Demolition News - Spanish property concern

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

Homes in Spain demolished

The hillside after the first demolitions. In the distance is a bulldozer between the two wrecked homes.  The two houses below might be saved. Photo: Eloise Horsfield

By Eloise Horsfield

10:14AM BST 22 Oct 2013

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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.