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Monday June 10, 2013

The rise of Little England in Spain

Imagine. One morning you’re driving through lush countryside in the northern region of Spain when all of a sudden you spy a Union flag flying proudly aloft a rustic building and a village sign reads something like ‘WELCOME TO EL PUEBLO INGLÉS’. There’s the unmistakable whiff of bacon and eggs frying in a pan and the sound of English chatter rents the air.

In disbelief you enter the village only to find an English pub, familiar red pillar box, a cricket ground, newsagent and grocery store. How can this be, you marvel, right in the heartland of rural Spain? A flight of fancy perhaps but with Spanish hamlets and small villages being snapped up by British buyers for next to nothing, who knows how the demographic landscape of Green Spain might change in the future.

An Englishman recently bought a hamlet in Asturias for less than £40,000 and Spanish property agents claim that almost a third of such properties are being sold to Britons. Many of the hamlets and villages have long been abandoned in the northern regions of Asturias and Galicia and with the economic downturn are being put on the market by families in need of cash. Even if owners wanted to hang on to the properties, most simply haven’t the funds to invest in renovation work.

Much as it might sound idyllic to purchase one’s very own Spanish village there are some important considerations. A large number of the properties included in such sales are woefully in need of refurbishment or for want of a better word are derelict. All the same there are excellent deals to be had. One of the beautiful hamlets on sale at Aldeas Abandonadas, includes five houses and four apartment blocks comprising sixteen separate living quarters, a historic church, playground, asphalted roads and all set in about 45 acres of rolling, verdant land for just €250,000. For anyone with aspirations to set up a commune or perhaps an eco tourism village, it’s a tempting proposition.

It’s estimated by property specialists that 80 per cent of the purchases are made by middle-class, middle-aged foreign buyers. But even if one might have the money for such a buy, in most cases a daunting building task lies ahead and let’s not even counter the likely battles with local utility companies and the inevitable Spanish bureaucracy and red tape. Still, for any eremitic Briton wanting to buy an entire village set in a remote and tranquil foreign location for a knock down price, it really could be a dream come true.

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