Catral mayor, developers charged in homes scam
4 January 2007, VALENCIA — The mayor and four developers have been charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with an illegal building homes scandal which threatens the homes of hundreds of expats.
4 January 2007
VALENCIA — The mayor and four developers have been charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with an illegal building homes scandal which threatens the homes of hundreds of expats.
The socialist mayor of Catral, near Alicante, Jose Manuel Rodriguez Leal and the promoters, were charged by a judge with building 1,270 villas without any planning permission.
The charges come after regional government officials sent shockwaves through the expat community of Catral near Alicante after stripping the town hall of its housing powers and threatening to dissolve the local council over the scandal.
Hundreds of the homes have been built inside a nature reserve, with many of them sold to expats seeking a new life in the sun or a holiday home.
The rest have gone up on green belt land next to farms and orchards to the south of Catral, whose foreign population has rocketed in the past five years following a construction boom in the area.
Last October, the regional director of housing threatened to demolish all illegal housing built on protected land.
Esteban Gonzalez Pons, director of housing for the Generalitat Valenciana regional government body, said: "The homes built on protected land inside El Hondo Nature Reserve will all be demolished.
"The future of the remaining homes will be studied on an individual basis."
"We've already taken away the housing powers of the local council and will take away its town planning powers and seek its dissolution as a local authority unless it recognises more than 1,200 houses have been built illegally and proposes solutions."
He added: "We will not hesitate in acting against other town halls that break the law, whichever political party holds power."
Expats affected by the shock move were consulting lawyers to try to save their homes.
Many have invested their life savings - paying an average of EUR 200,000 for three-bedroom homes with swimming pools they thought were legal.
In the wake of the original scandal, British expat Dennis Archer, who has bought a home near Catral with wife Pat, said: "Our house was finished on time and was very nicely built.
"The problem our solicitors failed to notice was neither our home or the others on the complex had planning permission.
"Our dreams of a new life in the sun have turned into a nightmare."
Another expat, who asked not to be named, added: "I moved out to Spain with my wife and two young children and wanted to do everything by the book.
"The estate agents put us in touch with a local solicitor who assured us everything was fine.
"Now we discover we're living in a house that has built illegally and is likely to be demolished."
"I invested most of my life savings emigrating. We face financial ruin."
Thousands of expats have set up home inland from the Costa Blanca around Alicante in the past five years.
Across Spain, thousands of foreign buyers have fallen foul of cowboy builders who build without permission and dodgy estate agents suspected of buying the silence of corrupt town hall officials.
Subject: Spanish news