Complaints in Aiguablava cove in Begur: "They have privatised part of the beach"
The City Council defends that sun beds and parasols for a fee help to avoid overcrowding
BegurTwo sunbeds and a parasol for €25 for the morning or afternoon, or €50 for the whole day; plus a supplement of between €3 and €5 if you are in the front row, or €20 if you want a towel. These are the prices offered at the Aiguablava cove in Begur for those who want to enjoy one of the forty sunloungers on the sand. The City Council put out a public tender in early 2021 to hand over the management of this service until 2024, but the area they occupy on the sand has attracted complaints from bathers. "Every day it's the same: you couldn't squeeze anyone else on the sand because the sunbeds take up most of the available space. They have privatised part of the beach!" Sandra and Manel, a couple from Manresa who have a second home in Begur, complain. On the other hand, the City Council makes a "very positive" assessment of the service: "It is a cove with high demand and under severe tourist pressure, and this is a way to control access and avoid crowds", Tourism councillor Eugeni Pibernat emphasises.
The Town Council put 14 lots out to tender with different services for the town's coves and beaches, ranging from beach bars to kayaks or sunbed hire. If we compare the metres reserved for sunbeds, Aiguablava is the most affected: 240 square meters for 40 sunloungers and 20 parasols. On the other hand, on other coves, the proportions are different: on Aiguafreda they take up 84 square meters (14 sunbeds and 7 parasols), or in Sa Tuna, 108 square meters (18 sunbeds and 9 parasols). "By law, you can allocate 50% of the surface to services. From here, the technicians evaluate each beach and its uses, and assess what surface each service can occupy. But it is not a question of a fixed proportion; it has to do with each beach's case," says Pibernat.
The alderman recalls that Aiguablava has much more affluence than Sa Tuna, and that there is so much demand that the council had to hire two workers to control access. "The measures that had been applied so far had not solved the overcrowding on Aiguablava, and that caused incidents and fights because one person took up more space than another, or because they were too close or because some young people played music and were smoking close by", the councillor says, who defends the measure adopted.
Beaches "only for the rich"
In addition to access control, in the cove of Aiguablava there are other services such as paid parking, restaurant and hotel businesses. Some of the workers, who prefer not to give their names, are used to hearing bathers' criticism: "Every day there are complaints, because people say they have no place on the sand because of the sunloungers, which are far apart and take up the entire central space," they explain. In fact, in front of the sunbeds, next to the sea, there is only room for one row of bathers, because just behind them are the ropes that cordon off the sunbed area.
On the sand, moreover, reproaches can also be heard about the cost. "We are two adults and two children, how can we spend €50 just on sunbeds? And if you add the money for parking, it's impossible to assume the cost!", laments Anna, a Begur resident. Her friend Elena adds, "Going to the beach will soon be a luxury only for the rich!"
On the other hand, for Armando and Sofia, who have hired sunbeds, like to have this option: "We are on holiday, and we prefer to pay and be more comfortable and quiet. Besides, they don't allow smoking here and it's much better than on the sand," they say.
Discomfort also in Sa Tuna
In addition to Aiguablava, the space occupied by services such as sunloungers also causes complaints on other beaches. The president of the Sa Tuna Neighbourhood Association, Quim Xifra, stresses that they support all the measures that are to prevent the spread of covid, but admits that the sunloungers have caused "discomfort" among neighbours. "We oppose such a small beach giving up space for private use, which limits access for everyone. The authorisation granted guts the principle of public use of the beaches", he emphasises.
The entity has twice asked the Generalitat to check if the sunloungers really do only take up the 108 square metres they are allowed to, but they have not received any response. "We would like the City Council to rethink this service when the concession ends," Xifra adds.