A gigantic hotel is to be built on Rügen. They stubbornly stick to the plans, despite various concerns.
Dranske (Rügen) – The storm rages over the Baltic Sea and drives low-hanging dark clouds in front of it. The sea, adorned with white foam, rages, waves as high as a man break and hit the beach. The rain lashes the faces of the few beach walkers. It is as if the elements had come together on that day to illustrate the dispute that reigns on Rügen.
It’s about a new hotel complex in the north of the island, but also about how people want to live here in the future: with sustainable, gentle tourism or the unchecked expansion of hotel and holiday home complexes. A fundamental conflict, in which, however, another aspect also plays a role that poisons the climate of conflict – envy.
Hotel project on Rügen: Who is investing 680 million euros in a flood risk area?
We are in Dranske on the Wittow peninsula, the northernmost part of Rügen. A narrow concrete road between the Bodden and the Baltic Sea leads from the southern end of the 1100-soul village to the Bug, a wooded headland that extends into the sea until just before Hiddensee. The road there ends suddenly at a steel gate, because access to the bow has been blocked for a good 100 years. First the Imperial Army, then the Wehrmacht and then the GDR People’s Navy had declared the eight kilometers long and up to one and a half kilometers wide headland a restricted military area. Since the beginning of the 1990s, however, the military has disappeared, nature has recaptured the Bug, trees and plants have grown up between concrete streets and the foundations of long-demolished buildings.
But now chainsaws are supposed to howl again, trees are to fall, roads and a harbor are to be built. For a gigantic hotel project, one of the largest in Europe: Four hotels and around 290 holiday homes with a total of 2000 beds are to be built, plus an adventure harbor with 400 berths as well as thermal baths, riding stables, shopping center, artists’ village and chapel. Estimated investment amount: 680 million euros.
Mega hotel on Rügen: construction costs of 680 million euros
The drafts of an architect’s office are ready, the development plans decided, the project even has a name: “Baltic Sea Eco Resort”. But there is still no investor who can build the resort on a two-square-kilometer area in the northern part of the Bug.
680 million euros for a gigantic hotel complex on a headland that is just three meters above sea level and was classified as potentially flooding three years ago in a study by the Bundestag on climate change – which investor is taking such a risk? Lothar Kuhn shrugs his shoulders. “Wait and see,” says the mayor of Dranske, and it is not entirely clear what he means – climate change or the hotel project. Kuhn is 71 years old, and when the wiry, tanned man with the light blue eyes storms up the stairs in the town hall, one can only be jealous. He used to be a sports officer, on the bow he trained the GDR marines and drove them through the terrain. “I enjoyed being with the People’s Navy and was proud of it. Until they closed everything in 1990, ”he says. The sport stayed with him, after all. And the fellow officers, some of whom still live in Dranske. “We know each other and we understand each other.”
Mega hotel project on Rügen: “In any case, we in the community are not giving up hope”
But what did he mean by “waiting”? Kuhn smiles. “A few months ago it was said that an Israeli investor group wanted to acquire the property on the Bug and implement the hotel project. But so far the sales date for the property, which has already been postponed several times, has apparently not yet happened, ”he explains. “I should know that, because after the purchase contract for the site has been notarized, I, as the mayor, have to sign a waiver of the right of first refusal. Just a formality, but so far nobody has presented it to me. ”And he has also not heard from the investors and their German representative, a Leipzig lawyer, for weeks.
So is all the excitement about the hotel project on the island just a storm in a glass of water? Kuhn carefully rocks his head. “Wait,” he says again. “Even if the Israelis changed their mind, that doesn’t mean that the plans are off the table,” says the mayor. “According to my information, a new prospect should have already reported. In any case, we in the church do not give up hope that something can happen with the bug after all. After more than 20 years of downtime. “
In fact, the idea of a large hotel complex on the former military site near Dranske is more than two decades old. In the mid-1990s, the federal government had sold the property to the Oldenburg entrepreneur Martin Oetken. Funded by the federal government and the state, he was supposed to develop a resort project for Leipzig’s 2012 Olympic application on the Bug, because the area in front of Dranske was intended for the Olympic sailing competitions.
Rügen: Environmentalists are appalled by the hotel project
As is well known, nothing came of the Olympics, but the resort project designed by the planning office Krause und Bohne from Eschweiler had already been approved by the Dransker municipal council shortly after the turn of the millennium. Since then, there have been two legally valid development plans – so-called B plans – for the Bug, with which the property owner Oetken has been looking for investors since then. So far unsuccessful, however, for 20 years no one wanted to buy the bug and project planning from him.
Only the supposed interest of Israeli investors has now rekindled the discussion on the island about the megaresort. And also the hope in Dranske, where not only the local council is behind the resort plans with a large majority. Most of the town’s residents are also in favor. Or as Mayor Kuhn puts it: “As elsewhere on Rügen, we too want to get something from the big tourism cake.”
