British expats stage protest in Spain over new regional law which could lead to more homes being demolished in illegal planning row

by Ray Clancy on March 19, 2010

Hundreds of furious expats have marched through Malaga to highlight their opposition to Spanish government plans to demolish illegally built holiday homes in Andalucia.

Carrying placards in Spanish and English declaring; ‘We’ve Done Nothing Wrong’ and ‘Citizens Betrayed, they are demanding that a new regional law that means illegal properties can be bulldozed with just one month’s notice be put on hold.

Tens of thousands of properties granted planning permission by corrupt officials face being knocked down. Many of them are owned by British expats.

Demolition orders have been served on a score of houses across Andalucia but the new law does not give owners time to appeal, the protestors claim. ‘In the wrong hands, this legislation would be like putting machine guns in the hands of babies,’ said Maura Hillen, president of one of the pressure groups, AUAN, that took part.

The owners, many of whome are retired, say they were either duped into buying homes by unscrupulous private sellers who had, had their planning permission revoked or were granted permission incorrectly by corrupt councils.

Among those taking part in the protest was Helen Prior, 64, whose £350,000 villa in Almeria was bulldozed more than two years ago. He husband Len, 64, collapsed when the bulldozers moved in and has suffered serious ill health.

The couple, who are living in their garage which was not demolished are hoping to receive compensation but until then have no funds to find a new home.

There are fears among the expat community that the new laws could lead to more homes being demolished. Phil Smalley, president of SOHA which organised the march, said his legally obtained planning permission had been annulled in the courts last month.

At a meeting with Ana María Moniz Sánchez, director general for the inspection of housing in Andalucia, he says he was told all illegal properties would be legalised or ‘returned to dust’.

SOHA is campaigning for compensation for those whose homes are demolished.

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