“¡Vaya, vaya! ¡Aquí no hay playa!” (Well, well! No beach here!) the famous 80s Spanish song by The Refrescos goes, mocking the fact that Madrid is one of Spanish regions furthest from the coast.
But madrileños may get the last laugh in the end as there are plans underway to build Europe’s largest artificial beach, just half an hour away from the capital and more than 300 kilometres from the coast.
Construction is underway in the municipality of Alovera in the province of Guadalajara, a mega-project which requires more than 15km2 of sand and 25km2 of water.
The whole beach complex will measure 105,000 m2 and will feature a huge lagoon, as well as a surrounding area of sand.
The sand zone is set to have several beach bars, hammocks for relaxing in, beach volleyball courts and an open-air gym, while the lagoon area is set to have water sports, a sailing school, slides, water chutes, zip lines and smaller pools for kids.
But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. The project, created in conjunction with US-based company Crystal Lagoons has been halted on several occasions, in part due to its ginormous size, political debates, and the huge cost of the work, which comes in at an estimated €15.6 million.
The aim is reportedly to create around 350 direct and indirect jobs and welcome between 250,000 and 400,000 visitors a year.
While some of Spain’s political parties – PP, Ciudadanos and Vox – are in favour of the beach, others including PSOE and Unidas Podemos are against it, citing the fact that the lagoon area is going to be filled with the drinking water taken from the local supply.
In their defence, the constructors of Alovera Beach have clarified that the volume of water is similar to the annual consumption of a development of 80 homes, but with the difference that the lagoon will only be filled once.
They have also said that it will consume half the amount of water of conventional park irrigation and 40 or 50 times less than the maintenance of a golf course, as well as use 100 times fewer chemicals than normal swimming pools.
To add to their sustainability commitment, Crystal Lagoons and Alovera Beach will also create a large natural park surrounding the complex, in order to encourage biodiversity in the area.
Those in Madrid who can’t wait until 2023 for the project to be complete, should visit the Blue Flag-awarded Virgen de la Nueva beach on the banks of the San Martín de Valdeiglesias reservoir.