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Go Wild In Spain

25.05.2007

FORGET THE HIGH-RISE COSTAS - Says MARY WILSON - THE RUGGED AND UNSPOILT REGION OF MURCIA IS EMERGING AS THE LATEST PROPERTY HOTSPOT.

So you've hard that the Costa del Sol is in chaos, where property prices tumble, but you still fancy your place in the Spanish sun. Pricey Mallorca is one option, but for those looking for something a little cheaper - and wilder - Murcia may be the best move. In fact, it is fast becoming the newest hotspot in south-east Spain. Located between Alicante and Aguilas, the region has been slow to jump on to the tourism bandwagon. But it is making up for lost time. It has 180 miles of coastline, unspoilt villages galore and one of the balmiest climates in Spain - even in winter, the temperature rarely drops below 15c.

As is often the case, improved infrastructure is at the heart of the recent starburst of expansion. Many budget airlines, such as Jet2 fly from destinations across Britain to Murcia - San Javier and Alicante airports. The former has just doubled its number of check-in-desks to 18, and by the end of 2009 there will be a brand new airport, Corvera, which will be the same size as Alicante. Add to this the expansion of the motorway from Cartagena down to Aguilas and the regeneration of the cities of Cartagena and Murcia, the ninth largest in Spain, and it becomes clear why the region is attracting such interest. Shoppers will delight in Cartagena, which has the biggest El Corte Ingles department store in Spain outside Madrid.

In Murcia, you can see evidence of the cash injection in the striking new bridges which span the Segura river and the recently cleaned façade of the stunning cathedral. All around Murcia, developments are spring up on farmland and on the regions former almond and citrus groves. Properties are being snapped up, not only by foreigners but also by Spaniards who are on the hunt for holiday homes. And while this boom in new developments is changing the face of a region that has been predominantly agricultural for centuries, it is boosting employment and bolstering the economy of one of Spain's poorest areas.

One of the most interesting of these developments is Monte Aledo. This is a 2,000,000m2 development, on a sloping site 630m above sea level. Just 45 minutes south-west of Murcia and the nearest beach is 30 minutes away by car. The land was little more than scrubland before the development was landscaped, but it is in a glorious position overlooking the hilltop town of Aledo. The national park of Sierra Espuna is nearby and the countryside falls away into the distance on every side.

Monte Aledo is different for two reasons; first, there will be no golf course, though three courses are being planned nearby. Second, the developer, Inverson International - a Spanish construction company that has quietly been building residential developments in Murcia and Alicante for the past 25 years -has decided to up the ante in another way and create a Centre Parcs-style resort instead. "Much of the coastline around here has been developed and we could see there was demand for inland developments, for something more than just beach and sea" says director Manolla Grau. "So far, we have sold around 50 homes to buyers from the UK and Ireland, but we have had a lot of interest from Spaniards living in Madrid, who want to invest in the development so they can escape the capital's scorching summer sun".

With a building density of only 35% the development will eventually feature 4,500 flat-roofed white-walled apartments and villas. None will be more than three storeys high. On one side of the development there will be a sports centre with tennis, bowling, a health club, indoor climbing wall, indoor football, basketball, handball and athletics facilities. There will also be shops, a multiplex cinema, supermarkets and a nightclub. Outdoorsy types can try their hand at horse riding, paragliding - for which the area is famous - hiking and cycling. But the pearl of the site will be the 8,000m2 glass dome set in a hollow at the back of the development and hidden from the properties. It will house a health spa, swimming pools, sandy beach, solarium, shops, bars and restaurants. It has been hinted that it will be designed by a major architect. In fact, Sir Norman Foster has been approached, but turned it down because he wanted to work on the whole development, the majority of which has already been designed. Resident will be able to use the sports centre for free, but will have to pay for the activities at the dome, though these are likely to be discounted.

Chris and Barbara Hallwood-who live in Halifax with their three children, Alisha 14, Kai 11 and Chandler 9 - are passionate about outdoor activities, so Monte Aledo seemed a perfect place for them to buy.

"We've bought two holiday homes - a three bedroom ground floor apartment, and a two bedroom penthouse," says Chris. "We were looking for two things - we wanted something as an investment, which would be a substitute for a pension, and somewhere we could use as a family for holidays. We're all into outdoor sports such as tennis, skiing and swimming but none of us are keen on golf. When we started looking, all we could find were golf resorts, so we set out to try to find something different. This development ticked all the right boxes". Chris adds: Our flats look out over lovely countryside and we can easily fly there from Leeds Bradford International airport. With two properties we can rent out both to make some money, but if one is free we can just jump on a plane and make us of it ourselves. We like the area very much and in the winter it's only 90 minutes into the mountains where you can ski".

Most cars are parked under-ground and the residential areas will be largely pedestrianised, maintaining the area's quiet, rural feel. The developer is creating a cycle route from the resort to Aledo and will be planting 20,000 trees. Some of the apartments will be in plots as large as 228 m2. There will be three communal pools, and along one side of the development will be a large expanse of landscaped gardens.

It is expected that the resort will be finished in seven years but the sports centre will be completed within two years in time for the launch of the 1st phase of 282 one, two and three bedroom apartments. Two show homes will be ready by the end of June with prices starting from £68,000 for a one-bedroom apartment and from £90,000 for a two bedroom apartment. In the 1st phase there are four three-bedroom semi-detached houses which start at £202,000.

Source: Daily Mail (25th May 2007)



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