archive press 2010
Parliamentary Planning and Housing Commission debates progress to resolve illegal houses in Andalucia
AUAN – 1st December 2010
The latest Minister for Planning and Housing in Andalucia, Josefina Cruz VillalÃ³n , was requested to attend the parliamentary commission on Public Works and Housing to provide an update on the status of illegal houses in Andalucia.
A summarised translation of this hearing is available HERE. Whilst it is a long document, we would encourage ALL homeowners, legal or illegal, to read the statements made by the commission attendees. The transcript gives a clear insight into the complexity of the problems faced to legalise properties and how each of the main political parties addresses potential solutions. This is important, as it might assist you in choosing where your vote in May might be best placed.
AUAN has also made notes in some areas of the document which you might find helpful.
Please take the time to read especially as we are approaching an opportunity with the May elections to participate in the direction of local politics in our towns and the issue of illegal housing will without doubt be a key electioneering action.
All change at the Planning Ministry in Almeria (again)
AUAN – 8th December 2010
Ana Vinuesa, who replaced Luis CaparrÃ³s as regional delegate for planning and housing in Almeria has in turn been replaced by JosÃ© Manuel Ortiz after less than 6 months in office.
RAY OF HOPE TO OWNERS OF ILLEGAL HOMES?
AUAN Press release – 28th November 2010 ,
The President of the Andalucian Popular Party (PP), Javier Arenas, met in Almeria on Friday with members of the British collective AUAN, where he pledged action to try to speed up the legalisation of the 300,000 "illegal" homes in the province.
Señor Arenas invited representatives of AUAN (Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora No) to attend the regional parliament when he puts forward a motion proposing a cross-party agreement to fast-track the regularisation process, which would otherwise take many years.
He also specifically proposed a pact with the socialist party (PSOE) to instigate interim measures to "alleviate terrible situations affecting human rights, where families cannot gain access to electricity and water."
He acknowledged that serious problems exist in many small towns where the application of the planning laws has proved to be "practically impossible" in solving the problem, and emphasised the need for fundamental changes to the regional planning regulations (LOUA and POTA). He promised these changes would be delivered by a PP government should they take power in the forthcoming elections.
Sr Arenas blamed a lack of control over construction by the current Junta as the root cause of the problem, and acknowledged that some mayors "have not acted properly". "A citizen who has purchased in good faith should not be a victim of the law, of the lack of control in urban development nor of the disastrous management of any regional government" Sr. Arenas remarked.
During the meeting the PP and British residents discussed the impact of this crisis on their lives, on the economy of the region and on the confidence of foreign investors.
Helen Prior (left), who is still fighting for compensation after her home was demolished in a planning row in Vera in 2008, said "The support of the PP has come too late for me personally, but I hope that it will help the hundreds of thousands of people facing the same situation."
Maura Hillen, President of the AUAN, told the meeting "Sr. Arenas is the first politician to take a serious interest in this issue. We are not interested in aportioning blame amongst the political parties. We only want a fast and effective solution to the problem of the 5,000 illegal homes in the Valley of Almanzora. We are confident that people will support the politicial party that has the courage, the intelligence and the will to face the difficult problems and provide decisive action to resolve them" she said.
British Consulate on fact finding tour
AUAN 22nd November 2010
On Thursday 18th November Alexandra Brown, from the Madrid Consulate-General met members of Aubsos Urbanistiocs Almanzora No (AUAN), as part of her fact finding mission to discuss the situation in the Almanzora Valley concerning the estimated 5,000 illegal houses, current and pending court cases, demolition orders and the case of Len and Helen Prior in Vera.
Ms. Brown was presented with a report summarising the situation in the Almanzora Valley and a copy of the white paper presented by AUAN to the Junta de Andalucia on the 18th October in which it set out its proposals for a solution to the problem.
"The meeting was useful and it is good to note that the consulate appears to be undertaking a comprehensive study of property issues affecting British citizens in Spain" said Maura Hillen.
During the meeting Alexandra Brown explained that the consulate is constantly exploring opportunities to raise awareness of property issues with the appropriate Spanish authorities and express concern at the impact these problems are having on some British Citizens and Spain's reputation abroad. She stated that Ministers, and the British Ambassador to Spain, raise this issue with senior Spanish officials at national and regional levels.
"Alexandra took the time to discuss the human impact of this situation on our members' lives. The sense of hopelessness and frustration after seven years of stress with no solution in sight" said Brian Reade, AUAN vice president.
The visit of the consular official was part of a whirlwind tour of the region where she met with various groups in Malaga, Almeria and Murcia. The visit follows on from a series of meetings in the Valencia region.
HELEN AND LEN PRIOR - ANOTHER SETBACK IN THEIR FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
AUAN Press release – 2nd November 2010
Nearly three years after their dream home in Vera was demolished, British pensioners Helen and Len Prior faced another setback in their fight for justice last week.
The Administrative Courts, after a retrial of the case ordered by the Supreme Court in April last year, have upheld the original decision of the Junta de Andalucia requesting the demolition of their home. The decision was taken on the basis that the property was built on rustic land and could provoke the growth of an urban nucleus.
Last year the couple were finally offered temporary housing by Vera council. They had already spent two years living in what was formerly the garage of their demolished home.
Helen and Len, who are innocent victims of a planning row between Vera council and the Junta, will now have to seek compensation for the loss of their Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â£350,000 home from Vera council who incorrectly issued the planning consent. It is likely that this process will take years, given the perilous state of town hall finances and SpainÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â´s notoriously slow legal system.
The implications for the eight homeowners in Albox who face similar proceedings needs to be assessed, but this ruling is not good news for the many innocent victims of planning injustices in this area.
ILLEGAL HOMES: FACED WITH THE JUNTAS FAILURE, BRITISH RESIDENTS PROPOSE SOLUTIONS
AUAN Press release – 18th October 2010
AUAN had a meeting today in Macael with the Delegate for Public Works and Housing, the Director General for Urban Planning and the Director General of the Planning Inspectorate of the Junta de Andalucia.
After the meeting, the President of AUAN, Maura Hillen, said, "We are bitterly disappointed with the outcome of the meeting. This was supposed to be a working party to discuss a road map; no work group was formed, neither were we given the supposed road map. We aren't clear, in fact, what the purpose of the meeting was nor why we were invited."
The first legal proceedings were initiated seven years ago. Since then not one single house has been legalised. Seven years of opportunity have already been wasted.
In our opinion, the Junta doesn't know how to deal with the problem. Therefore, we presented them with a white paper outlining some possible solutions, asking them to study them and give us their opinion.
We hope the Junta wasn't simply playing to the gallery in calling this meeting and that they will be brave and intelligent enough to take concrete steps, have a constructive dialogue with the affected parties, and offer fast and effective solutions which we believe can only be achieved by a change in the law.
Politicians can no longer afford to ignore the social and economic damage being inflicted on this valley by their failure to effectively address urban chaos.
Date of Working Party confirmed - 18th October
Summarised from La Voz de Almeria – 5th October 2010
The Provincial Delegation of Public Works and Housing has confirmed that the 18th of October is the date of the planned meeting between the Junta de Andalucia, the town councils of the Almanzora Valley and AUAN.
According to the newspaper report the meeting will analyze the inventory of houses collated by each of the towns, the measures carried out by the councils and will establish a timetable of specific actions.
The newspaper also reported that the towns of Carboneras, Alhama and Macael would join Albox, Albanchez, Arboleas, Lubrin, Oria, Partaloa, Cantoria and Zurgena on the list of towns requiring special measures to resolve urban planning problems.
Zurgena: Homeowners in Los Carasoles called to court to take part in legal proceedings relating to their properties
AUAN Press release – 30th August 2010
Homeowners in the Los Carasoles area of Zurgena have been invited to attend Court Number 2 in Heurcal Overa on the 8th of September to take part in legal proceedings relating to their properties.
