Not only is the national government in Madrid trying to block the Andalusian planning decree that could free thousands of trapped expats, now it emerges that some town councils in the region are also being obstructive, perhaps just for spiteful political reasons.
Whilst the regional government of Andalusia, known locally as the Junta, is doing what it can to make it possible for owners of illegal rural homes to get a type of planning status that allows them to connect to municipal services, register their properties, and sell them (see Andalusia’s planning amnesty decree) , the AUAN homeowners association warns that some municipal authorities are doing the opposite.
“What neither ourselves, nor the other associations, are happy about, is the negativity, if not downright obstruction, shown by some town halls when it comes to applying the law to grant AFOs – that is to say a municipal permission that allows irregular houses to access basic services and obtain paperwork for humanitarian reasons, and allows measures to protect the environment to be applied to a house,” says Maura Hillen, President of AUAN.
It seems that some town councils in Andalusia are going out of their way to be unhelpful when homeowners apply for the AFO planning status that offers a pathway to legalisation of their homes. As AUAN puts it, “some town halls are ‘standing on the hose’ when it comes to the regularisation of houses.”
Which town halls are actively or passively undermining the Andalusian planning amnesty? “We understand that the situation in Chiclana is especially difficult and, from what we have been told, the attitude of the Town Hall is not exactly supportive of issuing AFOS to its 16,000 irregular houses in order to permit services in an area where residents have spent decades without drinking water,” says Hillen. “It is a disgrace that the Town Hall has failed to resolve this problem over the last 30 years.”
There are also reported to be problems with uncooperative planning departments in Arboleas, Zurgena, and Albanchez, where the town council plans to charge a prohibitive and potentially illegal fee for processing AFOs.
Why are politicians and planning officials from these town councils being unhelpful, when other towns are offering their support to the AFO process? Some officials in uncooperative municipalities argue that now is not the time to process AFOs given that everything is up in the air, but regional officials who control planning in Andalusia confirm this is not the case.
“I wouldn’t like to think that they are doing this on purpose, or for reasons they cannot admit to, or that they really do wish to stand on the hose of regularisation,” says Hillen.
Note that the obstructive towns mentioned are all now governed by Socialists, whilst the AFO planning change has been introduced by a Junta now governed by a coalition of parties on the right, though even the Socialists in Seville voted in favour of the change. With the Socialists in Madrid trying to challenge the Andalusia planning decree that throws a potential lifeline to thousands, if not tens of thousands, of elderly expats trapped in illegal homes in Andalusia, the foot dragging and obstruction from Socialist town councils looks suspiciously like party solidarity with Madrid, and spiteful politics against the Junta in Seville.