Check out the video at the end of this post.
At the end of the seafront promenade that runs from the port town of Denia to the cliffs topped by the Gerro tower, there is a Ghost Town.
This amazing, ramshackle, wreck of a building site has become home to the flora and fauna of the Costa Blanca, as well as a canvas for local artists. It looks like a filmset for an apocalyptic tale, seemingly designed to appear aged and decayed.
Everyone who visits wants to know the story of this hauntingly enigmatic place. Is it simply the result of a developer going bust, as so often happens during financial downturns, or is there a history with meat on it’s bones that we can enjoy gnawing at?
Given that I have nothing else to do with my empty life, I took it upon myself to find the facts and pop them here for you to read and marvel at. I cannot guarantee that all the information is correct, nor have I included every twist and turn of the tale; it is a forty six year saga, and I could feel my life slipping by as I picked my way through the detritus of this glorious mess.
In 1973 Denia city council granted planning permission for a Swiss group of financiers (The Society of Financial Studies and Real Estate Transactions: SEFI) to build 616 homes on a wild and prominent ridge that has deep valleys on either side. The building plot was 60 hectares of virgin land, with sea views on two sides and Montgo mountain on a third side. It is a stunning location, as the developers knew and they also knew that it would be a popular location for anyone wanting to retreat to the Costas. A premium site of this kind would mean great profits.
The project was, and still is, called Urbanisation El Greco, but locally it is always referred to as The Ghost Town.
Unfortunately, having thrown up 111 properties, with 40 of them completed, the building company (Dragados y Construcciones), given the task of erecting this small town, fell into dispute with the developers. The argument has never been settled and the whole project ground to a halt.
Here the dates are a little garbled, so I have gone for the most popular facts:
In 1987, the local authority designated the Mount Montgo area a Natural Park, whose boundary encompassed the 60 hectares of land earmarked as Urbanisation El Greco. It is is an ‘area of special protection’ and although the plans for the 616 properties had been approved and acted upon, all future work on site was banned. Even where properties were finished, they could not be inhabited.
In 1993, a new company, Valcomar SA (Valencia based) bought the project; by my reckoning, there was no chance that they could now build in this area. These new owners have been unable to reverse this decision.
1998 A study was commissioned to assess the feasibility of the demolition and reinstatement of a natural environment. The study was finished in 2008 but still demolition awaits! Over the years, responsibility has been passed from department to department.
1999, and Denia city requested the right to acquire the site by bringing it into public ownership, and then to demolish the structures and return the whole site to it’s original natural state. The Ministry of the Environment promised to discuss the matter with the owners. All went quiet.
In 2008 the Environment Ministry ordered the demolition of the site as it was outside planning laws. It was estimated, at that time, that the cost of demolition and re-naturalisation of the site would cost 400,000 Euros. No official bodies had that kind of money to spare. Naturally the Swiss contingent had vaporized and the new owners were fighting any order that might make them liable for the bill.
And so, there it sits. The local authority do not have enough money to pay for someone to look through the documents and work out who is liable to foot the demolition bill. I cannot begin to guess how much public money has been wasted on this fiasco to date.
I will lay my cards on the table. Yes the Ghost Town generates rubbish as kids leave litter behind. This litter can be blown across the Natural Park and can find it’s way into the sea. There are also concerns over the possible leaching from rubbish left on site. But here is a place that offers an outstanding visual impact, no less startling and abrupt than Mount Montgo. Starting from this point in the history of this place, there must be a better solution than that impossible dream of re-naturalisation.
All land, no matter how wild, how pristine, will carry the scars of human life, as we protect ourselves; Gerro Tower, we feed ourselves; Molins DeLa Plana, and we house ourselves; Urbanization El Greco. None of these places is natural, as witnessed by the extensive terracing within the Montgo reserve, and yet they give us an understanding of the land and it’s history and make us wonder at a wilderness where our structures can be comprehensively dwarfed by nature.
Simply knocking down buildings because they are in the wrong place seems unimaginative. People visit this area for many reasons and are fascinated by this ‘Ghost Town’. Why not put up an interpretation board for the tourists and hold Graffiti Art events on site for all comers? This must be a good time to help people understand the ways in which nature is reclaiming the town, and the reasons why it was decided to stop chasing the money needed to level it and look at ways to celebrate it in all it’s crumbling glory.
The more the place is used, the less it will be abused.