Blogs in this series

Life in Culebrón is personal view of Spain and Spanish life as seen by a Briton living in a small village in Alicante province.
The other tabs link to similar blogs when I have lived in other places. The TIM magazine is an English language magazine I write articles for.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Las Lamparillas

The best route home from Cartagena to Culebrón passes close by the town of Fortuna. Alongside the ring road the gaunt skeletons of hundreds of unfinished houses bear witness to the folly of the Spanish building boom. The planned development, built in the bone dry scrubland that surrounds Fortuna, was to be called Fortuna Hill Nature and Residential Golf Resort.

 A key part of the new resort was the Las Lamparillas development. It was aimed at golf playing Britons who weren't quite rich enough to buy a similar place on the coast and was planned to have 3,737 houses when complete. There were other agreements for other developments in Fortuna. If everything had gone as planned Fortuna's population would have increased from 10,000 to 100,000.

A research project carried out by a local university in 2004 gives some idea as to the scale of the building work planned. Across Murcia, a region with just one and a half million inhabitants, there were agreements to build 800,000 houses. The figures never made sense but nobody seemed to notice before everything went pear shaped.

Work on Las Lamaprillas, which was just part of the whole resort, started in 2007. By 2010 the principal developer of the site went bust with debts of some 120,000,000€. The banks that had loaned the money took the valueless site and the part completed houses as payment. Nobody, not the banks, not the courts and certainly not the developers considered doing the decent thing by the people who had paid deposits for the houses or to the merchants who supplied the building materials. Local businesses and house buyers are still owed around 30 million by the developers.

The town mayor says that it's easy to criticise now but that, at the time, everyone was doing well out of the building boom and nobody was complaining then.

Local councils can re-classify former rural land as urban land. On reclassification citrus groves and farm fields become much more valuable as buildiing plots. In the boom years Fortuna town council found itself with nearly 10 million euros extra from the sale of reclassified land and the councillors set about spending the money with gusto. They expected more money to follow and they borrowed against future income. The result now, in the lean years, is that the council has had to jack up taxes and either cut services or charge more for them. Many projects were never completed but the bank loans on them still have to be paid off.

In small towns in Spain everyone knows everyone else. Little networks of friends and relations do favours for other little networks. The money coming in from the developers apparently flowed into lots of those networks. At the time of the local elections in 2003 with so much money swilling around the locals became much more interested in who was in charge whilst the politicians saw the potential in controlling all that lovely money. The ruling PP party set about buying votes. It wasn't until 2011 that the courts found party workers guilty of vote rigging. The mayor, the same man is still the mayor now as then, chose not to resign.

The people of Fortuna will be paying for las Lamparillas for years to come. Spain is paying for lots of similar projects the length and breadth of the country.

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Since writing this article a higher court has confirmed the charges of vote rigging in Fortuna and the Mayor, Matias Carrillo, has resigned. 

1 comment:

Oscar said...

but the fault is, and will always be the worker.
I am ashamed my country