Over-development leads to growing expat disillusionment with Spain

Expatriates who have moved to Spain, many of them retirees, are growing disillusioned with over-development, insufficient services, a rising cost of living, and fewer, more expensive flights, reports the Spanish daily ‘El Pais’.

The British residing on the Costa Blanca are said to use the following phrase to sum up the situation in the area: “First world prices, third world services, underworld practices.”

“There has been too much construction, many people wish to sell up but can’t, and people are afraid of buying in case they are swindled,” Charles Svoboda, a Canadian living in Benissa, in the Marina Alta (North Alicante) region of the Valencian Community, told El Pais. Svoboda, 67, a retired diplomat from Ottawa, is one of the founders of the ‘Abusos Urbanisticos No’ association that defends the rights of property owners against developers and the government.

Much of the dissatisfaction is found Valencia’s Alicante province, on the Costa Blanca, where many retired expat pensioners live. According to figures provided by El Pais, a third of all retired expats (over 65) living in Spain have made Alicante their home. Within Alicante, Torrevieja is the town with the biggest community of retired expats.

The article quotes Gerard Peret, a Swiss who bought a home in 1990 in Orihuela Costa.

“…we used to love it, but now it has all changed because of excessive, out of control development, everywhere has been built up, and there are so many people.”

“The most difficult thing on this urbanisation is to find someone who speaks Spanish,” says George Hammer, a 73 year old German living in the same area.

“We’ve been coming here for summer holidays for 20 years, the coast was very beautiful, but now they have over built everywhere,” complains Sandro Marteli, an Italian who retired to Orihuela 2 years ago.

But whilst developers and town halls have set about covering the coast in concrete for residential developments, the provision of services has been largely ignored, complain the expat retirees. There is a lack of basic services such as doctors, leisure and sports centres, and old homes. “I have to go to Torrevieja, a drive of 32 kilometres, to play sports, because there is nothing here,” says Peter Knipp, from Switzerland, who lives with his wife in Orihuela.

El Pais also reports that sales to expats in the region fell by 50% in the first quarter compared to last year.

The head of a local developers association blames part of the fall in expat demand on “sensationalist and misinformed” international press coverage of Spanish urban planning laws.



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