A report in The Observer considered the impact on small Spanish towns and villages of the large numbers of Britons who have been moving in. With high property prices in Spain’s beach resorts, rural Andalucia is looking increasingly attractive.
Officially, there are well over 200,000 foreign residents in Andalucia – most of them British. It’s possible, however, these figures greatly underestimate the numbers of British in the region because they include only the people who have registered with the Spanish Police.
- The British Foreign Office estimates that there are over 700,000 UK citizens living in Spain.
- A recent arrival to a Spanish village, Mark Thomson, was driven out of Newcastle by a combination of unaffordable house prices and a view that is widely shared among the expatriate community, “England just is not English any more.”
- On the Costa del Sol, the English-language paper, Sur in English, has increased its print run to 60,000. Once the newspaper was just read on the coast but now copies are trucked inland “to the oddest places in the back of beyond”. The average age of the readership has dropped and the paper is full of ideas for children’s activities.
- In some areas, the newcomers have been welcomed for bringing life to agricultural communities that had been devoid of young people and economic activity.
- In the villages of Comares, and Arboleas – three hours into the mountains – British pupils have re-invigorated the communities. Once empty classrooms are full again – with school registers showing one quarter of the pupils started life in the UK.
- The British arrivals have also reinvigorated the cultural lives of the villages, opening shops and exhibitions and organising concerts.
- In other areas, social tensions, anger and pressure on space and resources have been more obvious.
- Tensions have surfaced over land between British residents too.
- The Olive Press tells the Andalucian story of the British Labour MP, Margaret Moran, who provoked the wrath of her neighbours when she blocked access to a path that they had been using for more than 20 years. Now forced to find more complicated routes, they insist she is breaking long term verbal agreements. Margaret Moran said ‘We came here for peace but it has just been stress, stress, stress.’
- In La Vinuela valley, 50 miles northeast of Malaga, the population has risen dramatically. Hundreds of new houses, many built illegally, are set on the hills above a beautiful lake. Some have been constructed with little respect for the environment. Some of the British arrivals show no interest in integrating.
- In one La Vinuela village a group of five British families angered Spanish neighbours by drinking, brawling and swearing in the streets. “The British are not welcome any more,” said a local. Another local described how the fiesta had been overrun by “British men in their fifties getting plastered”.