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Recortes de Prensa

British expats in Spain told homes will be bulldozed

Telegraph.co.uk, 30 | 12 | 2009 - Reportaje

British expatriates in Spain are facing an anxious New Year after police served notice that their homes will be bulldozed after their construction was declared illegal

Nearly a dozen British couples are fighting the threat of homelessness after being served with demolition notices.

The properties will be razed to the ground before the spring unless a last-ditch appeal saves them.

The British residents last night vowed to organise protests and blockade themselves in their homes to try to stop the demolitions being carried out.

The homes at threat are all near Albox in Almeria, south-east Spain, near to where the British couple Len and Helen Prior’s home was bulldozed two years ago.

Spanish authorities have been waging a campaign against former officials accused of allowing over-development of coastal regions. The local town hall issued building licences for the latest properties targeted, but they were nullified following court action instigated by a higher regional government.

The Britons have said they had no idea their houses had been declared illegal.

“The first I knew of any problems with our house was on December 22 when a police officer knocked at the door and gave me the demolition notice,” said John Burns, a pensioner who emigrated to Spain in 2001 with wife Muriel after suffering a heart attack which forced him to sell his building firm.

“It’s a beautiful three-bed detached house surrounded by olive groves. It’s our life’s dream.

“The expiry date on the notice is April 9. My wife’s been crying from the day we received it. Our Christmas was ruined.”

Christine Payne, a former office worker who took early retirement to emigrate to Spain in 2000 with her husband Noel, said: “We had our house built in 2002 and moved in the following year.

“The first I knew of our home being under threat was two days before Christmas when our builder rang to say the police wanted us to go to the local station.

“We haven’t been served with our demolition order yet but we know we’re on the list.

“I feel so angry because we’ve got all our paperwork in order. We’re only finding out now that the building licences issued by the town hall were challenged by the regional government and nullified. No-one ever told us or our builder.

“If the bulldozers turn up we’re going to get as many people inside the house as we can to try to stop them.

“We’re going to get a solicitor but they charge a fortune and all our money’s in our house.

“I don’t know what we’re going to do if we end up losing it. We’ve only got our state pensions and very small private pensions to survive on.”

An expatriate support group. Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No (Auan), is sponsoring an appeal.

Maura Hillen, the group’s president, said: “We’ll fight these demolition orders on the basis these people’s human rights were infringed because they weren’t informed of the legal proceedings against their homes. The situation is very serious and our lawyer shares our opinion.

“We’re trying not to terrify people but it’s a frightening prospect.

“The way these orders were served on people, just before Christmas and without any warning, was very callous.

She added: “Building licences for all these houses were issued by Albox town hall. The regional Andalucian government impuned them because of a perceived risk of ‘urban nucleus’. They’ve been the subject of court action for the last six years but no-one seems to have informed the homeowners. It’s appalling.”

The Priors are still living in a converted garage in Vera, close to Albox. Theur £350,000 property was demolished in January 2008 after the regional government revoked the building licence issued by the town hall.

Auan is co-hosting a candelit vigil on Jan 9 at the site where their home once stood to mark the two-year anniversary of its demolition.

The Priors are yet to receive any compensation for the loss of their home.

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