Battle for Trafalgar

  • The Califa Group bids for the lighthouse

The Trafalgar lighthouse and its environs should be in the public domain, free to enter and open every day to the public...

The following article is from todays' Daily Telegraph. Substantially true the only misleading journospeak is in the sub-title as the plans are not to turn the lighthouse into holiday homes but vacation rentals taking advantage of the existing structure.

The Califa Group with Adriano 10 (one of Seville's leading bar and restaurants group) presented a project along with four other companies to manage the Traflagar lighthouse on a commercial basis as the opportunity of this emblematic spot being turned into a museum was ruled out by the Cadiz Port Authority.

James Stuart by the lens of the Trafalgar lighthouse

However our company firmly believe that the Faro and its environs should be in the public domain and Trafalgar should have the same status (for example) as the Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia (Bolonia) where there is a museum and the site is is open to the public and free to visit. However the Port Authority have a different view and are looking for a way to relieve themselves of the financial burden of maintaining the buildings and the site. The lighthouse will of course be kept working, it is now fully automated and the Port Authority want the site to have an occupant 24/365 in order to safeguard and maintain the buildings and environs.

Our view is that if it is going to be privatised with such a long contract (40 years) then we would open it to the public, build a visitors centre, keep it free and fund the whole exercise by having 3 bedrooms and a large restaurant / cafeteria. We would also be restoring the dilapidated buildings, landscaping the scrub that is there now and employing between 15-25 staff depending on the season.

The competition to take on the project was hotly contested between 5 different companies but we felt we had a good chance of winning. We employed architects from Madrid, a museum design company gave the brief for the visitors centre and Rafa Cebolla (Head of Adriano 10) and I created an UTE (company merge for a specific project) to manage the project. we missed out by only 4% on points but when we saw the winning project and studied their offer we were genuinely surprised that FLOATEL had been chosen especially considering that they would be employing only 2 staff and literally closing the main entrance and cutting off more than 50% of the land and buildings to the public. They would also be charging to enter the site with limited opening times. Not in the public interest. One of the Floatel bedrooms would have a private terrace taking up a substantial part of the 3,000m2. plot with the best views across the Cape and ocean.

For more technical information and the full administrative appeal (in Spanish) click here

Below in the gallery are some photos of our design project.

From the Daily Telegraph (UK) 16 November

"Row over plans to turn Trafalgar lighthouse into luxury apartments

British hotelier is leading attempts to prevent a German firm converting building that overlooks site of Battle of Trafalgar into holiday homes

File photo: Faro de Trafalgar (Trafalgar Lighthouse), Canos de Meca, Cadiz province, Spain
A battle is being waged to stop the Trafalgar lighthouse in southern Spain being converted into flats and lost as a public monument. 


The historic landmark, close to where Nelson’s ships defeated an allied French and Spanish fleet in 1805, is a popular destination for British visitors. Built in 1860, it stands on an unspoilt stretch of coastline near Caños de Meca, south of Cadiz on the Costa de la Luz, an hour’s drive from Gibraltar. 

But now, 200 years after Nelson died following his heroic victory, a second battle of Trafalgar is being fought. 

A German firm has been awarded a contract to convert the lighthouse into three luxury holiday apartments, in the process cutting it off to wider public access. 

Under the controversial agreement, Floatel, which specialises in lighthouse conversions, is to take control of the 110-ft tall lighthouse for the next 30 years, with the option to renew for another 10. 

However, a group of Cadiz businessmen including a Briton, James Stuart, has taken up arms against the project. 

Joined by local environmentalists, Mr Stuart, who runs a string of hotels and restaurants on the Costa de la Luz, has filed an official complaint with the Cadiz port authority over “irregularities” in Floatel’s application. 

File photo: Trafalgar Lighthouse

“We firmly believe the lighthouse and its environs should be in the public domain,” Mr Stuart said. 

“It should have the same status as the Roman ruins at Baelo Claudia, near Tarifa, where there is a museum and the site is free to the public.” 

His group believes the port authority is simply looking for a way to “relieve itself of the financial burden of maintaining the site”. 

Insisting that the last-ditch protest has nothing to do with his group’s own application to run the lighthouse being turned down, he added: “We would also take over the running and costs of the lighthouse, but at the same time keep it open for everyone to enjoy.” 

The Califa group’s proposal, which came second, guaranteed to maintain the appearance of the lighthouse, as well as add a free interpretation centre, restaurant and picnic area employing 15 to 25 staff. 

By contrast, Floatel’s plan involves employing just two staff, closing the main entrance and cutting off more than 50 per cent of the land and buildings to the public. 

It also plans to charge for entry, with limited opening times. 

An environmental group, Ecologistas en Accion, has also filed a complaint with the Bay of Cadiz port authority against the development plans. 

“We are against the privatisation of public facilities such as the Trafalgar Lighthouse,” a spokesman explained. 

The port authority has not yet responded to the complaints. Mr Stuart and his colleagues are preparing to take their case to court if necessary."

Images from the Califa Adriano Trafalgar Project proposal