Malaga Property Owners Demand Action to Legalise Homes

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      Anonymous
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      From Sur in English

      The Save Our Homes Axarquía (SOHA) association is demanding that the Junta
      de Andalucía form locally-based task forces involving the property owners
      themselves to find a solution to the ongoing problem of “illegal” homes in
      the eastern region of Malaga province.

      “At the moment the Town Halls and the Junta are working towards a solution,
      or they tell us they are, but those with the most to lose – us – are not
      asked to participate in the process,” says SOHA President, Philip Smalley.
      “We should be involved.”

      SOHA is formed by a group of homeowners, many of whom are foreign nationals,
      whose properties in the Axarquía countryside have been deemed illegal. Many
      having put their life savings into these properties and the members have no
      intention of letting them go without a fight.

      “We had started in a small way when the first letters went out from the
      Viñuela Town Hall advising us that the Junta de Andalucía was impugning the
      licenses issued to us and that the Town Hall was not defending the action,”
      explains Smalley, whose own house in Viñuela has been declared “illegal.”

      “The main concern is that whilst our licenses are being disputed or already
      annulled our homes are worthless and the threat of demolition is like the
      Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.”

      In Axarquía alone there are thought to be more than 10,000 properties which
      have been built on rural or farming land, where construction is forbidden.
      In total, SOHA estimates that in Andalucía as a whole there could be as many
      as 300,000 illegal buildings.

      The Junta de Andalucía should know when all new homes are built because
      unless they do, the building licences signed-off by the Town Halls are
      invalid. Over the last few years the regional government has declared
      thousands of homes illegal, and have ordered some to be demolished.

      It has emerged that out of the 31 municipalities in Axarquía, only 14 have
      completed an inventory of buildings located on ‘non-developable land’ for
      the Junta de Andalucía. This inventory is a fundamental tool to decide the
      future of each property on a case by case basis. The Junta has stated that
      the remaining municipalities have six months before they will close the
      window for reviews and the General Territorial Plan (PGOU) will be formally
      adopted.

      Amongst those municipalities who are yet to complete this study are
      Alfarnate Almáchar, Árchez, Benamargosa, El Borge, Canillas de Albaida,
      Cómpeta, Cútar, Macharaviaya, Salares, Sedella, Arenas, Canillas de
      Aceituno, Comares, Iznate and Moclinejo.

      “The Junta says it is helping the small towns of the Axarquía to formulate a
      new PGOU which will have the effect of legalising many of the “illegal
      houses” whilst also doing inspections of the “illegal” houses to see which
      might be made legal within the current law. Whilst the Town Halls of the
      Axarquia are working with the regional government, Viñuela has been
      obstructive in trying to force through a PGOU that the Junta de Andalucía
      was unhappy with. This went to the Supreme Tribunal in Madrid where I
      believe the Town Hall lost its case.”

      Action

      The recent calls for task groups to be created involving homeowners is the
      latest step in a long battle. In March more than a thousand foreign
      residents took to the streets in Malaga to defend their homes’ legal status
      and to avoid their demolition.

      “We have no ambition other than to save our homes – homes for which we were
      issued licences and paid taxes. We have no alliances with any external group
      or political party.

      “Our numbers soared when the Priors had their house in Almeria demolished –
      this seemed to concentrate peoples’ minds!” confirms Philip Smalley.

      He refers to the case of Helen and Len Prior whose home was demolished in
      2008 by the regional government, five years after they moved in. The Priors
      had received warnings that their home had been built illegally, but they had
      appealed against the decision and were waiting for it to be heard in a court
      in Madrid.

      The regional government acted before their case was heard and gave the
      Priors just a few hours to move their belongings.

      Associations

      SOHA is just one of the many organisations representing owners of homes
      declared illegal. ‘Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No’ (AUAN) and Defender
      Nuestras Viviendas are another two, dedicated to resolving the situation
      which according to Smalley is both financially and emotionally draining.

      “Some of our members have developed health problems from the stress that
      they are living under. In the Almanzora valley this stress is aggravated by
      the fact that the authorities have cut off electricity and water to the
      properties.”

      Hundreds of expatriates and Spanish nationals alike are facing the
      demolition of their homes after thousands of building licences were deemed
      illegal in Almanzora.

      The permissions, which were issued for homes built in 2003, have now been
      declared null and void. It is claimed that the Town Hall, was not authorised
      to consolidate the PGOU but decided to forge ahead and issue licences to
      build the homes, half of which are owned by foreigners.

      Hope

      However, there are suggestions that there may be a glimmer of hope in the
      case of Almanzora. It is believed the Junta de Andalucía will approve the
      latest Town Hall PGOU meaning that many of the homes will be legalised.

      Similarly, Smalley adds: “It is interesting that the Parliament of
      Extremadura (PP and PSOE together) has voted to declare an amnesty and
      legalise all the houses that were built illegally but in good faith.

      But until that happens in Axarquía, Philip Smalley says the campaign will
      continue.

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