The properties are located on Poligono 4, parcela 98, subparcelas a and e in the area of Los Carasoles.
The case (49/2009) appears to have been initiated by some or all of the homeowners.
AUAN bly recommends that anyone not currently party to this case owning a property on this parcel of land would be best advised to seek legal assistance and take part in the legal proceedings to protect their interests.
The announcement was made on 30th of August on the official bulletins of the province (BOP). This site is monitored by AUAN volunteers.
Junta includes AUAN in working party to find solution to illegal housing problem
AUAN Press release – 21st July 2010
Left: AUAN VP Mike Phillips and Press Officer Pat Sampson, talking with the Minister.
In an informal 30 minute meeting with a delegation from AUAN, the Minister for Planning and Housing of the Junta de Andalucia, Rosa Aguilar, announced the creation in September of a working party to find and agree solutions to problems arising from the illegality of homes in the Almanzora Valley.
The working party will include representatives of the regional government, the mayors of the valley and representatives of the affected families, specifically AUAN.
AUAN is satisfied with this new development which represents one of our key demands. We look forward to actively seeking solutions to the serious problems faced by our members in an open and transparent manner.
We encourage all those affected by this issue to register to vote to help maintain pressure on the working party to deliver results.
The meeting took place on Tuesday 20th July in Albox when the Minister attended the ceremony to mark the opening of the towns’ new bridge.
THE AVALANCHE OF PROCEEDINGS IN ALMANZORA CONTINUES WITH NINETY-EIGHT MORE CASES
AUAN Press release – 12th July 2010
For some time AUAN has been warning that sooner or later the avalanche of cases against illegal homes bought in good faith by mostly British people in the Almanzora Valley would come to light. Now reports have come to their attention that 98 more homes could eventually run the risk of being demolished.
The reports relate to summary procedure number 23/2007 in the Investigative Court Number 1 in Huercal-Overa (which accumulates preliminary investigations numbers 2188/2005 and 2352/2007 from the same court with case number 760/2007 from Court Number 2). The investigation centres on alleged planning crimes and alleged construction without a building license. It is feared that demolition will be requested when formal charges are made because this appears to be the usual practise of the Prosecutor. The homes affected are in the area of La Aljambra in the municipality of Albox . The investigation was initiated by Seprona in 2005. The case relates to several allegedly illegal urbanisation's which lack basic infrastructure. Many of the affected homeowners rely on generators to provide electricity.
The British community is distressed because of the uncertainty about legal proceedings. It is scandalous that things continue like this without the administration delivering a solution in spite of the promises offered. It is clear that the current solution will take many years and in the meantime the situation is getting worse rather than better.
AUAN recommends that anyone who thinks that they are affected by this case should take legal advice and appoint a lawyer and a procurator to defend their interests in these proceedings. Grouping together can reduce costs.
Spanish bulldozers target Britons' homes
More than 300,000 houses in Andulcia have been declared illegal, many owned by retired expats
By Alasdair Fotheringham (The Independant on Sunday)
Sunday, 11 July 2010
John Pritchard, a British pensioner living in Spain, is having problems sleeping at nights but it has nothing to do with age. He just can't stop imagining the noise that bulldozers sent by the town hall will make if they come to knock down his house. "I think I can hear them. It's the stress," he says, while his wife is so distraught about the possibility, she will not even be interviewed.
Mr Pritchard is not the only British expat worried about his house being declared illegal by one set of Spanish regional government officials, despite local planners originally giving it the green light. Official Spanish building reports recently found up to a staggering 300,000 such illegal or semi-illegal constructions in Andalucia alone. Technically, all could face demolition – and that includes some belonging to Britons.
Traditionally, illegal building was associated with Spain's chronically overdeveloped Mediterranean coast. But by the late 1990s, as the Spanish housing boom started, it moved inland and upmarket with a vengeance.
Arguably, the most acutely affected area is the Almanzora Valley, a remote rural region in south-east Andalucia, where there are calculated to be up to 11,000 illegal houses belonging to British pensioners – such as Mr Pritchard.
"These are all illegal, barring a couple of old farmhouses," says Maura Hillen, an Irishwoman, as her car crests a rise just outside Albox, the valley's main town, indicating dozens of detached houses. "Thousands were built in the valley, while in Albox town hall they claim just 11 building licences were officially issued."
Mrs Hillen is the president of AUAN, a 300-b association formed by, mainly, British homeowners to fight the urban planning abuses ruining their dream retirement in the Spanish sun. Almost all bought property in good faith, only to discover that their homes had been constructed on land not zoned for building, or which lacked the correct licences, and were therefore illegal.
For most of them, things turned sour when court orders revoking planning permission arrived; and this year a new series of fast-track orders means in the most extreme cases an order for demolition can be carried out in under a month. One British couple whose Spanish villa has already bitten the dust are Helen and Len Prior. From January 2008, when the bulldozers moved in, they lived in a garage on their land, staying for over a year before the local council provided them with temporary accommodation.
The latest case to come before the courts involves nine British-owned houses in Albox. They are due for demolition as part of legal proceedings involving corruption charges against a former town councillor in charge of planning permission, while a local builder and two architects are accused of putting up the houses illegally.
But although the state prosecutor has asked for the owners to be compensated, they fear the payments will take as many years to come through as the case has taken to come to court. At the same time, if their houses are demolished, they will have nowhere to live. "The cases go on forever, some since 2005," points out Mrs Hillen. "You're looking at the tens of thousands of euros in legal costs, or having to pay for urban infrastructure like sewage pipes and street lighting that your builder promised you but which never arrived, or risk getting the debt put on your house and it getting sold from under your feet. It's money nobody has. Either way we are screwed."
And there could be many more cases to come. "All of the houses facing current demolition orders since January 2010 were the first new ones to be built in Albox. They represent the tip of the iceberg, because hundreds if not thousands of houses are illegal in this valley alone."
"We're living in fear all the time," says Anne, who with husband Alan has also had to survive since 2006 on four hours of electricity a day after their builder absconded. And, adds Alan: "We can't have electricity put in as this is an illegal house. And there's no chance of compensation with the builder gone.
Mrs Hillen says: "One key emotion is resentment that people back home think the buyers did something wrong. Yet the Andalucian government has failed to control building on this scale, even though it was in plain sight. It's a massive mess. We've got councillors, architects and builders in court charged with planning crimes. And we're piggy in the middle."
In the Axarquia Valley, where roughly 10,000 houses are in jeopardy, the British expat community is marginally more optimistic. "Our impression is the Junta [Andalucia's government] has lost heart over demolition orders and realised that with northern Europeans bringing in around €5bn a year to an economy in crisis like Spain's, they'd be killing the goose that lays the golden eggs," says Gary Miles, a spokesman for SOHA (Save Our Homes Axarquia). "That said, we'd like agreements where houses become fully legalised without those living on pensions first facing a €50,000 fine."
According to Rosa Urioste, Andalucia's director of inspection of urban planning, the blame cannot be laid on any one person. "We've all failed." she said, in the Diario de Cádiz newspaper: " The buyer, the person who divided up the building plots, the one who built without permission and those who looked the other way." For many British homeowners, that category could include her own government.
With the Spanish economy just limping out of recession, it has been left with a rash of building corruption cases in the courts and having to sort out the status of property constructed so quickly that, in one year alone, 2002, Spain built more houses than in Italy, France and Germany combined. One solution is to try and regularise the houses by giving them legal status, but the cost of doing so, which can also include providing amenities, falls to the owner, not the builder, and again will run into tens of thousands of euros for each one.
