UK couple have home demolished in Almeria

LAST UPDATED: 31 Mar, 2009 @ 07:53
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UK couple have home demolished in Almeria

Junta claim retirement villa built illegally on green-belt land

Andrew Lowrey in Vera

Len and Helen Prior stand on the site of their former dream home putting a brave face on the wreckage that regional politics and municipal corruption have made of their retirement.

Shortly after 3.30pm on January 9, the bulldozers turned up to demolish the Priors’ home, ironically called Tranquilidad (Tranquillity), just outside the Costa de Almería town of Vera.

Theirs was the first home to be pulled down in the area as a result of a crackdown on illegally built homes.

The Priors’ had bought the land in 2002 and – having secured all the necessary permits and permissions via the town hall – built their house in 2003.

All went well until May 2006 when they received notification from the regional government that the permissions had actually been awarded illegally and their 600,000-euro house could be demolished.

They immediately turned to local solicitor, Victor Muñoz and he engaged a litigation specialist in Madrid to fight the case.
As far as the Priors were aware, the case was currently proceeding through the courts.

But on December 16, 2007, they received another letter from the Junta de Andalucía informing them that the case had been heard; and demolition would take place on January 9.

No further appeals would be admitted.

At no point had the Priors, or their lawyers, been informed of the final hearing that decided the fate of their home.

The bulldozers duly arrived and the house was pulled down, making international news and sending yet more shockwaves around a region teetering on the edge of financial freefall.

There are six more homeowners in the town now expected to suffer the same fate.

The Priors are now living in a caravan loaned to them indefinitely by a local fairgound troupe.

They have been offered alterative accommodation by the town hall of Vera, but, for the time being at least, feel that they cannot leave their land as the outbuildings that remain contain all their worldly possessions.

Now, with the moral support of their neighbours, they are awaiting the outcome of a legal claim for compensation.

So far it is not clear if it is against the Junta, the municipality of Vera or the sellers of the land, upon which they insisted was permissible to build.

It has been a terrible experience for the two pensioners, originally from Berkshire, who moved to Spain to enjoy their retirement.

“We are still in shock,” Helen, 63, told the Olive Press this week. “I still cannot quite believe that they have done what they have done to us.”

Local campaigners believe there is a clear political element to the case.

One pressure group – Ciudadanos Europeos de Mojácar – believes the Priors have been caught in a political dispute between the socialist-led Junta and the town hall of Vera, led by the Partido Andalucista.

The group has now called for a demonstration on January 27 in support of the Priors and the other owners, who are a mix of Spanish, English and other foreign nationals.

A new committee has been set up to fight the other demolitions. One neighbour, Françoise Boulineau spoke of the shock felt by all the residents of the area.

“The general feeling is one of threat. Most people seem worried about their own homes.”

Friends Michael and Anna Sutton summed up the sympathy felt for the couple.

“It is beyond belief what has happened to them. If people who have done everything correctly can have their home destroyed then it can happen to anyone,” they told the Olive Press.

6 COMMENTS

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  1. When is the talking going to stop and the action start to stop us ex-pats being rip off in Spain,it’s about time the Spanish goverment got involed and started to take action, not tomorrow, tomorrow , they enjoy taking our taxes, ie IVA on the property, local taxes etc, so why don’t they try & sort it out don’t bulldose peoples properties.

  2. Its a free for all! keep the builders going and suppliers, keep the local economy running through it cafes etc and when its all finished take their land and start again. No! the Spanish dont want people their, they want tourists and their cash .I livid in benidorm for 3 years and know folks who are waiting for the bulldozer to arrive. The Spanish are corrupt beyond belief and Manana manana! is a lie. also the siesta is taken not to sleep and rest but ,to lie and think how they can get their grubby little paws on the cash from the expats.Dont thrust a spaniard rule 1 rule 2 never thrust a lawyer.3.never thrust an estate agent they will tell you only what you want to hear.and the big rule never buy land or property in spain

  3. From the fotograph I see that only part of the house has bee demolished. I presume that this was the original building. The site was 12000 m2, while they needed 30000 m2, and the fact that the Architect has not been mentioned in this matter seems to suggest that they failed to employ a legally qualified Person to design and build the extension. In other words they were ill advised, and as a result are paying for their ignorance. Or they tried to do it on the cheap and have ben caught.

