Saturday, May 30, 2009

Round Table on Property Abuse

A meeting was held today at the Best Hotel in Mojácar to discuss the 'illegal homes', 'land grab', town hall corruption and other ills as described in the Auken Report (recently approved in the European parliament in Brussels). Around 450 people came, almost all British property owners from various areas including Albox and Cantoria in the Almerian interior, as well as some groups from Murcia, Alicante, the Axarquía and the Costa del Sol.
The Greens (Grupo Ecologista del Mediterraneo) were also at the meeting - bravely putting up with and answering some tricky questions. Star guests were David Hammerstein (MEP) who explained the power of the European Parliament and Commission and Sean O'Curneen CDL head-of-list candidate and expat.
Who spoke very elegantly.
The meeting was organised by the AULAN with the AUN (Anti-Abusos - ¡No!) who had brought several Euro-MPs over to Spain in the past (Michael Cashman et al) because of the property fraud problems which have done much to trash Spain's reputation abroad. The AUN representative was Jacqueline Cotterill who is deputy mayor of a town in Alicante and Nº 4 on the list of the CDL.
The Priors (whose home was bulldozed down in January 2008 and have been living in a garage ever since) were also present.
They have lots of spare time now.
Some other groups to mention: the Ecologístas en Acción, Citizens Advocacy, Cantoria Residents Association, SOHA, AVEP and the Camposol Residents Association.
Various serious speakers, including Helen Baker (AUAN - the group based around Albox) and Concha Arraez (Levante Sostenible from Bédar) and the irrepressible Christine Fergusson from the Floor discussed the problems regarding the lack of a sensible reaction and policy from the authorities about the huge numbers of (wealthy) Northern Europeans who have decided to live here, and how much this must be costing Spain. The 'Decalogue' - a list of ten demands to the Spanish authorities regarding the rights of home-owners - was also presented and discussed by the different groups. It was agreed that a working party would be constituted between the various groups to work on the Decalogue and approve the final version of the same.
I closed the session with remarks about how the Spanish don't need to attend this kind of meeting (almost no one showed) as they know all about us foreigners from reading El País. For example, we Brits like to buy illegal houses and save a few bob. For example, we all want to go home to England where we have our empty houses waiting for us. For example, there are 330,000 Brits living in Spain (the Foreign Office reckons 750,000 to one million). Indeed, if you want to know about the phenomenon of the two million Northern Europeans living in Spain (for some reason known as 'turísmo residencial'), you don't need to ask any extranjero since we, of course, wouldn't have any idea.
Just read El País.
Thanks to all who attended, and to Alan Sykes who handed four different microphones without missing a beat.
Exciting times.

Pictures by John Bowling.

Press Release from AULAN.


This Saturday a large meeting took place in Mojacar organized by the association campaigning against urban abuses known as "Abusos Urbanísticos Almeriense Levante - No!" (AULAN). The Auken report (which harshly criticised urban and environmental abuse affecting the province of Almeria and other parts of Spain) was discussed in a roundtable meeting between the environmentalists and associations of affected foreigners. Some 500 people from the different municipalities of Almeria attended, including those from the Valle del Almanzora and Levante Almeriense.

Special guest was David Hammerstein Green Party MEP and member of the Petitions Committee of the European Parliament, known for his interventions in Europe in favour of an investigation into urban and environmental issues in Spain. The Auken report was prepared and approved by the aforementioned committee, and was subsequently approved by the European Parliament by an overwhelming majority, despite opposition from the MEP of the PSOE and the PP. The report was harshly critical of Spanish urban planning and even proposed the freezing of structural funds for Spain.

At the roundtable were representatives of Ecologists in Action; the AUAN, an association known for their efforts in support of urban regularisation in the Almanzora Valley; AUN from Valencia, represented by Jacqui Cotteril, a member of Parcent town council; Levante Sostenible from Bedar and the AULAN.

In the audience there were also representative from groups in Almeria: Cantoria Residents Association; AVEP from Bedar; SOHA and Citizens Advocacy from Malaga and Camposol Residents Association from Murcia.