Most Britons have already sunk their savings into their homes, and with the pound considerably weaker than five or six years ago, they are caught in an equity trap."Stress, depression, divorces – a fair few people have gone through those," says Mrs Hillen. "A lot of times, there are arguments over whether to leave." But some have gone, leaving behind empty houses, huge investments, and shattered dreams. Very few of those who remain can rest easy in their beds.
Zapatero rejects Mugabe comparison
AUAN, 6th July 2010
The Prime Minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, angrily rejected comparisons between Spain and Zimbabwe made by the UKIP MEP, Marta Andreasen in the plenary session of the EU Parliament today.
Ms. Andreasen was again raising the issue of urban abuse in Spain.
The two 'euro flys' of spanish urbanismo
Marta Andreansen compares Zapatero to Mugabe as she attacks Spain over Britons whos homes face demolition
Zapatero defends Spain against comparisons to Mugage
Seven homes impacted by planning crimes investigation in Arboleas
AUAN Press release –5th July 2010
AUAN sources confirm that the Nov 2009 raid on Arboleas Town hall relates to an investigation into alleged planning crimes and ‘prevaricacion’ (wrongdoing in a public office).
The investigation involves 7 dwellings constructed by Lakes Vega SL on poligono 8 parcela 118 in the La Cana area of Arboleas.
The case (1429/2009) is currently in court number 3 in Heurcal-Overa awaiting formal charges from the State Prosecutor. Such charges often include a demand for demolition.
Anyone affected by this case would be best advised to seek legal assistance and take part in the legal proceedings to protect their interests.
Zurgena: Homeowners in Llanos Del Peral given 5 days to take part in legal proceedings relating to their properties
AUAN Press release – 3rd July 2010
Homeowners in the Llanos Del Peral area of Zurgena were given until the 6th of July to appear before court number 2 in Huercal Overa to take part in legal proceedings relating their properties.
The properties are located on Poligono 17, parcela 348, subparcela A in the area of Llanos del Peral. The proceedings are against CARLOS DOMINGO BERBEL FERNANDEZ. The promoter is named as TISAN SURESTE S.L and the constructor is named as TRAGARCIA S,L.
We do not know if the homes are part built or occupied.
AUAN bly recommends that anyone affected would be best advised to seek legal assistance and take part in the legal proceedings to protect their interests. It would be foolish not to.
The announcement was made on Friday 2nd July on the official bulletins of the province (BOP). This site is monitored by AUAN volunteers.
JUZGADO DE PRIMERA INSTANCIA E INSTRUCCION NUMERO DOS DE HUERCAL-OVERA
Procedimiento: PROCED.ABREVIADO 63/2007.
Contra: CARLOS DOMINGO BERBEL FERNANDEZ
E D I C T O
D./Dña. Esther De La Cruz González Secretario del Juzgado de Primera Instancia e Instruccion Numero 2 de Huercal-Overa.
DOY FE Y TESTIMONIO:
Que en el Procedimiento Abreviado nº 63/2007 se ha dictado la providencia siguiente:
Practíquense las diligencias solicitadas por el Ministerio Fiscal en OTROS Y II de su escrito de acusación de fecha 15/03/2010, librando para ello los despachos oportunos, señalándose el día seis de Julio para los perjudicados que puedan ser localizados y acordándose emplazar por medio de edictos, en calidad de perjudicados, a los adquirentesde las viviendas sitas en el polígono 17 , parcela 348 SUBPARCELA A) , del Paraje Los LLanos DEL PERAL, del término municipal de Zurgena, siendo el promotor de las mismas TISAN SURESTE S.L , y el contructor “ TRAGARCIA S,L.” que no se hayan personado hasta ahora en la causa, para que en el plazo de CINCO DIAS comparezcan ante este Juzgado a fin de realizarles el ofrecimiento de acciones previsto en el artículo 109 de la Ley de Enjuiciamiento Criminal, edictos
que se publicarán en el Tablón de Anuncios de este Juzgado y en el Boletín Oficial de la Provincia, librando a tal efecto los despachos oportunos. Igualmente, se acuerda requerirles para que en el mismo plazo aporten los justificantes de los pagos efectuados al adquirir las respectivas viviendas.” Y para que conste y sirva de EMPLAZMIENTO Y REQUERIMIENTO a los referidos perjudicados, y su publicación en el Boletin oficial de ALMERIA , expido el presente en Huércal Overa a veintiuno de mayo de dos mil diez.
EL/LA SECRETARIO, Esther de la Cruz González.
Illegal property owners in Chiclana establish new political party
By h.b. - Jul 1, 2010 - 1:32 PM, Typicallyspanish.com
There are estimated to be as many as 15,000 illegally built homes in the municipality
Left: A house being demolished in Chiclana in 2009 - EFE archive
The owners of illegal property in Chiclana de la Frontera, are creating their own political party to defend their interests.
The ‘Partido Vecinal Regionalista’ has registered with the Interior Ministry, with their minds sent on the local elections next year where they want to gain representation in the Town Hall.
The Junta de Andalucía has estimated that there are as many as 15,000 homes outside planning regulations in the municipality so the party could become quite a force. The platform created previously to defend the homeowners has managed to assemble more than 2,000 people at recent protests against the regularization process put in motion by the Socialists, but which they see to be far too expensive as they are being called on to meet the costs of development.
The last report from the Environmental Prosecutor noted that ‘The owners of illegal constructions linked in association have become real power groups which will try and change town planning discipline in local Town Halls’.
Read more: http://www.typicallyspanish.com/news/publish/article_26587.shtml#ixzz0se44VrUi
Get off your backsides and take an interest
AUAN president discusses latest developments in the Almanzora Valley on Energy Radio.
Click on the Energy logo for link.
Stop Funding Corrupt Spanish Regions
UKIP MEP urges the EU to stop funding those regions in Spain where British homeowners have had their properties seized and demolished by corrupt local governments.
Wipe the Slate Clean and Start again
There are 300,000 illegal houses in Andalucia and the owners must pay to legalise them.
Summarised translation of article in Diario de Cadiz 25th June 2010 by J. Garret / F. Melero
The stance of the Government of Andalucia to the phenomenon of illegal building is clearly expressed in the first lines of the new Town Planning Discipline Regulations: "To provide practical solutions and to address the problems of regulation generously” The desire to regulate what has already been built, providing that the owners pay the appropriate charges is accompanied by strict legislation to control new offences. It is an attempt to wipe the slate clean and start again.
This approach (regularisation on payment and no more building of illegal houses), received the unanimous support of mayors, academics, architects and industry experts yesterday during a technical conference on Urban Planning in Andalucia, organized by Grupo Joly and the town council of Chiclana. "We are in politics to serve the public, we can not turn our backs on reality," said the Mayor Chiclana, José María Román (PSOE), before an audience of 200 professionals in the Meliá Sancti Petri. The setting was ideal: Chiclana is immersed in a pioneering process to regularize more than 10,500 households.
The Director General of Planning Inspection for the Region, Rosa Urioste (pictured left), defended the two lines of work adopted by the Junta “prevention” and “managing the past”. Prevention through tougher penalties for new offences. An example is the “Express Demolition” in one month – an important regulation approved in March of this year. It is also “crucial” to promote “urban culture” Urioste claimed: “There are regulations and they must be followed”.
Prevention, however does address reality: according to the Juntas estimates there are some 300,000 illegal homes in Andalucia. The solution is not to demolish them but to integrate them, where possible, on payment of appropriate costs but not, for example, in areas of special interest or protection) with ‘flexibility’ as a key component. "Regularisation, is not an amnesty", said the delegate of Public Works for the province of Cadiz, Pablo Lorenzo. To achieve this objective, the Junta promotes the application of municipal inspection plans - another of the important new regulations.
