Expats hope to avoid wrecking ball by appeal to European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg following rejections from Spanish legal system.
Photo: Jane Mingay
11:08AM GMT 10 Jan 2013
A retired British couple who were told their Spanish home would be bulldozed are to take their case to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The pair, who are originally from Yorkshire but do not wish to be named, paid around £120,000 to have their dream home built in Albox, in Andalucia in southern Spain. The house was completed in 2001.
But in 2009 they were among a dozen Albox homeowners issued with demolition orders after the regional government deemed them to have been built on non-urban land. This was despite the fact the original planning licences were granted by the town hall.
The couple, both in their 60s, have since been fighting the order via the Spanish courts but their latest appeal was rejected by the TSJA, Andalucia’s highest court, in November 2012.
They are now preparing take the case to Strasbourg, with the support of expat-run campaign groups AUAN and SOHA, who together represent over a thousand homeowners in the Almanzora Valley and in the Axarquia, Malaga province.
“We feel there is no other option,” said AUAN president Maura Hillen. “The husband is not in good health and they are weary and stressed out with the whole situation.”
She added: “There must be no more demolitions without prior compensation.”
“In the case of Helen and Len Prior (whose house was flattened in 2008 and who have since been living in a garage) the highest court in Spain deliberated for two years over whether or not their property should be demolished.”
Mrs Hillen explained the unnamed couple’s case would focus on the right to property guarantee laid out in the European Convention of Human Rights, which she said sadly "holds little sway in the Spanish judicial system".
“This is a David and Goliath struggle. This is not just about one couple or one case. It is about the fundamental principle that a person who acted in good faith should not be deprived of their home without prior compensation as a result of the action or inaction of the Spanish state. If this couple wins, we all win.”
There are estimated to be over 12,000 illegal homes in the Almanzora Valley alone, 11,000 in the Axarquia and up to 300,000 across the whole of Andalucia.
“We hope to bring other cases into the courts also to demonstrate a pattern of problems with the same root cause,” she said, adding that AUAN had at least one more case in the wings, with others nearing the final appeals process in Spain and "hundreds in the lower courts".
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