The public prosecutor is seeking the demolition of 19 homes in the El Fas district of Cantoria, in Almeria. The detached homes, most of which are owned by British families, were illegally built without construction licences, in a non-residential zone, and lack licences of first occupation.
The properties were built and sold by the company Southern Spain Consultants, owned by Karim Smit (Dutch) and Julio Piñero Pedrosa (Spanish). Smit and Piñero are likely to face charges for planning infractions, and may be liable for the cost of demolition and compensation for owners. The prosecutor is pushing for 2 years prison and fines of up to 22,000 Euros each.
The owners say that the developer, their lawyer, and town hall officials all assured them that the properties were legal at the time of purchase. Now facing the likely demolition of their homes, which for many represents their life’s savings, the bitter owners say they were “led up the garden path”.
The mayor of Cantoria, Pedro Llamas Garcia (right of centre PP party), claims he was unaware of the problem in El Fas until the Civil Guard’s environmental protection office reported illegal construction in 2005. Many would find this claim difficult to believe.
Llamas recently told Costa Almeria News that he might be helpless to prevent the demolitions from going ahead or to ensure expats were compensated if the developers went bust.
Manuel Pedrosa, leader of the opposition Socialist Party in the municipality, claims that Llamas won a recent local election by promising to legalise the British-owned homes in El Fas in return for votes. Some of the British owners tell a similar story.
According to Pedrosa, El Fas is not the only illegal urbanisation in the area. “It’s not just El Fas,” he recently told the regional daily paper ‘El Diario de Cordoba’. “There are other urbanisations with planning problems, like La Hoya, Los Cortijos Altos, La Arrellana, Tomaca, El Arroyo Aceituno, and El Arroyo Albanchez. I think the mayor is accused of planning crimes.”
Pedrosa is pushing for an agreement in which the properties in El Fas are legalised in return for owners paying the cost of bringing the urbanisation’s infrastructure up to standard.