After closing down a 100-meter beach near Cannes for “security reasons,” King Salman of Saudi Arabia has once again ignited the fury of holiday makers and local residents by managing to get permission to build a lift from his seaside villa to the beach.
The elderly monarch plans on building a staircase and wooden walkways as a shortcut leading from his opulent mansion down to the Mirandole beach in Vallauris “so his feet never have to touch the sand” – despite contravening planning laws.
Mayor of Vallauris Michelle Salucki has already written to President Hollande saying that the lift, which will rest upon a giant concrete slab, is strictly against planning laws. In addition to that, she is also angry about the plan to install a wooden staircase on the Golfe-Juan coastline between Nice and Cannes.
However, her letter likely won't have any influence, since French president himself fast-tracked the application to build the new structure.
The French Interior Ministry has announced that King Salman will remove all the newly built facilities by the time he leaves the Riviera in late August – although his exact schedule has not been made public for security reasons.
Meanwhile, the residents of Vallauris – a popular summer playground for the rich and famous around the world – have accused the French government of crumbling under the pressure from the royal family and have launched a petition to overturn the ban that forbids them from entering the exclusive area.
The petitioners believe that if there is a risk of terror attacks, the Saudi monarch should perhaps stay inside the villa where his family has vacationed for many decades.
Moreover, lawyers are considering a legal action against the ban, saying it is unconstitutional to privatize public land in the country. The local council is also seeking compensation for loss of income due to its closure.
“We cannot accept that our laws are not being obeyed, whether it is the king of Saudi Arabia or the pope,” said Blandine Ackermann, chairman of the association for the defense of the environment in Vallarius and Golfe-Juan.
The King of Saudi Arabia will arrive in France for his three-week Riviera holiday with an entourage of 1,000.
The monarch’s inner circle will spend the holiday at the family's private villa in Vallauris, on the Riviera between Antibes and Marseille, while the rest will be reportedly accommodated at top hotels – which means hundreds of Saudis will flood into the southern French beach resorts.
“Clearly this is good news,” said Michel Chevillon, president of an association representing hotel managers in Cannes. “These are people with great purchasing power which will pep up not only the luxury hotel industry but also the retail and tourism sectors of the town.”
Meanwhile, more than 100,000 locals have signed the petition protesting the “privatization” of the beach.
“We recall that this natural zone, like all maritime public estates, is an intrinsic public property that should be available for the benefit of all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners or people passing through,” the petition reads. “We ask the state to guarantee the fundamental principle of the equality of all citizens before the law.”
However, it seems unlikely that these protests would be able to stop the illegal construction work – which is apparently poisoning the atmosphere as well.
French local authorities have already removed a fence and a metal catwalk installed by the workers. The catwalk was bolted to the rock cliffs under the villa.