Through these inspection plans, local councils, with the support of the Junta, must develop an ‘inventory’ of buildings on ‘suelo no urbanizable’ creating ‘a snapshot of the current situation’. This will be a starting point for the regularisation work which will be specific to each location and will always be conducted via the General Urban Plans of the municipalities.
As reported by the Director General of Inspection, inventory plans are underway in about 100 of the 771 municipalities of Andalusia with a timeline of 2 years. There are areas with serious problems such as the Axarquia (Malaga) or Almanzora (Almería); and there are towns such as Vejer or Chiclana which have already analyzed the situation and are undertaking the regularisation process via their plans.
Another significant aspect of the new regulation is the possibility to give a licence of first occupation in the absence of a building permit. “A way out for previously unlicensed historic buildings” said Urioste.
The fact that Andalucia has new regulations does not mean that no regulations existed before. Yet, despite this, some 300,000 illegal houses have been built. So what or who has failed? This question came from the audience and animated the debate with the members of the Junta.
The Mayor of Tarifa, Miguel Manella Party (PSOE), criticized the frequent expiry of disciplinary proceedings in urban planning, "through neglect, bureaucracy or political interests." A technician from Bahía City Council directed a broadside against local government: "The legislation has not failed. The implementation of the legislation has failed." "The Mayors don’t want to implement the existing legislation and now we have new legislation which is based on a lack of confidence that the existing rules will be upheld. We do not lack legislation. We lack the obligation to comply with the legislation. Do the new regulation not smell of an urban planning pardon?”.
The Mayor of Cartaya, Juan Antonio Millán (PSOE) said that he and his colleagues have done "what could be done." "We have used all means at our disposal, in some cases more successfully than others. It is now time to face reality; legalize what can be legalized, and not legalize what cannot. At least we must have a dialogue" he pleaded.
In response to questions, the Inspector General said that “everyone was to blame”. Those who bought land; those who parcelled the land; those who built without permission; and those who looked the other way”. Also, those who were too slow to open case files and those who did not use available resources to confront problems.
Responsibility also lies, in her view, “in a society where there is no culture of urban planning or planning offences”. “You cannot do what you like with your land, there are rules”. “You cannot build where you like. You cannot build a house on land next to your grandfathers’ house. It must be understood that the roman law of property no longer exists”.
Link here to a commentary by Lennox Napier
Almanzora valley: The avalanche of homes in the dock
AUAN Press release – 25th June 2010
Yet another developer, charged with building illegal homes, appeared before Penal court number 5 on Wednesday 23rd June 2010. This time the matter involves 6 houses, in the Saliente area of Albox, allegedly built on non urbanizable land without the necessary license and technical project.
The State prosecutor is asking for a penalty of one year in prison, a fine of 16 months at 12 euros per day and disbarment from the exercise of a profession relating to construction for a period of 2 years.
The prosecutor also asks for the houses to be demolished with compensation paid to the owners.
Regrettably, the iceberg now appears to be showing more than its tip.
The Anguish of Urban Abuse increases in the Almanzora Valley
AUAN Press release – 22nd June 2010
The anguish of urban abuse fails to diminish in the Almanzora Valley as the association “Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora - ¡NO!” announces more cases where retired Britons are at risk of seeing their homes demolished even though they bought them in good faith and are considered as victims by the court proceedings.
The latest case involves 9 houses purchased by British people in the area of La Hortichuela in Albox. In an abbreviated procedure in Court Number 2 in Huercal Overa the homeowners were offered the possibility of a private prosecution against the defendants. However, in addition to the penalties levied against the defendants, the prosecutor is also asking for the homes to be demolished. The Prosecutors charges relate to planning crimes, ‘prevaracacion’ (misconduct in a public office) and the failure to prosecute crimes.
AUAN president Maura Hillen asks “When will it end? How many more are there? How many more lives will we see destroyed?” She went on to say that in her view “We have only seen the tip of the iceberg. In reality the system has resoundingly failed and the innocent must pay the price”.
When asked, the lawyer for four of the affected families, Gerardo Manual Vazquez Nuñez said “Again, I have had to explain the situation to clients and again I see tears in their eyes. This is truly regrettable”.
Additional Reporting 25th June 2010 translated from articles in IDEAL , Diario de Almeria
The houses in question were built without planning permission in 2000 for PR, a builder from Albox, for whom the prosecutor is demanding two years in prison and a fine of 20 euros per day. The same penalty is requested for the architect, the Technical Architect and town planning councillor at the time, Juan Luis Gonzalez Wandosell. The prosecutor also calls for the architects and councilman to be banned for two years from exercising any profession related to construction. In addition this the prosecutor demands that the builder, architects and former council member compensate the homeowners and pay for the houses to be demolished.
The case of these houses is similar to the hundreds of houses which where constructed in the municipality, having requested licences that were not granted, and were subsequently denounced by the Guardia Civil.
The mayor of the locality, Jose Garcia stated that “there are many judicial proceedings open against houses in irregular situations and these new case is one of them”. The council would like to know how many cases are open in our town but it is impossible to find out”.
BBC Watchdog. Spanish dreams reduced to rubble
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Sentences for Urban Corruption are on the Increase
Translated from an article in Eldiariomontanes.es 4th June 2010, by MATEO BALÍN | MADRID.
In Spain, ‘Town Hall’ is still synonymous with urban corruption. Despite the fact that the housing crisis has dried up a source of wealth from which all the municipal authorities benefitted, through the management of land for development, the Law has not stopped looking very closely at these operations. In fact, convictions for environmental crimes related to land have skyrocketed, reaching a historical peak in 2009. The increase in one year was 28%, increasing from 301 to 386 sanctions, imposed mostly in coastal towns, with Andalusia in the lead.
The increase in convictions for urban offences illustrates the massive amount of litigation now underway in the Spanish courts concerning this matter. According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office, last year there were 1,737 cases heard and 1,729 in the pre-trial stage, the stage prior to the prosecution of the case. Although there were sanctions against individuals, the majority of convictions revealed the spurious interests of municipal authorities. There are mayors, town planners, municipal technicians, developers and architects whose names are linked to property speculation and the breach of planning regulations with a single goal: unlawful enrichment. The figures themselves justify the space occupied in the media by news of convictions of those in public office.
The most common offences within this framework of corruption are urban prevarication, general prevarication and the failure to prosecute criminal offenses or the falsification of official documentation. The Official Prosecutor highlights the complexity of prosecuting these criminal cases in view of their uniqueness: the bodies that should control these excesses are the Town Halls themselves. They are required to act as ‘urban police’ - entities that manage the redevelopment of their urban land.
Some Provincial Prosecutors already use, as a framework for their investigations, the so-called 'Auken Report', produced by a Danish MEP in 2009 with the collaboration of public platforms and Spanish citizens. The non-binding report calls on local authorities to suspend urban development plans that have been drawn up without respecting environmental criteria, and criticises the ‘excessive influence’ of developers in the decisions of corporations.
The Office of the Environment denounces the lack of cooperation of municipalities and states that in places like Valencia, Seville, Las Palmas and Murcia, those who instigate the greatest number of legal denouncements are municipal heads of urban affairs, environmental groups, law enforcement officers and private citizens, which generates a message of ‘impunity’, admits the Public Ministry.
Another growing concern is the ‘legal insecurity and uncertainty’ created by disparity between some court decisions involving the same region and similar offenses. This occurs mostly in convictions that determine the demolition of a house that was built illegally or the erection of prefabricated houses in non-residential areas, according to the Official Prosecutor.
Original article in Spanish
MORE ALBOX DEMOLITION ORDERS SET ASIDE
AUAN Press release – 1 June 2010 (en Espanol)
The organisation Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora – No (AUAN) can confirm today that another two demolition orders affecting British homeowners in Albox have been set aside bringing the total now set aside to five.
