Villagers take battle to Brussels

Fecha Publicación: 
3 Marzo 2011

Villagers fighting plans for massive development around their Alicante homes have enlisted the support of politicians in the European Parliament. Residents of the small mountain village of Hondon de los Frailes fear controversial plans will be bulldozed through to expand the urban area by 600 percent and the population by 1,000 percent.

Round Town News | Noticia

And they maintain the “insane” proposals would employ Valencia’s notorious ‘land grab’ laws – forcing home owners to give up property and pay for infrastructure costs.

The Asociacion de Vecinos argues the General Plan – first outlined in 2005 – will not create new jobs and did not include provision for adequate water supplies.

The neighbourhood association also claims people’s human rights will be further infringed by a plan for a bypass.

It has raised more than 60 detailed objections to the plans and members have submitted over 100 personal grievances – yet residents allege the town hall has ignored concerns.


Gordon Bell, who owns a home in the village and is a committee member of its neighbourhood association, travelled to Belgium to represent 500 Hondon de los Frailes residents and outline the “concerns, fears and needs” of the European Union citizens of five nationalities.

He introduced two petitions to the European Parliament’s petitions committee alleging breaches of the European Convention of Human Rights and the European Water Framework Directive.

Gordon told the meeting residents were initially comforted by the protections of EU law and that member states – including Spain – were committed to upholding them.

“To ordinary law abiding, hard working, tax paying EU citizens of the 21st Century the protection of our homes is second only in importance to the protection of life itself – without our homes, our lives have little meaning or value,” he said.

He said the 2005 plan was created by the regional urban planning department without consulting residents and a detailed report showed underground water supplies were depleted and shrinking.

“There was no credible water supply solution within the plan,” said Gordon. “In March 2008, the neighbouring village of Hondon de los Nieves published its plan to build 10,000 new homes for perhaps 25,000 more people – the same underground aquifer supplies both villages!”


And he complained: “As if the insane nature of the plan was not enough, we learned that Spanish urban planning law allows government appointed developers to demand existing home owners give up 40% of their land and pay 60€ per square metre to retain the remaining 60% of land they already own.

“Home owners are told that if they do not comply, machines will be sent to knock down their home. Experience shows that this is no idle threat and in our village 60 home owners face this threat."

He said in 2009 a plan was outlined for a bypass to take traffic away from the narrow centre of Hondon de los Frailes. Villagers supported the idea but not the chosen route which would take private land without proper compensation.

Gordon told politicians the circumstances of the complaints had been repeated thousands of times across Spain – resulting in the strong recommendation for EU funding to be frozen until the kingdom brought its urban planning laws and practices into line “with the three charters it has voluntarily committed to uphold.”

He said: “A strong and substantial financial ‘encouragement’ for speedy compliance is an absolute necessity for EU citizens throughout Spain and for the integrity of the mission of the EU itself.”


And the villagers were strongly supported by a group of MEPs who demanded the European Commission – which upholds EU laws in member states – take urgent action to uphold human rights.

They included British politicians Marta Andreasen, Roger Helmer, Edward McMillan-Scott, and Keith Taylor, along with Danish MEP Margret Auken – author of a damning report calling for Spain’s funding to be put on ice – and Angelika Werthmann of Austria.

Mrs Auken said only a “political trick” had prevented the flow of funding to Spain being halted until it brought planning laws into line. And Ms Andreasen said politicians and the Commission should ask itself, “is it reasonable to continue to fund member states that persistently ignore fundamental human rights?”

The committee is to ask Spain to explain how the plans for the village were approved and their views on the two petitions – while further investigations will be made on the situation regarding water resources.

A written response to the residents’ association will be made by the committee in due course.


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