Bulldozers prepare to destroy expats' dreams

3rd October 2005, Comments 0 comments

3 October 2005, ALICANTE — Dozens of British expat families living in Spain are to have their homes demolished after being lured into buying houses that were built illegally.

3 October 2005

ALICANTE — Dozens of British expat families living in Spain are to have their homes demolished after being lured into buying houses that were built illegally.

At least 20 British families expect to lose their homes and their life savings, and many more are also at risk, the London-based daily The Times reported.

They say that they are the victims of fraudulent developers who have taken advantage of lax planning laws to produce thousands of illegal “dream homes” for credulous North Europeans.

The increasing demand among Britons for second and retirement homes in Spain has helped to fuel an epidemic of illegal construction on the Costas.

In Alicante province alone, where the British victims of the latest alleged fraud live, there are 150,000 illegally built houses, according to the province’s territory department.

The land is designated rustic land and therefore not for construction, but developers have continued to build without attempting to get planning permission, which would never be granted.

The Britons bought into the promises made by the Prever 2002 project, which is run by Belgians in La Marina, Elche, south of Alicante. A typical advertisement for Prever 2002 on The Villa Finder.com website, run from Bristol, still hawks “luxury villas in dream locactions [sic] close to the sea”.

By accepting the developers' own lawyers, rather than hiring independent legal experts, buyers were prevented from learning that the development was illegal.

Lynn and Robert Mail are expecting the bulldozers at their GBP 200,000 home any day now. “Last week Elche council told me they were coming to demolish our home,”

Mrs Mail, 45, from Staffordshire, UK; said:  “My lawyer says that really it’s too late to save everything we have. There are another 19 British families here who expect the worst. We are all worried sick.”

Mrs Mail, a former residential care assistant, and her husband Robert, 53, who was general manager of a metal company, moved with their daughter Michaela, 13, to the new development last year.

"We had been impressed by what English people in the first phase had said. Last year we moved in and we were very happy, with our daughter at a local school and my husband in part-time work.

Then suddenly in October 2004, Prever 2002 said we would have to make our own legal arrangements concerning a problem with the local council in Elche.

"This summer the council told us all our villas had been built illegally and would be demolished without compensation. We sold up to come here and now we’ll have to start again. At our age, how can we?”

The Mails’ lawyer is appealing to the Ombudsman in Alicante, the provincial capital. The Mails have charged the developers with fraud.

A Spanish architect said he suspects Prever 2002 could only have spent two years building on land designated as rustic if someone in Elche town hall was either grossly incompetent or corrupt.

The Elche councillor responsible for planning infractions, Jose Manuel Sanchez, denies any wrongdoing.

"We tried to stop the building from the beginning,” Señor Sanchez said. “We took all the legal steps we could. We stuck up red posters saying "Illegal Construction", we taped off the building sites. But the builders repeatedly broke the tapes."

He said the only legal action he could take against illegal developers was for making false declarations in order to obtain title deeds for the properties. He denied any friendship between the mayor and the builders and, unprompted, said he had not taken bribes. "The mayor does not have friends like that," he said.

Nicolas Hellebuick, director of Prever 2002, said that until recently the company had had “a very good relationship” with the planning department in Elche. "It all went wrong when there was a change of personnel in the Elche planning department,"

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Subject: Spanish news

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