Foreign owners of properties in Spain that have been expropriated by the ministry of the environment are fighting back, reports the Spanish press.
Hundreds, potentially thousands of foreigners who own property near the seafront in Spain are at risk of expropriation, as the coastal department of the ministry of the environment draws up new boundaries between private and public land.
The coastal department is accused of abusing the ley de costas (coastal law) of 1988, which nationalised the Spanish coastline, and using arbitrary criteria to determine new boundaries. Any properties built on land now classified as public land are at risk of expropriation and demolition, regardless of whether they were legally built in the first instance.
Rising sea levels, coastal erosion, and degeneration caused by new marinas and construction are being used to redraw boundaries further inland. New boundaries are being set without any judicial process, and always encroach on private property at the expense of owners, who have no right of appeal. This means that bureaucrats in the ministry of the environment can confiscate private land in Spain at the stroke of a pen. All they need is an administrative order, issued by them.
Foreign owners who have fallen foul of the arbitrary application of the ley de costas are complaining to their embassies, and talking to the press to raise awareness of the issue.
“Foreign owners whose properties are affected by new coastal boundaries are writing letters to their embassies complaining about the situation, and the unjust way they are being treated in Spain,” explains José Ortega, head of the protest group ‘Plataforma Nacional de Afectados por la Ley de Costas’, which was set up to fight the arbitrary implementation of the coastal law. “Their letters explain the arbitrary way in which the ley de costas is being used to demolish their properties.”
Frenchman Emmanuel Cabale is one of the affected owners who has complained to the French embassy in Madrid. In 2003 he bought an apartment in an urbanisation called La Casbah, in the Valencian Region, where he lives with his two daughters. He has now been told that his property lies on protected land.
“It’s robbery,” says Cabale. “It was totally legal when I bought it 5 years ago. Even the title deeds specified that my property was legal as far as the ley de costas was concerned. Now it turns out my property is just a concession that I will eventually lose.”
Retired British electronics engineer Clifford Carter, 59, is in the same boat. “Out of the blue we’ve been told the house we have owned for more than 30 years is no longer ours,” says Carter, who lives with his Spanish wife in La Casbah. “The house was built legally, but now they say we can only live here until we die but can’t sell the house or leave it to our children,” said Carter.
The ley de costas was passed in 1988, but has only recently caused a public outcry due to the aggressive, arbitrary, and retroactive way it is now being applied. The ‘Plataforma Nacional de Afectados por la Ley de Costas’ now has 20,000 members around Spain, including hundreds of foreign property owners.