A giant new town due to arise out of the dry landscape of south-eastern Spain is at the centre of a battle over claims that traditional communities are being buried under a flood of golfing British expatriates and others looking for houses abroad.
With work due to start on eight golf courses and 60,000 houses, people in the country town of Alhama de Murcia are worried that their 17,000-strong community will soon be unrecognisable. A rebellion in the ruling group in the town hall has temporarily stopped some of the projects, which will increase the size of the town twelvefold.
“People are frightened,” said a rebel councillor, Teresa Rodriguez, whose refusal to support her own party has temporarily blocked the plans. “It didn’t seem right to me that some 120,000 people should come like that, all at once.”
But, with Ms Rodriguez reportedly due to be expelled from her party, it seems likely that the new roads, waterways, golfing greens and villas will soon be built.
The row comes as Spain prays for enough winter rainfall to overcome a severe drought that started last year.
The region of Murcia has been one of the areas worst-affected by a severe drought that began last year, with environmentalists blaming water-hungry golf courses for consuming a vital resource.
The Polaris World company, which plans to build many of the new homes and three golf courses, says a private desalination plant and recycling will make its projects self-sufficient in water.
The company, which has a London office, told the Guardian that three Alhama developments where houses were already being sold “off plan” had all the permits they needed. A Socialist councillor, Jose Espadas, denied this.
The number of UK residents intending to buy property abroad is set to double from 5% to 10%, a recent Barclays bank survey found. A third of future buyers said they wanted a property in Spain.
Source: Guardian Unlimited