Wednesday, January 06, 2010

A Potted Version of Events

The story starts with Helen and Len Prior whose house was demolished (in front of cameras) on Jan 9th 2008. They were an ordinary retired couple who had built a house - with all legal papers (at least, apparently) like so many others who have moved from the inhospitable north of Europe to live in Southern Spain. Their house was demolished, against the instructions and wishes of the town hall of Vera, Almería and a large local demonstration was held in Vera shortly thereafter, supported by both foreigners and local people.
Another demonstration, this time in an interior and moribund town called Cantoria was held in September 2008 against the declaration by the Junta de Andalucía's local gauleiter of 'viviendas ilegales' in that town. An ITV crew made a film - 'Paradise Lost' which is on YouTube (plus a second version dubbed into Spanish) - which highlighted the demo. Spain's reputation, on the back of this and other tv shows, plus ample press reports, takes a dive. The situation is not mentioned or covered at all in Spain (except by local town radios or small papers). The damage to the economy of the area is not discussed.
A few months later (Jan 9th 2009, the first anniversary of the outrage against the Priors), a large demo was held in Almeria City. The Brits, generally retired, came out and demonstrated. I used the image at the time of 'carpet-slippers and walking sticks... some of the demonstrators stopping for a pee or a beer along the route'.
The Junta de Andalucía is by now talking about '11,000' illegal homes in Eastern Almeria (and tens of thousands more in the rest of the autonomy). In Valencia, other related problems are being publicised abroad - in particular the 'Land Grab' which brings various MEPs to the area and later forms the basis of 'The Auken Report' which slams the Spanish state in Brussels.
Over Christmas, eight more houses are served with final demolition orders - this time in Albox. The families are all Brits and, apparently, are unaware of the paperwork which the town hall has been holding since September. We then hear that another house is to be demolished on January 12th, next to the Priors in Vera. The local Brit property owners association calls for a candle-lit vigil for the Priors on their 2nd anniversary (they have been living in their garage,which escaped the demolition, for the past two years) and a fresh and larger demo for 11th January once again in Almeria City.

The damage to Spain's reputation abroad is huge. Stories of tens of thousands of 'illegal homes' belonging to Britons in Spain is hardly going to stimulate the arrival of home-buyers. The shattered Almería economy (30% unemployment) desperately needs a reversal of this situation and the home-owners need to feel protected. The Andalucian government must create an agency to inform, advise, protect and defend the foreign home-makers, because it is in their interest to do so.
As we all know only to well, even those of us whose homes are legal and not under threat, not in the path of another road, railway or hospital complex and nowhere near the ever-increasing distance from the sea in the retroactive 'ley de costas', there is no talk of compensation, no Rule of Law and no comeback on the promoters, builders or politicians.

See for updates, and this site for full history of events.

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