Just under an hour’s drive west of Dranske, in the small village of Kasnevitz, the biologist and landscape ecologist Hans Dieter Knapp just shakes his head in disbelief. “2000 beds at the end of the island, at the end of the world, so to speak – that is adventurous and brings neither Dranske nor the island any blessings,” he says. The 71-year-old tall man with a full beard and white mane is one of the founding fathers of the national parks in northeast Germany and thus also of the Western Pomerania lagoon landscape, in which the Bug lies. Knapp is one of the most determined opponents of the project and a few weeks ago he started an online petition with his association “Insular Rugia” with the title “Stop the megalomania of the mega-project ‘Baltic Island Eco Resort’ on Rügen”.
A petition collects more than 17,000 signatures against the project on Rügen
The citizens’ initiative “Livable Rügen”, which wants to stop the ongoing construction boom on the island and the increasing tourist traffic, also took part in the petition. More than 17,000 signatures were collected. What does Knapp want to achieve with it? “That politicians no longer just stand by, but rather fall into the arms of investors and local politicians in Dranske and at least ensure that the development plans for the Bug are checked and reassessed,” he says. “Because even if the alleged investors from Israel have vanished into thin air – the possibility that another investor will soon be found for this insane project is not unlikely.”
At the beginning of September, on the sidelines of an appearance by Schwerin’s head of government Manuela Schwesig in the election campaign for the federal election in 2021, Knapp presented the petition including the list of signatures to the SPD politician. The Prime Minister was open to the concerns of the people of Rügan and suggested a round table discussion. Representatives of the state government, the tourism associations, the district and the citizens’ initiative should take part. Knapp and his colleagues from the citizens’ initiative hope that the result of this round of talks will be the development of a sustainable development concept for tourism on Rügen and its neighboring island of Hiddensee.
The immediate goal, however, is first of all to finally bury the development plans for the Bug, says the 71-year-old. Because the idea of building a large holiday resort there is a “planning corpse” from the previous century. “In the last 20 years, not only has the world changed, but also our island. Rügen is dense with hotels and holiday homes, the number of tourist overnight stays is over six million every year. Car traffic is clogging the streets, there is no conclusive transport project. Many residents can no longer afford an apartment here, and on the other hand, downright ghost villages with holiday homes are empty for most of the year. “
“The time for mega-projects is over”
This also stirs up social tensions, as the profits from tourism flow largely from the island, because the vacation rentals are predominantly owned by foreign investors. There are also questions of sustainability and environmental compatibility. “There is only a narrow road that leads to the Bug near Dranske, which cannot simply be widened. And what about the water supply and disposal? “
In addition, the headland has changed completely in the past 30 years of calm. Many trees had grown on the old army grounds and a real forest had emerged. Before construction begins, it is therefore necessary to carefully examine whether rare plants and animals that are worthy of protection have resettled there. You can’t just wipe that away with a decade-old building plan, the district’s environmental authority has already made that clear. “No, no, the time for such mega-projects is over, whether in Dranske or elsewhere on Rügen,” Knapp is convinced.
|area||926 square kilometers|
|main place||Mountains on Rügen|
The chairman of the Rügen tourism association, Knut Schäfer, is also critical of the hotel project. Needs and framework conditions have changed considerably in the years since the development plan for the former military site was drawn up, he said at a panel discussion in Dranske. “20 years ago Dranske would have received applause for his ideas, but today we are no longer interested in getting even more holidaymakers to the island during the season.”
In the town hall of Dranske, Mayor Kuhn only nods when the arguments of the project opponents are presented to him. The criticism is largely characterized by ignorance, he says, and points out that a resort of this size can also be built and managed from an ecological point of view. “Car-free entrances, shuttle or ferry traffic to the bow, own electric cars for tourists – it’s all possible,” he says.
The municipality of Dranske on Rügen is sticking to its plans
The 71-year-old suspects other reasons for the rejection of the resort project on Rügen. “There has always been envy of Dranske on the island because the place was much better in GDR times because of the naval base and it was the richest on the island. We had three schools here, including a grammar school, three sports halls, a swimming pool, two kindergartens and a clubhouse in which Eastern artists from Puhdys to Karat gave each other a hand. Everyone wanted to perform here. And we NVA officers were a little better off economically than the rest of the population. The supply was also better, you got more bananas and oranges here in town than anywhere else on the island. “
The schools have long since been closed, the sports halls no longer exist, and most of the prefabricated buildings at the entrance to the village have been demolished. “While other places on the coast such as Göhren, Binz and Glowe developed rapidly, Dranske fell rapidly behind,” says Kuhn. “We were left behind because the original plans for the bug were never implemented.”
The mayor emphasizes that the chance has not yet been wasted. “We have planning sovereignty. In other words, as long as the municipality does not revoke the legally valid development plans for the Bug, they can be implemented, ”he says. “And the community will not revoke these plans, otherwise nothing will happen here anymore.” (Andreas Förster)