January 19, 2011 at 12:30 am #56069
British couple sentenced to eight months in Spanish prison for building retirement villa on protected land
Constructed nine years ago but plot had permission for home just one-tenth of the size
A British couple have been sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to demolish their Spanish villa for breaching planning regulations.
David and Janet Hartshorn illegally built a large house on protected land near the Costa del Sol town of Torrox, a judge ruled.
The couple appeared before a judge at Criminal Court number eight in Malaga last October 14 for a one-day hearing, with the court’s sentencing published yesterday
he judge is expected to suspend the prison sentence, as jail terms of two years and under are usually suspended for first time offenders in Spain.
Speaking at the property under threat of demolition, Mrs Hartshorn said she had not yet been informed of the judge’s ruling.
‘This is terrible news,’ she said. ‘I am very upset by this. We haven’t been told anything about the result of the court case. We have a meeting with our solicitor tomorrow..
‘The house was built nine years ago and people are still building houses illegally round here.
‘We will definitely appeal. My husband has said he will take the case all the way to to the European Courts to save the house.’
Judges in Spain make their sentences known in written rulings rather than at hearings in open court.
Those rulings are then made known to the parties involved through their solicitors.
Defendants do not attend a sentencing hearing as they do in UK courts and the ruling was published in reliable local newspaper Malaga Hoy yesterday.
The judge ordered them to demolish the house and pay a fine of €5,400 (£4,500).
The couple built the 2,580sq ft house on land which only had permission for a house one tenth that size.
In September 2000 they bought a third of an acre of land in Pago de Santilla, near Torrox, on which there was already a tiny ruin of a house of 320 square feet.
In June 2001 they applied for planning permission but were told they could not build anything bigger than the ruin.
The judge’s sentencing report said: ‘However, the accused have built a family chalet-style home with a new storey, basement, swimming pool and asphalted exterior perimeter, with an area of approximately 240 square meters (2580 square feet).’
In January 2004 the town hall in Torrox ordered the Hartshorns to stop the building work ‘but despite this the accused continued to carry out the work’, which finished in July 2004, the judge added.
In September 2006 the town hall issued them with a fine of €73,092, which the couple are challenging.
The judge in Malaga said it is not possible to grant the house retrospective planning permission because it is on protected land.
He concluded that it was ‘inconceivable’ that individuals should build on land which is protected by law from development.
The first British couple to have their Spanish property demolished were pensioners Len and Helen Prior.
The Priors’ £550,000 retirement villa was flattened by bulldozers in January 2008 after a court ruled it was illegally built.
The couple, from Hurst, Berkshire, had been granted a building licence for the three-bedroom home by the town hall in Vera, Almeria, on the south coast.
But the higher regional body, the Junta de Andalucia, said the licence was illegally granted and issued a demolition order.
The Priors, both 66, are still waiting for compensation from the town hall for its mistake.
Thousands of British expats live in Spain fear their homes are under threat because of similar breaches in planning regulations.
Many houses with building licences, the Spanish equivalent of planning permission, are under threat as the licences should never have been granted.
January 19, 2011 at 9:55 am #102650
To be honest, if they knew they were building an illegal property, which the article implies, and knew this at the start of project as well as being told again during construction then we shouldn’t be too surprised that they are being prosecuted and given sentences that Spanish law prescribes.
The issue is whether there is an element of racial/national discrimination at play. If Spanish nationals are given similar sentences then we can’t complain.
The fact that Spain can’t see the destruction of it’s country, both physically and economically by widespread property construction by big business is another issue.
January 19, 2011 at 10:16 am #102652katyBlocked
Does sound as if they were to blame when ordered to stop building. Though knowing how things work(ed) I can’t help wondering if their builder had a nod and a wink from the local Mayor and were told they could legalise with a fine.
It is strange that the people ordered to demolish are British seeing as many spanish are living in houses that don’t even have any paperwork! I did notice on photos of this house that there are lots of other houses around….how can they be legal and that one not ❓
January 19, 2011 at 11:01 am #102653
This is not a good example for the anti-Spain brigade to get excited about. The Mail article is inaccurate and the demolition order is well justified, and the nationality of the couple concerned is irrelevant.
I don’t usually find the hysterical Mail comments helpful and seldom bother to read them, but in this case even they are totally in favour of the Spanish decision against the silly couple building a mansion ten times greater than the one they had planning permission for and to keep building after being warned to stop by the authorities is ridiculous.
It is nothing like the Prior case.
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