The most recent ruling came from the Court of ‘Contencioso Administrativo No. 2’ in Almeria on the 24th May. The ruling stated that the British homeowners had not been properly informed of the proceedings and thus were not given an opportunity to defend themselves against the demolition of their home. The judge ordered the case to be retried.
The lawyer for the British couple, Gerardo Manual Vazquez Nuñez said “This is good news for my clients. It has taken a weight off their minds, but it isn’t over yet. The case to decide if the building license should or should not have been issued continues. The problems for my clients have not ended but at least they can now sleep at night without worrying if a bulldozer is going to appear at their door”.
With reference to the other demolition orders in Albox the lawyer commented that they are still at risk saying “I do not understand why the Junta says that everything depends on the Judges and they (the Junta) do not demolish. My experience is different. The Junta is very active in these proceedings. For example when the court was notified of a change of lawyers in one of the cases that I represent, the Junta objected and said that my clients should now be excluded from the case because, as the second owners of the home, they were not named on the original license. My clients had previously been allowed to participate and only the lawyer was being changed! Fortunately, the judge did not permit this”.
The lawyer added “The annulment of these proceedings is a step forward, but it does not resolve the widespread issue of urban abuse and property problems which affect thousand of citizens, not only in the Almanzora Valley but throughout many other parts of Andalucia. The principle problem is the legal uncertainty which exists for many homebuyers who are not only British, but Spanish, and other nationalities as well. In my opinion the property system has failed and should be reformed”.
When asked who is responsible the lawyer responded “Responsible? Now is not the time to apportion blame - that will become clearer over time - but my clients are not at fault. What IS needed now is for the administration to be brave, to take the bull by the horns and mediate an agreed solution between the people affected, the responsible agencies, political parties etc. This would be good for the economy and good for society at the same time. Currently the whole issue is causing great concern and nobody knows what is going on.”
Asked how the problem could be solved, the lawyer said “There are precedents. For example in other parts of Spain the regulations have been changed in a way which allows for regularisation via Special Plans. One thing is clear - things cannot continue as they are.” He concluded by saying “In my opinion, if the problem is not addressed once and for all it will continue for many years and will not be good for anybody”.
Cantoria: Disclosure of Legal Proceedings - for the homeowner at least
AUAN Press release – 31 May 2010
In discussions with AUAN, the Mayor of Cantoria, Pedro Llamas, has confirmed that every homeowner in the municipality can now obtain a copy of the Inventory Form (Inventario de edificacion) for their home on presentation of appropriate personal identification.
AUAN bly recommends that every homeowner in Cantoria should obtain a copy of their form because the section titled ‘situacion juridica’, which indicates if there are any proceedings against a home, has now been filled in.
We understand that at least 100 homes in Cantoria have some form of proceedings against them involving a number of different promoters. Other infractions recorded relate to the construction of peripheral buildings, such as a garage or a pool house. If you are concerned and need more information please obtain a copy of your form.
Approximately 2,000 structures were catalogued during the execution of the Plan of Inspection in Cantoria whereby the council was required to photograph and document every construction in the municipality on non urban land.
Albox, Albanchez, Arboleas, Lubrin, Oria, Partaloa and Zurgena were ordered to execute similar Inspection Plans in 2008.
At least Fifteen Mayors in Almeria accused of Urban Planning Crimes.
AUAN, News Digest, 30th May 2010-05-30
The Annual Report of the Office of the Chief Prosecutor for Andalucia indicates that that the economic crisis has failed to curb the growth in planning crimes.
More Mayors and Council Officials are indicted
The Prosecutor’s report notes a ‘high’ number of proceedings against Mayors and other council officials. In 2009, thirty four cases were opened against at least fourteen council officials in the Province of Almeria, including six Mayors. In 2008, at least fifteen Mayors in the province were accused of alleged planning offences. These figures are double those of 2007.
Last year the Prosecutors Office in Almeria handled 73 criminal investigations, 50 of which warranted further action, compared to only 48 recorded in 2008 (of which 28 prompted further action). Most of these cases were in response to reports from SEPRONA (the environmental division of the Guardia Civil) and from the National Police of the Junta de Andalucia.
There are more cases in Andalucia than anywhere else.
The courts are processing more cases
Sixty Nine judgements were passed by the Criminal Courts in 2009 representing an 86.5% increase on 2008. The majority (67) were for urban planning offences and 47 ended with the conviction of the defendant. All the evidence suggests a remarkable increase in the number of offences committed; and the Prosecutor concludes that the number of offences detected does not equate to the number of offences committed.
The Prosecutor notes ‘some delay’ in the prosecution of the most complex cases, which are those concerning multiple housing developments and those committed by the authorities themselves.
The report notes that most convictions require the demolition of the buildings.
Third Demolition order set aside in Albox
AUAN Press release – 19th May 2010
John and Muriel Burns confirmed today that the demolition order on their home has been set aside and their case will now be retried. This at least gives them some hope for a good outcome in the future.
Three demolition orders have now been set aside by the courts on the basis that the homeowner was not properly informed of the proceedings.
The legal battle continues for the remaining five.
Homeowners advised to sue their Town Council
Translated from an article in El Pais, May 10th 2010.
The Consell and the Town Hall of Catral could have civil responsibility for the damages suffered by the owners of 1,272 illegal houses built in the countryside of the municipality in Vega Baja. This legal possibility has been corroborated by a Professor of Administrative and Urban Law at the University of Alicante, who was consulted by the Asociación Europea de Consumidores de Urbanismo (AECU) , an entity that took the case to court in 2004.
Six years later, given the stagnation of the judicial investigation and the intention of the PP Town Hall Administration to charge the affected homeowners the costs of regularisation of illegal homes, the organisation is considering taking contentious-administrative action against the Council and the Town Hall of Catral, to make them assume the costs. ‘According to the abovementioned professor,’ states AECU, ‘the Town Hall of Catral is responsible, as a local public authority, and competent planning authority.’ Meanwhile, the Consell is also responsible can also be sued because it has concurrent subsidiary and superior competence. ‘Both have subsidiary civil responsibility, at least by omission, in failing to apply the measures provided for in Valencian planning legislation and allowing and even encouraging savage urbanism’ adds the statement.
According to AECU, there are only two ways for the legalization of an infringement of urban planning: by demolition or by changing the law to enable regularization. ‘In Catral, the Town Hall and the Consell have chosen the second option, but they are charging the deceived buyer almost all the costs of legalization,’ explains AECU. The owners of the houses, mostly British residents, allege that the Town Council, governed by the PP, intends to pass on the cost of ‘regularization’ to them - about 20,000 euros per proprietor. Those affected also highlight the continued impunity enjoyed by those they understand to be truly responsible for the illegal houses: the developers and builders.The proliferation of illegal homes in Catral prompted the Consell to intervene in the urban planning of the municipality in October 2006. The Valencian executive has now returned these powers to the Town Hall, but has not yet approved the project to regularize the houses.
Last Stand of the Expats
Daily Express, Tuesday, May 11th 2010
by Simon Edge
THIS week an obscure ordinance came into force in the region of Andalucia, in the baking hot south of Spain. Designed to crack down on dodgy companies who build houses illegally and then sell them to innocent buyers, the new regulation gives local councils the right to send in bulldozers at one month’s notice and knock the buildings down before they can get off the ground. The authorities refer to this procedure as “express demolition”.
The point is to tackle the problem of so-called “urban abuse” that has blighted the lives of thousands of British people seeking a quiet retirement in the sun. But rather than ease their worries, this latest development has sent a further shiver down the spines of expatriates in the Almanzora Valley, about 60 miles north of the coastal city of Almeria.