  4. It is sad to hear that and see the terribe situation in which Britons are. Spain is as corrupted as UK. Britons were to Spain to show off with their strong pound, knowing nothing about Spain, the language, the culture. They are retire people, I wonder how they manage to go to the doctor’s when they are ill, I cannot understand. However many qualified Spaniard came to the UK with acceptable knowledge of Engilsh language and are systematically rejected in most of cases. EU/Spaniards qualified teacher with Qualified teacher status are rejected and employing non EU graduates( iligally). They have been given crap jobs to do, making rubbish money and abused. If Britons want to live in Spain, they must learn Spanish and spend their money in language courses, as I did/my dad paid for it.Years and years learning, secondly understand the culture and third, the ardous job to understand a Spanish lawyer…
    Well it is very sad to see the beautiful Spain full of horrible houses built to satify the pride of super posh civilise britons, thinking they are rich, with a strong pound and cheap peseta. The peseta time is over. The new generation of Spaniards can speak more than one language, and are by far more strict. If the houses in the costas are distroying Spain, then they must be demolished.
    Britons are rich people, why they bother, they don’t need to learn another language…

  5. Maria,

    I challenge you to come up with a single example of a totally legal home in the UK being subsequently declared illegal by the local government and bulldozed, because that is what is being described in the article above.

    As for Spaniards being systematically rejected from jobs in the UK – and abused? What proof to you have apart from presumably your own personal experience? I don’t believe for a minute that illegal immigrants are getting all the jobs in the UK (instead of apparently well qualified Spaniards). What proof do you have of that. That is just an absurd statement. I know of many Spaniards who have managed to get perfectly decent jobs in the UK.

    The British have as much right to live in Spain as any Spaniard (or any other EU national for that matter). They are also under absolutely no obligation to learn the language or culture, although that is a sensible thing to do. What Brits, other EU nationals and the Spanish are all entitled to in Spain is the protection of the law and justice. This is patently not happening in many cases.

    Why should only the British be to blame for the cement necklace with stretches around most of the Spanish coast? They were only buying what was on offer. Who built the properties? Spanish developers on the whole, egged on by mayors who were getting nice little kickbacks in many cases. You need to look a little closer to home if you want to play the blame game for a coastline destroyed.

    As for the new generation of Spaniards being good at languages. I’ve given up counting the number of times I see “Rape to the grill” on a menu. The fact is Spain and the UK are just as bad as each other when it comes to foreign language skills, and they are both at the bottom of the list.

    One final thing. Britons are not ALL rich, especially no t this one, and I have met a few very rich and pijo Spaniards (usually made money from property development)…

