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Call of the Bulldozers

May 26, 2008
Fuelled by an unrelenting and in large part British appetite for holidays and accommodation in the Costa del Sol and other fashionable coastal areas, thousands of homes and short-term apartment rental buildings were built on protected land. Now the national government and environmental groups want to roll in the bulldozers.

Playground for the rich and formerly most sought after area to buy property, Marbella in the Costa del Sol has faced the most corruption and planning scandals. Thousands of homeowners continue to battle the threat of demolition of their Costa del Sol apartment, house, or, in the case of Antonio Banderas, 300sq ft wing of a beachside property.

This equality of opportunity, however, has done little to placate property owners who complain it's unfair to apply the law retrospectively. In the aftermath of the threat of demolition, many developers have stopped promoting Costa del Sol accommodation to the scared off British market completely.

Then in March 2008, a court ruling claimed 22 Lanzarote hotels were built illegally. Are none of Spain's concrete jungles safe? Perhaps not, such was the neglect to consider local including ecological factors in the race to acquire coastal land - all of it - for Costa del Sol apartment blocks.

British and other Rich World immigrants and holidaymakers have in this way had a detrimental impact on local communities and habitats in Spain. Local people have been priced out of local housing markets, and swathes of previously unspoilt coastline have been hijacked, and seeded some pretty beastly developments - often tower block constructions - on beachfront land.

Spread thick like butter, high-rise resorts and settlements - each one packed with Costa del Sol apartments for rent or sale - dominate the coastline. It's hard then to imagine this region in the south of Spain, as it was only a few decades ago.

Before the onslaught of urbanisation, starting in the 1950s to meet the demands of tourism, the Costa del Sol was a string of fishing villages. But rural Spain is still there, beautiful and unspoilt in the mountains running down to the coast - just a little inland.

Near but far away from the business of Costa del Sol holiday apartment rental, restaurants with picture-board menus, and bars frequented by hordes of bleary eyed, pink foreigners, you are at once at home in your mind again.

Andalusia is rich with white villages, and national parks. And if you chance upon a bullfight, up high on the screen in some locals' bar, you might wonder if the matador has time to prove their worth before the bull figures out the game and thrusts horns at the person behind the cape.

If the bulls and bulldozers are about to deliver a fateful blow, it might have been better to have never been there, but best get out of the way. One thing's for sure, wake up calls are never easy.
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