This area, which hosted a construction boom from 2000 to 2006, has been notoriously blighted by the local town hall’s practice of granting building licences without the authority of the regional government. As a result, many of the residents are trapped in “dream houses” with no mains water and electricity. Some of them are living under demolition orders and the angry, frightened population fear the new regulation could make their situation even worse.
Brit Developers in the dock
Richard Torne ,Costa Almeria News, 30th April 2010
TWO British property developers - one of whom is a member of the PSOE Socialist party - are to face trial on criminal charges for allegedly building four illegal homes on rural land in Albox, the Costa de Almería News can reveal.
Richard Victor Morgan and Gordon Condrey (pictured second from right), who is a real estate agent with close links to Arboleas council, having set up a help desk for expats at the socialist-run town hall, are to go on trial on January 2011, charged with allegedly building four properties in the district of Los Patricios. It is the first criminal case in the province involving British developers.
The Costa Almería News has had access to the court papers, dated August 31, 2009, in which the public prosecutor, Jesús Juan Cruz del Pino, accuses Mr Condrey and Mr Morgan of acting as the builders of the homes on rustic land without obtaining permission from the local council.
Read more in the printed edition of this week's Costa Almería News
Operation Costurero: Mayor of Zurgena faces 8 months in jail
AUAN News Digest, , 29th April 2010
The mayor of Zurgena, Candido Trabalon faces 8 months in prison and disqualification from holding office for seven years as he goes on trial for authorising a housing development on non urbanizable land in El Cucador, Zurgena.
Manuel Tijeras, the former councillor for Urbanismo and all members of the previous council, (three PSOE, one PP and four members of the PA) who voted in favor of granting the license in a plenary session held on February 18, 2006. are facing the same charge.
The prosecutor is also seeking two years imprisonment and disqualification for José Cortés Torrecillas the promoter and Jose Maria Urrea the technical manager.
It also requests the demolition of the five houses in an irregular situation at cost to the promoter.
Also charged is Salvador Francisco Granados, the council planner,
who according to the prosecutor issued a favourable report "with
knowledge of its injustice";.
‘Operation Costurero’ (Sewing Box) took place in 2007 in the town of Zurgena, surprising the inhabitants of the Comarca of Almanzora. The mayor of the town Candido Trabalon was arrested along with the councillor charged with Urban Planning Manuel Tijeras (Scissors) after whom the operation was named. The intervention of the Civil Guard continued throughout the day, with raids on architect and real estate offices in Albox, Garrucha and Zurgena, were documents were seized and four arrests were made. The police operation was ordered by Pilar Alfonso, head of court No. 2 court in Huércal Overa.
Ana Vinuesa to be the new Delegate for Public Works and Housing
AUAN , 27th April 2010
The Minister of Public Works and Housing of the Government of Andalusia, Rosa Aguilar, will today propose Ana Vinuesa as the new delegate for Almeria.
Currently, Vinuesa is Director General of the Department of Rehabilitation
of Public Buildings (EPSA), an agency of the Junta de Andalusia.
Ana Vinuesa ( born 1960) is a law graduate and has served as technical director of the Department of Rehabilitation before becoming its’ Director General. She also holds a Masters in Business Administration and Management from the Foundation 'Jaime Vera."
IDEAL describes Vinuesa as ‘the right hand of Caparros’ and a key member of the ex-delegates' technical team.
Priors move into temporary home after months of haggling with Vera Council
Richard Torne, Costa Almeria News , 23rd April 2010
THE expat couple forced to live in their converted garage after their home in Vera was bulldozed more than two years ago closed a bitter chapter in their lives this week when they moved into rented accommodation - paid for by the council.
Helen and Len Prior, who have been fighting an acrimonious battle with the authorities for compensation since their villa was pulled down by the Junta in January 2008, managed to raise a smile as they were handed the keys to a new duplex in Vera playa, barely 10 kilometres away from the site of their old home.
Looking visibly relieved, Mrs Prior said: "It's about half
the size of our old home and we don't have a garden for our three
dogs, so we'll have to do a daily shuttle to feed them
"But it's a nice apartment and we can now relax a bit until a final decision is made over our compensation claims."
The news effectively brings to an end a saga which began in January,
when a judge ordered Vera council to re-house the couple in a
property similar to the one which had been demolished - or to
pay the equivalent in rent - until a final decision over compensation
Costa Almeria News
Griñán dismisses Caparrós and leaves Public Works in Almeria in limbo
AUAN , 21st April 2010
As reported in IDEAL (21.04.10) the Griñán administration has dismissed Luis Caparrós from Public Works and Housing and in an unprecedented move has left the position vacant.
Sr. Caparros received advance warning on Monday afternoon but the decision was confirmed by mobile phone just minutes before the governments’ announcement in a press conference.
The Government spokesman Mar Moreno gave some indication that a replacement would be announced next Tuesday.
No definitive reason has been given for the departure of Sr. Caparros but Diario de Almeria speculates that Rosa Aguilar is committed to having an all female team leading her new ministry against the wishes of the provincial government who proposed Sr. Caparros as provincial delegate.
TWO Demolition orders set aside
AUAN Press release - 20th April 2010 - updated 21st April
One of the ‘Albox 8’ was the recipient of some good
news on the 19th April when a judge ordered that proceedings to
demolish their home should be set aside and the case re-tried.
The Juntas’ objections were denied.
Their lawyer, Gerardo Vazquez of Vazquez Estudio Juridico, cited case law which included the Supreme Court ruling in favor of Helen and Len Prior to convince the judge that the homeowners had not been correctly informed of the proceedings against their home.
A second family received the same good news today from their lawyer Fancisco Alonso of Alonso y Garrido.
The legal struggle continues for the remaining 6 families.
Lliber - Asset search underway throughout Europe
AULN, 17th April 2010
Spanish newspapers today reported that the investigating judge in Denia has ordered the confiscation of assets of those involved it the Lliber illegal homes and corruption scandal. This confiscation order included the assets of the English builder Trevor Bourne.
Lliber - 168 residents start “Class action” in criminal case
AULN, 16th April 2010
A total of 168 homeowners affected by the fraud & corruption uncovered in Lliber, following the arrest of 18 people in December 2009, have joined forces to present themselves to the Denia court as victims with the intention of securing compensation from the perpetrators in the event their homes are deemed illegal, and to protect themselves from future infrastructure costs that could be imposed in future by....
The legal battle continues for the Albox eight.
AUAN Press release - 12th April 2010
Contrary to recent press reports, not all of the eight homeowners under threat of demolition in Albox have had their demolition orders suspended.
AUAN can confirm that only 3 of our 7 members have had their demolition
orders temporarily suspended whilst the court considers the possibility
that they were not properly informed of the proceedings. The status
of the eighth house-holder is not known to us. Should these appeals
be successful, the cases are likely to be re-tried.
As for the remaining cases, the Junta de Andalucia appears to be generally pressing for demolition via the courts.
For example, on the 19th of January the Junta requested the court to order Albox Town Hall to comply with the demolition of one of the eight homes. This action has been opposed by the lawyer acting for the homeowner and a decision is pending from the court.
On the 26th of March, the Junta made an application to exclude one of the families from the appeal proceedings. This action has also been opposed.
The words of the Junta de Andalucia are at odds with their actions in the courts.
In an interview published in the January edition of ‘La Comarca’, Sr. Luis Caparros, regional delegate for the then department of Housing and Planning when asked ‘Do you think that it is fair that these houses be demolished, when others next to them and hundreds more are to be legalized over time?’ responded ‘It may not be fair but is not in my hands to provide an answer, because this emanates from the judiciary, a judge issuing a sentence ... The Junta, finds itself in the middle of two extremes, those affected and the judge. Hypocrisy is not good for democracy ... the Junta does not demolish house, but abides by the court ruling; it respects and acts on the orders of the judge.
