The National, Oct 22 2012
Drive an hour out of Spain’s historic capital, through ruggedly beautiful hills and valleys, past picturesque medieval towns and church spires, and you can visit a town almost totally devoid of community, culture and people.
Welcome to Valdeluz, Spain’s number-one ghost town. Its brand-new, tree-lined avenues look like an eerie, abandoned film set. One recent lunchtime, the number of residents visible could be counted on two hands.
A crane, idle for three years, juts out from the landscape alongside a half-finished block of flats. “For rent” is scrawled on tattered posters or on the side of almost every building. There is a hairdresser, a vet and a bank, but they have no customers. No one has bothered opening a grocery store.
“There is no sense of community here. People commute to the city. Nobody knows their neighbours,” said Marie Carmen, 65, the only customer at the bar on the edge of the conurbation. “You have to be a very calm person to like it here.”
When construction first started in 2006, at the height of Spain’s property boom, Valdeluz seemed like a great idea. The local landowner managed to convince the government that the high-speed train between Madrid and Barcelona should stop here, rather than at the busy industrial centre of Guadalajara about eight kilometres away across the arid plains.
Four large housing developments were planned that would be home to 30,000 residents, lured by the cheap and speedy commuter train into the city. Rumour has it that politicians and football players bought up dozens of properties in expectation of quick returns.