The first demolitions begin… “the first of many”, says prosecutor
THE wrecking balls have swung in.
The first of a series of planned demolitions finally went ahead in Cordoba over the holiday period.
The group of five illegal houses – each built without licences on rustic land – were bulldozed on orders from the Junta de Andalucia.
“It is the first, but there will be many more,” said the chief prosecutor for the province.
Meanwhile in both Granada and in Estepona demolition orders have now come a step closer.
And in Marbella and in El Palmar, Cadiz, hundreds of houses are expected to get the chop this year.
In Obeja, Cordoba, over 30 policemen were on hand to keep the angry residents away from their properties as the bulldozers moved in.
Grown men wept dusty tears, as their country retreats on the Pedrique urbanisation, in the heart of the Sierra Morena, were levelled to the ground.
An ambulance had to be called when one owner collapsed after suffering a panic attack.
It took two bulldozers only half a day to demolish the group of houses that number five of over 100 illegally built at Pedrique.
The residents belongings stood poignantly on their carefully clipped lawns as the diggers moved in.
One owner Antonio Moreno had moved here permanently after suffering depression following retirement.
“This situation has only made it considerably worse,” explained his wife Maria Moreno.
The case began when three years ago a promoter Francisco Otero sold the shells of the buildings to the five individuals.
What the buyers didn’t know was that Otero had never attempted to get planning permission “because he knew he would not get it”.
The case ended in court with Otero found guilty of both planning crimes and disobedience. In 2006 he was sentenced to a 20 months in prison and fined 2,500 euros.
He was also ordered to demolish the buildings at his own cost.
This week, the furious owners – who have begun proceedings against Otero – demanded to know why the town hall or local police had not advised them of the illegality of their homes.
“When he sold us the terrain he said the town hall was legalising the whole urbanisation, said Fernando Lora. “Why didn’t anyone come and tell us what might happen when we were finishing the houses.
“We are the victims of a completely unfair crime.”
A spokesman for environment group Ecologistas en Accion appauded the decision of the courts to order the demolition.
“They started building these homes in the 1970s in the Sierras above Cordoba. It has ruined the area and we salute the authorities for moving in.”
Around the province of Cordoba various other demolitions have been scheduled.
Apart from the other 100 homes at Pedrique, at Medina Azahara, UNESCO has demanded that 240 illegal houses built on highly protected land are knocked down.
At least one property in the area of Las Monjas in Puente Genil is expected to be demolished, while another at San Cristobal will be axed for “gravely destroying the countryside”.
The situation is similar in Granada where the town hall has just ordered the demolition of eight houses in an area of special protection known as Cantogrande, while another two have been ordered to be knocked down in Bobadilla and Serrallo.
They are some of over 40 houses ordered to be demolished in 2007 and owners have a month to appeal or submit and pay the town hall 600 euros to help fund the demolition.
In Cadiz the mayor of Vejer is hoping to legalise 280 houses that have been built without licences on the beach at El Palmer, but this still leaves over 1,000 illegal houses in the area.
In Malaga, the Prasa hotel on Estepona’s beachfront is expected to be knocked down imminently, with the coastal authorities having agreed to stump up the 1.2million euro bill.
At the same time the town hall has just ordered work to stop on 35 houses in the Padron area, which has never been designated as building land.
Marbella town hall is also likely to soon announce the demolition of dozens of buildings, including the infamous Banana Beach development built on green land and even Antonio Banderas luxury home La Gaviota built practically on the beach.
In total, there are more than 400 developments facing the axe in the town.
The President of the Marbella Management Committee, Diego Martin Reyes, has said he is worried about the situation, but that he was convinced that the firm sentence from the Andalucian Supreme Court ordering demolition should be carried out.
Meanwhile the Andalucian Ombudsman, Jose Chamizo has supported the demolition of 334 homes in a total of seven developments in Marbella.