The Disaster is the people who bought the houses...
Extract from recent BBC Wales programme which includes interview with Luis Caparros, regional delegate for housing and planning in Almeria.
AUAN Press release – 10th April 2010
Five more homes under possible threat of demolition in Albox
Five more British families in Albox are facing the possible demolition of their homes.
They were summoned to court number 2 in Huercal-Overa on the 7th of April to be told that their builder Osvaldo Ceferino Martinez has been charged with planning crimes relating to the illegal construction of their homes in the ‘La Molata’ area of Albox.
The State Prosecutor is seeking the demolition of the five homes with compensation payable to the homeowners by the builder. The builder is also expected to pay the 65,000 euro cost of demolition. Sr. Martinez’s’ whereabouts is unknown to the homeowners at this time and there is some concern as to his financial status.
The families were given 3 days to appoint a lawyer and a procurator so that they can take part in the proceedings to defend their interests and claim compensation.
The case will now be sent to trial in Almeria.
Catral residents step up to the plate!
Round Town News, Louise Clarke, 25th March 2010
THE MESSAGE is simple. Stand together, be united and
fight for your rights, or allow every estate agent, notary, solicitor
and Town Hall official involved in the sale of illegal homes in
Catral to get away with it. Honorio Llamas, the solicitor who
is helping get justice for Catral homeowners didn't beat
around the bush on Monday afternoon when he held a meeting at
the town's Casa de Cultura. The legal expert, who is giving
his time, knowledge and experience for free to the illegal homeowners
in Catral, could not have been more clear; "Be united, stick
together and be a force to be reckoned with" he said, "otherwise
this will all fizzle out and you will be forced to pay thousands
of euros to make your homes legal."
Over 100 Lliber residents go to court in pursuit of justice.
AULN, 22rd March 2010
Following the arrest of the former Mayor and architect of Lliber, builders and associated professionals, the victims of the 150m euro buildings scam finally decided to take action against them and registered themselves to the court to become a part of the legal process.
Ley de Costas comes under attack in EU Petitions committee
AUAN News digest, 22nd March 2010
In a heated session in the European Parliament’s Committee of Petitions yesterday, British MEPS railed against the Spanish Coast Law, which has seen some expatriates’ retirement homes demolished after they acquired them in good faith.
“I would advise my voters not to purchase a house in Spain,”
said Conservative Party MEP Roger Helmer.
Labour MEP Michael Cashman was similarly cutting: "There is a lot of corruption, something that besmirches the image of Spain. It's a totalitarian country."
Spanish MEPs also demand action
Commenting after the hearing, Helmer said "Over many years I have been frustrated that there is so little I can do to help victims of these scams. Now at least during the Spanish EU Presidency we are building up the pressure on Spain, and on the EU Commission, to take decisive action. In the past, Spanish MEPs have tended to support the status quo, but I was struck yesterday that all but one of the Spanish MEPs who spoke demanded action to resolve the problems". One IU left wing Spanish MEP, Willy Meyer, told the committee that the Ley de Costas was being applied in a "capricious way", favouring the large hoteliers.
Speaking by phone to El País after the debate Spain's Director General for Coastal Regions Alicia Paz said that the British Labour and Conservative MEPS had accused Spain of being a totalitarian state, and that they had used "inexact and biased" reports. She said that she could understand why the people affected are using all the means at their disposal, but it was incredible that the PP had not come out in defence of the State.
What is the Ley de Costas?
The Coast Law designates that all shoreline up to 495 meters from the surf is public property and prohibits building within that range. Another contentious clause leaves buyers without ownership rights to their property, instead finding themselves in possession of a 60-year lease, making it illegal to sell. In many instances, neither the banks nor notaries explain the full reach of the Coast Law to foreign buyers.
Juan Espadas shuffles off
March 22, 2010
President of Andalucia José Antonio Griñán has confirmed this afternoon that the Junta de Andalucía is to cut two ministries in an effort to save money and redtape.
It does not appear that either Begoña Álvarez , head of Justice, or Juan Espadas (left), head of Housing, will have a portfolio in President Griñán's new regional government.
Read more in The Reader...
New law approved
A NEW LAW approved yesterday by the Andalusian Parliament will grant councils the right to ‘express’ demolitions of illegal buildings in their municipality.
From 'The Reader, 17th March 2010'
EU Minister Chris Bryant on GMTV
Open letter from Marta Andreasen
Letter from Marta Andreasen - Spanish property update –
10th March 2010
You are receiving this email because you contacted Marta Andreasen’s office regarding the Spanish property scandal. I am Marta's parliamentary assistant, dedicated to this issue.
Here, I aim to explain Marta’s motivations and action.
Although elected by the South East of England, Marta has vowed to fight for this issue on behalf of all victims of this appalling affair, regardless of nationality or political constituency.
Marta Andreasen has taken on this problem, as she knows of the devastation caused by the corruption and badly drafted laws.
She feels bly that homeowners are being treated unjustly and are receiving no protection from any of the responsible parties involved, the regional government, the Spanish government, their own government or the European Union.
Her office monitors the situation and is informed daily of developments through local contacts, amongst which we count property owners, journalists, lawyers and activists.
What is Marta doing? Since she confronted Prime Minister Zapatero in the opening session of the Spanish presidency, she has been busy gathering cross-party support to get the question debated at the European parliament.
She brought the matter up in the chamber not only to highlight the problem before the entire EU but also to let all parties know that she intends to pursue the matter.
Unlike Chris Bryant, the UK’s Europe minister, Marta remains unconditionally on the side of the all homeowners without admonishing, and is willing to challenge Spain (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/expat/expatnews/7392959/Bulldozing-expats-will-hurt-Spain-Foreign-Office-minister-cautions.html)
How can Marta help me? Her aim is to apply enough pressure on the Spanish government to seek a fair and balanced treatment of all affected. Marta is listening and looking for a settlement for all, but cannot get involved in individual cases.
Marta's action complements those of the individual homeowners as she is determined to apply political pressure through whatever means she has, including campaigning for the removal of subsidies. Her involvement is at the European political level.
What can I do? Carry on your defending your home! We would not be able to succeed without the pressure applied on the Spanish authorities by the victims of this appalling affair; we are asking people to keep going through their existing legal teams, and see the processes through.
You can also write your MEP, and keep reminding them of the issue. We cannot fight this from a single political party base.
What next? We will do everything we can until we have exhausted all avenues, but will stop short of making promises we cannot keep. We promise transparency in our action.
We will shortly start issuing regular information and will include you on the list. Feel free to contact me if you know of any news/cases that we could use.
Marta has become a member of the Petitions Committee of the European parliament, and will ensure that upcoming requests are given the importance they deserve.
She will also attend a march in Malaga on March 17, and meet with some of you (at a later date, to be announced).
SOHA meeting with Junta Inspectorate team
REPORT OF MEETING FRIDAY 5th OF MARCH 2010-SEVILLA- BETWEEN THE DIRECTOR OF HOUSING AND TERRITIAL INSPECTION AND SOHA
Soha, 6th March 2010
A delegation from SOHA (Save our Homes in Axarquia), The Greens of Alcaucín, the law firm Borbolla and the local architect J. Gámez gathered with a delegation of the Junta de Andalucía, presided over by Ms. Ana María Moniz Sánchez, Directora General de Inspección de Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Vivienda and her colleagues for about an hour on the afternoon of 5th March.
SOHA stressed, once more, the problems that the owners of irregular houses are facing. The Junta admits that there has been massive fraud. They suggest that owners should not direct their anger solely towards the Junta, but that they should start legal proceedings against the promoters and Town Halls who have acted improperly. SOHA responded that these procedures are far too expensive, that they might take 10 years before any sentence is pronounced and that the promoters or Town Halls could still plead “insolvent”. At the end, it might turn out to be a waste of time and money.