  6. Oh, how I agree with Justin R’s comments about the poor language learning skills of the Spanish (and their unfortunate menu translations!)
    As a former schools inspector I have had the mixed fortune to have observed hundreds of foreign language lessons in the UK, in Spain and in the Netherlands, so I have seen the problems that the first two countries have at first hand. The Netherlands is another matter altogether (see below).
    For readers of this forum who are interested in this topic I include excerpts and URLs from two articles of mine published recently in the press down here in Andalucia.
    First of all here is an excerpt from an article I had published in Olive Country Life magazine in June 2009, page 10 (http://www.alcala-life.com/EN2/index.php?option=com_rokdownloads&view=folder&Itemid=115&id=2:magazine)
    “It is an accepted fact back home that we are not good at learning foreign languages. According to Mike Baker, Education Correspondent of the Guardian, writing recently in that paper, ‘… when it comes to learning foreign languages, the UK is worryingly out of step with the rest of Europe. We have long been the language-learning dunces, but now we are slipping further behind.’ When new Europe-wide league tables about language learning competence in schools are published for the first time in 2012, the UK is expected to be in the relegation zone.
    Foreign language learning is most definitely in crisis in the UK – but it is not a healthy situation in Spain either. Despite the fact that from next September a foreign language will be compulsory from age three in Spanish schools there is still a huge problem here.
    Historically, poor relations between Spain and England meant that there was little interest in English in Spain until the middle of the last Century. During the 19th Century and the first half of the 20th the external language of communication for the Spanish was French. It was not until the inter-war period that the Spanish social elite began to show an interest in English language and culture. Another mistake that Spain has made and continues to make is that everything foreign is translated or dubbed into Spanish. There is no culture of subtitling, for example, foreign films and TV programmes, as in certain other countries, like the Netherlands.
    Since English is clearly the lingua franca of today, in other words the language of business, politics, technology, culture and the academic world, it is extremely important that the Spanish improve their English language skills. Globalisation has brought about the internationalisation of English and that will never change, despite the growth of Arabic, Chinese and, indeed, Spanish itself. A Spaniard without some knowledge of English will be less employable in the future than one who has and, as a nation, Spain has begun to realise that fact. But it will take time. In England, alas, the politicians have not yet realised that they need to act now to make learning a foreign language compulsory from primary school through to age 16, as is the case now in most other developed nations. The English have to realise that just because English is a world-wide language it does not mean that they do not need foreign language skills. As the late former German Chancellor Willi Brandt famously said: ‘If I am selling to you I’ll happily speak English, but if you are selling to me, dann müssen Sie Deutsch sprechen!’
    And here is an excerpt from an article published in SUR in English on 5 June 2009 in response to several other articles on the subject in preceeding weeks.(http://www.surinenglish.com/20090605/othersections/opinion/attitude-learner-200906051501.html)
    “First of all, the Spanish are as bad at languages as we are, possibly worse. But at least here in Spain, there is a political will to do something about it, unlike in the UK where successive secretaries of state for education have consistently undermined the position of language teaching and learning in English and Welsh schools (Scotland and Northern Ireland have different and, may I say, better policies and systems), to the extent that pupils can abandon a foreign language for good at the age of 14. As the rest of Europe goes forward in developing the quality and quantity of language teaching, the UK is going backwards, fast.
    In Spain it is now a requirement that a foreign language, usually English, is taught in all Spanish schools from the age of three. While this is admirable it will be some years before there are sufficient teachers competent to teach languages on such a grand scale. In Andalucia, the rise of the bilingual schools is to be marvelled at, although the supply of class teachers competent to teach their subject in a foreign language remains problematic.
    It is arguably true that the best linguists in Europe are the Dutch, and I have observed English teaching first-hand in Dutch schools. The teaching was no better or worse than the teaching I have observed in English schools over many years, but the attitude is different. As an eminent Dutch professor told me: ‘We are a small country which speaks a language that is pretty useless outside Holland. We are also a trading nation, so it is absolutely crucial that we speak other languages well.’
    Not only that, in the ‘grammar school’ stream in the Netherlands up to 40% of the curriculum is dedicated to languages. Compare that with England and Wales, where the science and maths lobbies ensure that their subjects dominate the secondary school curriculum at the expense of subjects like foreign languages, the humanities and the arts.
    The policy of subtitling rather than dubbing TV programmes and films is also significant. The exposure to English that the Dutch get through subtitling has a huge impact on their language learning. In Germany, Spain and the UK everything gets dubbed, and look at the effect that has had.
    When all is said and done, though, it’s not about the politics or the competence of teachers, it’s about the attitude of the learner. I think that Wittgenstein got it right: ‘The limits of my language are the limits of my world.'”

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