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Saudis allowed to build elevator to Riviera beach

The Local/AFP · 20 Jul 2015, 09:20

Published: 20 Jul 2015 09:20 GMT+02:00

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Beach lovers on the French Riviera expressed their anger on Sunday over the imminent arrival of the Saudi royal family, who have ordered a long stretch of beach to be closed off to the public and have been given permission to build an elevator down to the sand.

The Local reported last week how the French public will be denied access to the entire kilometre-long public beach at Vallauris for the duration of King Salman's stay. He is expected to arrive at some point this week.

The Saudi royal has a luxurious coastal villa in the town and has asked French authorities to give his family exclusive access to the beach, which is normally only accessible via a tunnel under the train line.

But to make it easier for the royals to descend from their mansion to the sea, they asked for an elevator to be installed. Locals were left furious when work began last week, and a huge slab of concrete was laid in the sand.

Local authorities ordered the work to be stopped but have since given the elevator the green light.

The only condition is that it is dismantled and all traces of it are to be taken away when the royals leave.

Nevertheless locals are still furious that they will be denied access to the idyllic beach and have set up a petition on Change.org

A local group called Together for Vallauris Golfe-Juan has demanded the French president keep the beach open.

"We remind you that this a natural area, like any public maritime domain... it should benefit all, residents, tourists, French, foreigners, residents or travellers.
"We ask the government to respect the fundamental principle of equality of citizens before the law."

Coastguards will also stop anyone coming within 300 metres of the villa by sea which has angered local fishermen.

"Looking after their security is fine, but they should at least let us go for a swim," said Mohamed, a disgruntled fishing enthusiast.

"Access to the coast will be prohibited by police officers for the duration of the king's holiday," said local official Philippe Castanet.

"They take the decision and there's nothing we can say," said Mohamed, rinsing off his fishing rod on the beachfront.

"It's a good fishing spot and blocking access is not acceptable."

Fatima, a local nurse, had come with her two daughters for a swim.

"Whether it's him or another billionaire, they always have priority over ordinary people. On the other hand, they are good for business, coming here with 400 people in their entourage. I heard they might even fix the roads."

Her boyfriend Didier recalls a time when Salman's predecessor King Fahd was visiting and the police had to forcibly remove swimmers who refused to clear out.

Workers hired by the Saudis had last week already started building the fence that will close off access to the beach, but were ordered to stop until the royal family arrives.

Story continues below…

The villa itself has become a hive of activity, with one local, Christian, saying there were dozens of people decking it out with rose bushes and other plants over the weekend.

"You can see they've replaced the balcony windows, no doubt to put in some bullet-proof glass," he said.

He also pointed out what appeared to be a golden throne, positioned to soak up the sun -- and a view unspoiled by the general public -- on the villa's terrace.

The Saudis have reportedly reserved up to 1,000 hotel rooms in the resort of Cannes to accommodate the king's 400 to 500 strong entourage. 

"The Saudis have never come in as large numbers in recent years," one hotel industry professional told local newspaper Nice Matin.

The Local/AFP (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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