The Greens of Alcaucín added that if the Junta had begun to act against irregular building practices 10 years ago, the number of houses affected would be significantly less. The Junta suggested a major factor was the slow speed of the judicial system. The Greens of Alcaucín also suggested a moratorium on new demolition orders while the Junta looks for a solution to this problem.
The Junta suggested the use of a procedure called the “Incidencia de ejecución de Sentencia”. This procedure is only valid for those villages who have presented a new PGOU (Ordenation Plan) within the LOUA. Alcaucín is among 16 villages that have already presented that plan, Viñuela is currently in the Supreme Court. In this case the judge suspends any demolition order until the new PGOU is updated. Some of the affected houses might be legalized within the new PGOU. However, to be regularised, the Junta insists that those properties will have to be equipped with roads, street lights, sewage, etc. and that the cost of it will have to be borne by the promoters or the owners!
The Junta confirms that some demolitions will be inevitable, and went on say that over the years, it is expected that all irregular houses will “return to dust”.
We bly oppose this policy. We also stress that once again that it is the victims that appear to be being punished. We suggested the possibility that the LOUA adapt to the situation by postponing the date of application of the law. This could give the Junta the possibility to legalize the vast majority of irregular houses. Afterwards they could start with the firm application of the law to avoid further destruction of rural zones. This of course doesn’t exclude the possibility of taking legal action against mayors, lawyers, politicians, etc. who are suspected of breaking the law.
The subject of the registration in the Town Hall was also discussed. According to the Junta, the irregular situation of the houses doesn’t impede registration-EMPADRONAMIENTO.
SOHA and the Greens express their wish that massive registration of the foreign community take place so that they may exercise their political rights during the next municipal elections of May 2011.
We had a very interesting meeting but without any positive result. The Junta will continue to appeal against the irregular issued building licences. They suggest a new meeting within 2 or 3 months. The priority for La Viñuela is to present a new PGOU in accordance with the LOUA. The only way to prevent demolition orders for the moment is that the Town Hall appeal against the revocation of the building licence.
Conclusion: Your attendance at the Protest March of the 17th of March in Málaga, is more important than ever before, at least if you want to defend your houses and those of your friends.
AUAN Press Release - UK Foreign Minister visits Albox - 7th March'
Representatives of the AUAN were very pleased to be invited to attend a private meeting between Chris Bryant, Minister for Europe, and four of the Albox families threatened with the demolition of their homes.
Also present at the meeting, were Giles Paxman, the British Ambassador, and Steve Jones, the British Consul. Mr Bryant, who was well informed on this subject, reassured the affected families that the British Government were both aware of and concerned about the situation in the area. He went on to say that, though the UK has no jurisdiction in the affairs of Spain, he would do everything in his power to help. He also referred to the detrimental economic impact this scandal has had on Spain.
Homeowners told him of the stress and legal expense they are suffering as a result of the demolition threat, despite having purchased their homes in good faith and being in possession of all the correct licences. They stressed to the minister that a quick and equitable solution was required to this problem. Maura Hillen (AUAN President) raised the disgraceful track record of the administration with respect to the payment of compensation to Helen and Len Prior and the difficulties surrounding the ‘one by one’ solution currently proposed by the Junta.
After speaking with the homeowners, the Minister went on to have a closed meeting with the Mayor of Albox, Jose Garcia. Before leaving, he spoke of a planned meeting with Juan Espadas, the Planning Minister of the Junta de Andalucia.
The AUAN are pursuing all possible avenues to bring about a solution to the problem of urban abuses in this area, including making sure the Foreign Office, UK MPs and MEPs are kept informed.
Together with any legal means available, diplomatic efforts and the pressure of public opinion are important ways to help us achieve our aim of finding a rapid and effective solution to the problem for the benefit of everyone who lives here.
AUAN Press release - 20th February 2010
Representatives of the AUAN met with César Martín Cuadrado, Manager of the “Asociacion de Desarrollo Rural del Almanzora”, the Rural Development Association of the Almanzora Valley, in Vera on Tuesday 16th February as part of their aim to raise awareness of the specific problems of houses ‘fuera de ordenacion’ in the Almanzora Valley, and to press for intelligent solutions.
The Development Association, which is a business development agency with very good links to the EU is independent of political parties. It covers 26 municipalities and numerous Mayors of the Almanzora Valley are members. The Association is well respected and manages the PRODER program which administers EU funds. AUAN is grateful to Sr Cuadrado for the opportunity given to them to explain their concerns.
AUAN continues to advocate an intelligent and consensual solution agreed between public bodies, interested associations and political parties. This latest meeting follows on from previous meetings with the PP, the IU and the Defensor del Pueblo.
AUAN Press release - 3rd February 2010
Demolitions. Who’s Next?
More demolition orders have been issued in Albox despite confusing
statements by the Town Hall and the Mayor, Sr. José García.
In an interview published on the English language Arboleasnow website , Sr. Garcia is reported to have denied the rumour that nine houses are affected, saying that only eight demolition orders have been issued "by the courts".
This statement belies the fact that on the 15th December another of our members was issued with an order not by the courts, but by Albox Town Council itself!
And on January 20th, the Official Bulletin board carried an instruction to demolish a building on a plot of land near Alcantarilla, Albox. However, the plot referred to has two homes on it as well as an uncompleted structure.
We notified the owners and met with the Town Hall Secretary, who agreed to review the case file and advise us whether the order referred to one, or all, of the structures on the plot. In spite of repeated attempts we are still waiting for a response. The owners have only fifteen days to lodge an appeal and are very worried. They need this information from the Town Hall, and they need it now.
We have been trying to set up a meeting with Sr. Garcia for three weeks. Having cancelled two previous appointments with us, we are now told we cannot speak to him until the middle of February. This, despite the fact that we represent eight of the affected families.
It has been because of delays and lack of communication that the legal process in these cases is so advanced it has resulted in people being deprived of their right to defend themselves.
Avoiding difficult questions is not an option for the authorities. In order to solve the problem we need ongoing, open and co-operative dialogue to reach a consensual solution involving public bodies, interested associations and all the political parties.
AUAN Press release - 2nd february 2010
JUDGE ORDERS TEMPORARY HOME BE PROVIDED FOR LEN AND HELEN PRIOR
After two years of living in their former garage, following the illegal demolition of their home, at last there is a bit of good news for Len and Helen Prior of Vera.
As well as claiming compensation from the council for the loss of their home, the lawyers acting for the couple also applied for “provisional measures” to house them in a property similar to the one they lost. Now the judge in the case has ordered the council to either find them a similar property or pay the rent on one they find for themselves while the case is sorted out.
Len and Helen have indeed found a suitable property and are now waiting for the council to approve the agreement. They are both pensioners and their health has suffered considerably during the stress of the last two years. The demolition of their house was illegal and to date they have received nothing for their loss.
They have NOT won their case, NEITHER have they received any compensation. These matters are still to be resolved.
But we at the AUAN are delighted that they will at least be accommodated
somewhere more suitable than the garage in which they have spent
their last two anxious years.
AUAN Press release - 1st February 2010
Representatives of the AUAN met with Francisco Gongora , spokesperson for the Pardido Popular (PP) in Almeria on Friday 29 January. The AUAN and PP agree that the only way to quickly solve the problem of houses ‘fuera de ordenacion’ is through new legislation. Further discussions are planned.
AUAN advocates an intelligent and consensual solution agreed between public bodies, interested associations and political parties. This meeting follows on from previous meetings with the IU and the Defensor del Pueblo.