Sean O’Curneen Cañas, European election candidate and head of the list for the Centro Democrático Liberal (CDL) spoke at the end of the meeting.

After an Exchange of views the participants were in broad agreement on the following points, based to a large part on the Auken report:

1. COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATION: A national commission of investigation be established, with representatives of the administration and citizens’ groups (including those for the protection of homeowners’ rights and the ecologists), to investigate the existing grave planning and environmental problems, to draw up a report on the causes of said problems and their possible solutions, as well as recommendations for the future.

2. ARBITRATION: The creation of a special administrative commission that includes a provincial public ombudsman, advised by independent investigation services, including representatives from the administration and from citizens’ groups (including those for the defence of individual property owners and ecology groups), and with arbitration powers in relation to disputes concerning these problems, available to affected parties free of charge.

3. RESPONSIBILITY: The liability of developers, the administration and pertinent third parties, for having given rise to the grave planning and environmental problems which exist, must be made enforceable and real. Any process of regularisation should, as far as possible, include binding agreements (including adequate guarantees) between those who have caused the irregularities and the administration, and these must include the opportune measures so that those who caused the irregularities compensate for the damage caused.

4. PRINCIPLES TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT: The following principles should be recognized and reflected in urban law.

In urban development priority must be given to the true needs of the cities and towns affected, sustainability from an environmental point of view and the need to preserve the historical and cultural identity of the affected areas.

The need for full compliance with community law and fundamental rights, including the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

In the case of demolition of property acquired in good faith by citizens real, effective and prior compensation must be guaranteed. Such compensation must be made prior to any loss and at proper rates and conforming to the case law of the Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights.

The legitimate right of purchasers to property acquired legally must be recognised and criteria established for the application of Art. 33 of the Spanish Constitution with respect to public and social interest in order to prevent and prohibit the infringement of people’s property rights by decisions of local and regional authorities;

5. TRANSPARENCY AND PARTICIPATION: Notice of any planning or environmental proceedings should be communicated individually to all those affected, directly or indirectly; as well as publicised widely; publication in the relevant Bulletins not being sufficient. The possibility of electronic access (Internet) to planning and environmental documents in the process of being approved or approved be ensured. Information in the Cadastral and Land Registry must coincide, and the Land Registry must include graphical information. It must be ensured that the information on the land registry includes information about the status of the property with respect to urban regulations as well as environmental and cultural restrictions or similar.

6. JUDICIAL SYSTEM: There is an urgent need to reform the judicial system to avoid the lack of effective rights before the courts; shortening of the real length of proceedings; computerizing and providing adequate resources.

7. ESTATE AGENTS: Should 1) be licensed or have passed an examination of sufficient knowledge and capacity; 2) have adequate insurance to cover all civil liabilities; 3) be clearly regulated in their activities.

8. PROMOTERS & CONSTRUCTORS: These must be subject to bonds, guarantees or insurance to cover possible liabilities to third parties (including to buyers), and to the administration; for possible planning or environmental breaches or infractions; and proof that such guarantees are in place must be a pre-requisite to present and manage any planning instrument.

9. PROTOCOL: An obligatory protocol for the buying and selling of real estate should be established for the benefit of the consumer, setting out the precise steps and standardised procedures , similar to those in other EU member states (for example the United Kingdom).

They (the participants) agreed to establish a working group, to establish the final version of a Decalogue of measures required to solve the problems that have occurred and to ensure that they do not happen again.

Mojácar, 30 Mayo 2009

1 comment:

Troy said...

Good news, but good luck...

Unless Super Garzon gets interested (unlikely as the PSOE are as guilty as the men with slicked back hair), nothing will be done about it.

While nothing like what happens on the coast, here in lost Extremadura we have a case of 500 homes that were built in a protected area. The PSOE gave it the green light and even though the Supremo has ruled that they are illegal, there they still stand. Nary a foreigner amongst the 500 I should add.

The only party making noise about it? The PSOE? Fat chance, they gave it the go ahead. The guys with slicked back hair? Nope...IU is the only party demanding that something be done. Food for thought come Sunday's EU elections.