of plans? Firstly, it seems it has all party support. Amazing isn’t it, they all agree, and it isn’t even an election year, apart from, that is, the continuing fiasco in Madrid. So it must tick all the boxes and provide for everyone’s wants and needs, a bit of a tall order.

Let’s look at it in more detail, although detail is somewhat vague and as usual there remain some unanswered questions.

At the moment we, the general public, only have access to the architect’s artist impressions, those and a pretty naff promotional video which starts with a shot of the planet before zooming in on Puerto at its very epicentre. The port itself will provide a new home to the ever dwindling local fishing fleet, bays for leisure craft, room for companies who provide water sports should there be a requirement, a dock for inter island ferries for both vehicles and foot passengers and last but not least an 80m berth to attract medium sized cruise liners (with a proviso for a second phase to extend the berth to take larger ships).

I think we can safely forget about phase two, or at the very least until phase one is nearing completion, so plenty of time.

Even so, unless I have read the figures wrongly, there seem to be an anomaly in the size of liner the proposed berth could contain. I have used the wonders of the internet to search for cruise ships current plying these waters and the smallest I can find is just shy of 200m in length.

It just doesn’t fit unless, that is, the Captain is expected to adopt the local attitude to parking and assume that as long as part of his vessel is in the allocated bay then that is good enough. Or, perhaps he has to just back it in and leave the front, and most of the middle section for that matter, sticking out. Will all passengers please disem-bark from the rear of the ship; otherwise you might get wet feet.

I apologise for my flippancy, it is just the whole idea of trying to attract cruise liners, it doesn’t sit well with me. Why would a cruise company forego the excellent facilities at Santa Cruz to tie up in a backwater? Apart from financial reward I can think of no other reason and surely it is never going to be cheaper to berth in Puerto.

These plans, for the first time, split the project in two. No doubt, in an effort to attract different investors there is now a seaward project and a separate landward project, or to simplify it, wet and dry.

The dry side has changed significantly. The concert venue which featured on previous plans has gone, replaced by an open space. Large enough, it is claimed, to accommodate all the local events and fiestas. They like to have events ‘alfresco’ in Puerto, but then without a suitable venue they have little choice but to. I am sure hosting a beauty pageant in Plaza de Europa on a chilly February evening was not ideal. The swimwear parade must have been a challenge. The revised plans allow for more retail space. Of course, it makes the build more lucrative, but does Puerto need more shops given that so many of the existing ones sit empty, many of them for years.

I know you shouldn’t take notice of artist impressions, the final result is often very different, take San Telmo as a prime example, the glass ‘wall’ never did materialise.

However, at present these drawings are all I have to comment on. I was going to say the boxlike buildings and acres of concrete slabs are not in keeping with the rest of the Puerto, but on reflection the town doesn’t have any character or style, which I suppose gives them carte blanche to build whatever they want and of course we already have concrete slabs aplenty, the powers to be remain tireless in their efforts to cover the whole town with them.

Perhaps the finished buildings will not be boxlike at all, after all it is only a drawing and straight lines are far easier than curves, but then again straight walls are cheaper to build, so they most probably will be.

One of the released pictures is a view of the town from above with the new development superimposed onto it, which shows both the town football pitch and the municipal swimming pool remaining in situ. I must say I am surprised as I would have thought at least one or indeed both would go to make way for ease of access for the constructors. They would be sorely missed and an alternative site should be provided before construction starts, although saying that the pool has been empty since the middle of December so it probably won’t be missed at all. Bring on the bulldozers.

It seems to be that there is something very important missing from the plan. Where is the car parking? Surely they are not putting it underground, so close to open water, it is a recipe for disaster. Now, to be serious for a moment, the town depends on this car park, without it there is precious little alternative. Nowhere to park equals no shoppers and no visitors, therefore it is imperative that an alternative site with sufficient space is provided, prior to construction beginning. Where will it be? It is certain to be further out from the centre of town. Oh no, they can’t be thinking of park and ride, can they?

These comments and my ramblings are not to taken too seriously, likewise, nor should, for me at least, the whole Puerto Port project. This one has been rattling around for so many years now that one wonders if it will every really come to fruition. Not in my lifetime is an expression which springs instantly to mind. I won’t even mention the budget, a figure for both parts of the project is being bandied about, but you can be assured the eventual cost will be much more.

How much has been spent already? I dread to think, man hours alone must come to a small fortune and architects don’t work for nothing. Safe to say I am not a fan of this project, I don’t believe all the hype nor do I believe it will be good for the town. Other than on the construction, and I wonder how much of that will be local, I can’t see where it is going to provide the level of new employment being promised. How long will it take to build? I once read that it would be at least seven years, but was that a serious time span or just plucked out of fresh air. Either way it has to been ten years plus allowing for the inevitable delays.

Work on it could start next year. I’ve heard that one somewhere before, perhaps it was a couple of years ago and they were talking about the bus station. ‘Next year’ is definitely the new ‘mañana’