Expats' last ditch plea to Brussels in illegal homes row

27th February 2007, Comments 0 comments

27 February 2007, ALBOX — Thousands of expats have sought the help of the European Parliament in a row over illegally built holiday and retirement homes in an Andalucian village.

27 February 2007

ALBOX  — Thousands of expats have sought the help of the European Parliament in a row over illegally built holiday and retirement homes in an Andalucian village.

A delegation of MEPs was visiting the village of Albox, near Almería, this week to try to resolve the case of about 6,000 homes in the area, many of which are without water or electricity.

The Spanish daily El Pais reported on Tuesday the majority of the illegal properties are owned by British retirees who sold their homes in the UK to move to the area around Albox, in the Almanzora Valley, some 40 kilometres inland from the coast.

The homes were built on land officially classified as rural, rather than urban, leaving their owners in a legal vacuum.

Officially, the properties do not exist, so they have no public services: no roads, house numbers, water, or electricity.

The regional court has already ruled that 11 properties built on a watercourse must be demolished.

Following a BBC television programme that accused a local building firm, Procoal, of building without permission, those affected have petitioned the European Council to intervene and resolve the dispute.

Bob Naya, head of the group No to Urban Abuse in Almeria, said: "We are the victims. We believed what we were told, and now nobody will accept responsibility."

The group has about 2,000 members.

Naya added: "We were told by the builders that there would be no problem with
construction permits."

"For British people, what lawyers say is taken as gospel truth," says María Eugenia Navarro, a lawyer representing some of those affected.

There are 2,000 illegally built properties in Albox, and a about 4,000 scattered
throughout the Almanzora Valley.

Some of those affected paid for an electricity transformer costing EUR 100,000 but cannot be supplied with power because their homes are illegal and the electricity company would be breaking the law.

A spokesman for the Almeria environmental group said: "The English started out by
buying garden sheds. They paid their license fee, but the town hall neither gave them permission nor denied it, and so building went ahead."

The local socialist mayoral candidate, José García Navarro, said: "If the town hall had checked the status of the land when the English started arriving, there wouldn't have been a problem, and we could have had an ordered process of expansion here."

The mayor of Albox, Francisco Granero, of the Popular Party, refuses to comment on the issue.

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Subject: Spanish news

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