Friday, 15 January 2010

Open letter from Michael Cashman MEP to Prime Minister Zapatero

Prime Minister Zapatero

Council of the European Union

Rue de la Loi 175

1048 Brussels

Dear Prime Minister Zapatero,

Recent events have compelled me to write to you again to raise the issue of widespread urban abuse in Spain , particularly in the Valencia , Murcia and Andalucía autonomous communities. Tens of thousands of people from all EU Member States have now been affected by irregularities in regional land law. At the last count the European Parliament's Petitions Committee has handled over 15,000 petitions and letters flood into my office on a daily basis. Several fact-finding missions have taken place, in which we have spoken to people on the ground and gathered evidence which has formed the basis of Parliamentary Reports. Inaction can no longer be excused.

Sadly, the new year has begun in the worst possible way for one community in Andalucía where eight properties in the village of Albox have been served with demolition notices. In 2002 Albox Town Hall granted building licenses for all of the properties in question. However late in the same year The Junta de Andalusia reversed this decision and after lengthy court proceedings succeeded in having the building licenses nullified. The homes many bought in good faith and in conformity with the regional property law, with the hope of enjoying a new life or peaceful retirement, now face imminent demolition.

Ultimately it is the Spanish Government alone who can bring an end to these abuses. In this way the Spanish Presidency of the European Council represents an opportunity to decisively tackle these long-standing problems once and for all, especially in the autonomous communities of Valencia , Andalusia and Murcia . I urge you to intervene and ask the regional governments to resolve this so the people who acted in conformity with legal practice and the law are not left as the victims.

Yours Sincerely,


Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The perfect Christmas Present - a demolition order

Imagine the scene. You’re putting the finishing touches to the Christmas tree when there’s a knock at the door and a Spanish police officer cheerfully hands you an envelope. But it isn’t a Christmas card, rather a demolition order for your beloved Spanish retirement home.

That’s what happened on December 22 to John and Muriel Burns, a retired couple living in Albox, a rural town in Almeria in south-east Spain. Two years earlier another retired couple, Len and Helen Prior, were the first British expats to witness their Spanish home demolished without warning and without having been invited to be part of the legal processes. The Spanish supreme court in Madrid has now ruled in their favour but they are yet to receive any compensation.

It’s easy to dismiss such stories with a cynical grunt and a cliché about expats just not doing their homework but in this case it’s simply not true. In the same area, another seven British families were served with similar demolition notices for properties bought in all good faith but which are now deemed by the Andalucía regional government to be illegal. How can this happen?

Let’s look at the facts. It is estimated that British expats own more than 600,000 properties in Spain, the highest number situated in Andalucía and in the Valencia region. During the Spanish property boom back in the nineties, thousands of Brits jumped at the chance to buy new dream homes in the coastal and rural areas.

Property agents would bend over themselves to offer them an all round service coordinating between developer, local lawyer and council planning official to secure the deal. In the case of the hapless eight in Almeria, their illegal new builds on rural protected land had been approved by the local Albox council which had even issued the appropriate building licences. The Andalucía regional government then revoked the licences as illegal and ordered the properties to be demolished.

This is just the tip of the iceberg and it does not just affect British expats. Thousands of illegal homes have been built in the last twenty years, 15,000 for example in Chiclana, Andalucía, many of which are owned by Spanish residents.

It seems that British expats are in a lose, lose situation when buying property in Spain. If they purchase on the coast they are likely to find themselves in hot water with the arbitrary ley de costas, the retrospective coastal law inaugurated in 1988, and if they buy new properties in rural zones, they might find themselves caught up in a property scam such as that which has occurred in Albox in Almeria.

Historically buying property in Spain has never been straightforward. Some British buyers are still licking their wounds after the collapse of the Spanish construction industry when thousands lost early stage payments with companies such as Martinsa-Fadesa which went into administration leaving British investors’ dreams in tatters.

Others found their legitimate rural properties being requisitioned in what was known as “land grabs”, when they were suddenly re-classified as urban zones and handed over to big developers.

While the Spanish supreme court and the European Court of Human Rights decide what to do about the whole sorry mess, the Andalucía regional government has, with no trace of irony, backed a new real estate network hoping to lure British expats to buy in the region. It promises to offer “quality, legal assurances and innovation” to foreign buyers.

For those awaiting the imminent demolition of their homes, there is no immediate comfort. The only hope is that with the intervention of the European court the corrupt perpetrators of these scandals will soon find their chickens coming home to roost.

An expat action support group, Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora (AUAN), can be found at .

Monday, 11 January 2010

The Demonstration in Almería

Around 700 people joined the demonstration today in Almería City, indignant at the threats against property put by the authorities. The demo was organised by the AUAN. Here are some pictures:

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Vigil

Around two hundred people descended on the home of Len and Helen Prior on Saturday 9th January to mark the second anniversary of the demolition of the British couple's house in Vera, Almería. There isn't much left. The Priors live in their garage, converted somehow into a bedroom, and, apart from the gardens, the most notable feature of the property is a large cement foundation, where the house once stood.
The visitors, wrapped against the cold, brought candles (most of those present were more than familiar with candles, as many of their houses in Albox, Arboleas, Zurgena and Cantoria don't have connection to the electric current and they must use generators and hosepipes). A bonfire set up on the cement foundation provided heat and light.
Surprisingly, several Spanish newspapers plus the Canal Sur TV were present and Helen Prior (pictured) made a short speech followed by another from Maura Hillen of the AUAN, encouraging all to attend the demonstration on Monday 11th January in Almería City.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Protest against demolitions - Almeria - 11 January

Peaceful Protest March in Almeria - Monday 11th January 2010
Against the Albox and Vera Demolitions

The AUAN have booked 6 coaches to transport people to show support to the victims of the Albox and Vera recently announce demolitions

Seats available, minimum 6 euros per seat, plus any donations welcome

Depart 09.30am, at Dia Car Park - toilet break - Arrive Almeria 11.30 am for March at midday

You do not have to be an AUAN member to attend

Book your seats at the Cantoria Residents Association library (Bruce)
11..30 am to 12.30 pm Tuesday 5th and Thursday 7th January 2010
Please have correct amount of change, and in an envelope with names on

Or if you cannot get to the CRA library, put your names down at the La Parilla Albox:

11.30 am to 12.30 pm Tues 5th and Friday 8th January 2010 (Ask for Carole Maneeley and Tom Jones)

or Maloans Bar Arboleas (ask for Dawn and Derick Oldfield)

11.30 am to 12.30pm Tues 5th and Friday 8th January 2010

f you cannot get into one of the payment points, your email to: and pay on the coach

Look out for more details on the AUAN website

Those travelling are asked not to park at Dia Car park.

Date of Next AUAN meeting Saturday 16th January 2010 at 11.00am
(new members welcome to join from 10.00am ) in La Parilla Albox top square