Appearing in the The Sunday Times’ Culture International supplement, their ‘Marbella por favor’ report is, as you would expect, informed, balanced and up-to-date, with an emphasis on facts and figures.
The latest statistics from Spain’s housing department, for example, show that while, nationwide, foreign demand for coastal homes is up 29 per cent in the last 12 months, in the province of Málaga that figure has soared by a massive 61 per cent, while Marbella’s planning department has recently announced an impressive increase in construction activity in the first half of 2013 with 123 new-build licence applications processed – twice the number for the same period last year. That figure, incidentally, is predicted to double again by 2014.
Property sales in Marbella were also up by more than 21 per cent last year, with homes priced between €200,000 and €1.4m proving the most popular. It’s true to say that nowadays €1m will buy a lot more bricks and mortar in Marbella than it would in either Ibiza or Barcelona.
Mayor, Angeles Muñoz, who’s been in office since 2007, has also played a massive part in Marbella’s new renaissance. Despite the fact that one noteworthy newspaper has described her job as “the most difficult mayoralty in the history of Spanish democracy”, the former doctor has legalised the vast majority of the town’s illegally built properties, drawn-up an urban plan defining Marbella’s future, and while 36 per cent of the working population in Málaga province are looking for a job, she has been instrumental in reducing unemployment in Marbella to less than 20 per cent.
To her enormous credit, Muñoz has also reduced the red tape associated with the granting of building permits, cutting the waiting time from 18 months to just 6; reopened talks about the possibility of extending the Malaga to Fuengirola train line in order to link Marbella with Spain’s high-speed AVE network; and following more than two years of delays and setbacks, only recently (September) she succeeded in reaching a new agreement regarding the town’s much-needed Port Al Thani project which now looks almost certain to go ahead, starting with docking facilities for Mediterranean cruise ships.
As for George Clooney, well, he’s one of a new generation of Hollywood A-Listers who’s recently bought himself a €4m villa in the Marbella hills. Rumour has it that Clooney’s good friends Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are also looking for a house in what they describe as their “ideal European base”.
Sixty years on since the resort first welcomed a previous generation of movie megastars to the swish opening of the Marbella Club Hotel, the town is turning over a new leaf.