Hope remains for two British-owned homes in Spain facing demolition
A town hall questions the legality of last week’s demolitions in a last-ditch attempt to save two properties still standing
By Eloise Horsfield
10:14AM BST 22 Oct 2013
Fresh hope has been handed to two owners of properties facing demolition in Spain following an administrative battle between the town hall and the regional government.
The remaining homes, both owned by Brits who do not wish to be named, were issued with the same demolition order as two houses bulldozed in Cantoria, southern Spain, last week.
Now Cantoria Town Hall has ordered that the demolitions be halted, claiming they were not backed up with the necessary documents from the regional government.
“Everybody needs to respect the law, especially in matters of this kind which are extremely complex and which affect the lives of four families,” said a town hall spokesman. “We do not want to act hastily, but in a calm, collected and lawful manner.”
The regional government, meanwhile, is adamant it provided the necessary paperwork and warning to all the concerned parties.
“The demolitions cannot proceed until the matter is resolved,” said Maura Hillen, president of AUAN, an action group representing 600 owners of properties with questionable legality.
“It could be resolved in five days, it could be resolved in five months. It depends on how the courts decide to deal with the matter. Really the town hall is clutching at legal straws in order to keep the other two houses standing.”
Last week a three-bedroom villa belonging to John and Jan Brooks, 73 and 70, was bulldozed along with one other British-owned property.
The couple had spent £170,000 (€200,000) on the house. “Our intention was to spend a couple of months there and a couple of months here,” said Mr Brooks, speaking from his Somerset home. “It was part of our retirement plan.”
Mr and Mrs Brooks were not told the regional government had already issued developer Francisco Pedrosa with two orders for all construction to be stopped and all existing structures on the land to be demolished.
The houses – on non-urban land – should never have been built, but both Pedrosa and the town hall turned a blind eye. Meanwhile mayor Pedro Llamas provided authorisation for the Brooks’ home to be connected to mains electricity and water.
In June 2006, less than a year after the purchase went through, the couple were handed a demolition order from the regional government. A month later their electricity and water were cut off and seven years of uncertainty and legal wrangling ensued.
In May 2012 the Brooks, along with two of the other home owners, took the developer and Llamas to court to claim compensation and won. Llamas was sentenced to 23 months in prison for falsifying documents, and he and Pedrosa ordered to pay full compensation to the home owners. This ruling was confirmed by Madrid’s Supreme Court in May of this year after the defendants lost an appeal.
“So by the letter of the law they should have started to pay us compensation,” said Mr Brooks, a retired sales manager. But the developer has since declared itself bankrupt.
“There are no words in the dictionary to adequately describe our anger at the greedy, selfish, corrupt creatures who have caused this situation,” said Mr Brooks.
“It’s appalling,” said Mrs Hillen. “This area is heavily reliant on residential tourism. And that is just the economic aspect.
“It’s the sheer, ruthless cruelty of it, to just cheerfully knock these houses down without ensuring that the people that own them, who had acted in good faith, have been compensated.”
She added: “The whole thing has come about because of complete systemic failure in the way planning is managed in this area. It’s chaos.”
There are around 300,000 homes in Andalucia built without proper planning permission, mainly due to corruption within the town halls. Around 50 homes are thought to have been bulldozed already, with at least 300 more pending demolition.