Natural landscapes of hills and valleys in Catalonia, Spain.

Catalonia Hard Rock Project Faces Difficulties

Despite its enthusiastic introduction more than 10 years ago, the Hard Rock Barcelona World project continues to be mired in problems. The Generalitat of Catalonia presented the project a decade ago, proposing a mega-resort and entertainment complex that would house luxury rooms, restaurants, gaming and more. It also promised to bring business to both Salou and Vila-seca, which are situated in the Tarragona province.

Natural landscapes of hills and valleys in Catalonia, Spain.

The controversial BCN World casino project now faces opposition from a local Minister of Health.
©Miriam Espacio/Unsplash

Minister of Health voices concerns

The Hard Rock project in Catalonia has gone through many phases of debate, redesign and investment. Now, new issues have come to light which threaten the progress of the construction. The latest update comes from Health Minister Manel Balcells.

Balcells has been outspoken about the project, declaring that it does not align with the interests of health for Catalonia. In a recent radio interview, he also shared that he believes the project will continue to face trouble and may not be developed after all.

This is a bold claim given that the Generalitat of Catalonia also recently signed a budget agreement having to do with the project. Though it was referred to as a “project of the Salou and Vila-seca Recreational and Tourist Consortium,” it is understood that the Hard Rock project is what is at stake.

Balcells said that despite this, he hopes those behind the Hard Rock project will finally back down. He asserted that Catalonia’s government president, Pere Aragonès, also is not on board with the project, and that both agree gambling is a problem for the region, rather than something to be promoted with the creation of the complex.

The counselor did not seem phased by the agreement that has been signed in connection with the Catalonia budget, which also commits the government to completing necessary processes in order for construction work to begin in 2024. The agreement also ensures that the desired land would be held available until the time of construction.

Planning commission approval needed

Those involved in the project may also have reason to worry about approval from the local Urban Planning Commission, who were meant to approve a new plan in June 2023. This Urban Master Plan (PDU) has been debated since late 2020, with still no resolution. At that point, the High Court of Justice of Catalonia rejected the given plan.

A recent comment made by the commission to local media insinuates that the fight is not over, but it is unclear when the matter will be resolved. They stated that the commission is still waiting for specific sector reports which are mandatory. This means they, too, cannot yet give a final date for approval.

Opposition from environmental groups

Finally, the project has always faced opposition from various groups, the largest of which is known as Aturem BCN World or Aturem Hard Rock. Aturem’s platform is largely based on environmental concerns, and the group demonstrated against the project in June of this year.

In May 2023, another call to stop the project was made within the government; however, it garnered little support at the time. In response, Aturem also shared points in a blog post, outlining reasons that the project may be stopped from a legal point of view. Those involved in the project largely dismissed these claims at the time, as the project seemed to have the necessary government support to move forward.

If finally approved and completed, BCN World would involve €2 billion in investments. The complex would span 1,000 hotel rooms, and include a casino, shopping area and massive sports and recreational zones. It would also include a concert space and other resources for tourists and local patrons.

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An aerial photo of the coastline at Catalonia at sunset.

Author: James Richardson