Pensioners stop Murcia urban plans

LAST UPDATED: 26 Nov, 2007 @ 10:03
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Pensioners stop Murcia urban plansCourt suspends road construction after octogenarians win land grab appeal

PEDRO CAMACHO looks on victoriously. “If they have to knock down my house then so be it. But they have to give me a similar place to live. I am not going to an apartment. Not at my age,” he says.

Since 1946, Pedro, 89, has lived in this modest house with his 84-year-old wife, Violante Pardo.

Their home lies in the middle of Murcia’s fertile vega of fruit trees that surrounds the city. Here for 60 years, the couple have raised a family, tended to the land and reared rabbits to sell in the local markets.

The problem is that the house also lies in the middle of a planned six-lane super highway that is intended to take Murcia’s thousands of new residents into the heart of the city.

Work has already begun on the Avenida Miguel Induráin. Thousands of fruit trees have been felled and the ground levelled.
However, all work stops at the little pink house of Pedro and Violante.

On April 26, 2006, the City Hall of Murcia approved huge scale urban plans for the city’s huerta.

To make way for the new network of road and apartment blocks, hundreds of homes in the vega were expropriated and the owners moved on.

But the councillors and developers never reckoned on Pedro and Violante, who flat refused the 164,000 euros offered for the 300 square metres of home and land – a huge increase on the 500 pesetas Pedro paid in 1946.

“They told us we would be better off in a flat. But here I enjoy the sun and am at peace. We are people of the land and want to continue being so,” Pedro said.

For 18 months, the couple, who have been married for more than 60 years, were expected to rent a flat in the centre of Murcia until specially-built apartments for those displaced by the land grab were built.

However, the couple had other ideas. Calling in environment lawyer Eduardo Salazar, they refused to budge.

“All we ever wanted was a similar house and not to be forced to live out our days in an apartment block,” Violante explains.

Matters came to a head on May 10 this year. Two council representatives called in person at the elderly couple’s pink home. With them they had a council order giving Pedro and Violante five days to voluntarily vacate their home or, in their 80s, face a forced eviction.

Their lawyer, who also represents green group Ecologistas en Accion, lodged an appeal, which was to be heard by judge Juan González Rodríguez. Although the machines of construction moved ever closer to their home, the couple had a reprieve.

The appeal was heard early this month as the wrecking balls were about to demolish the couple’s home.

Citing the negative effects on the elderly couple’s health, the kind-hearted judge ruled in favour of Pedro and Violante.

All work on the avenue must immediately stop until a similar house is found for the pair, González Rodríguez concluded.

The ruling, which will be appealed by the City Hall, has been welcomed by the family of the elderly couple. Pedro and Violente’s eldest grandson, Javier Hernández Camacho, said: “We are all so happy at this decision. We feel justice has been done. What the council was preparing to do to my grandparents was unbelievable.”

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