Double Standards

LAST UPDATED: 16 May, 2009 @ 08:02
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Double Standards

While the nearby Priors home was knocked down, the Olive Press can reveal that this enormous 420m villa – owned by local politicians – was built with just a ‘renovation’ licence

THIS tasteless, four-storey monstrosity bears little resemblance to the classic white-washed Andalucian cortijo that once stood in its place.
Yet the 420 square metre mansion devoid of character was built using only a licence for its restoration.

NEW BUILD: The 'Travelodge' (right) was erected with just a renovation licence and is five times bigger then the original, says John Bull and wife Christine
NEW BUILD: The 'Travelodge' (right) was erected with just a renovation licence and is five times bigger then the original, says John Bull and wife Christine

Dwarfing the original size of less than  80metres squared, it is three stories higher and bears no similarities. It doesn’t even share its footprint.

But, the construction – dubbed the ‘Travelodge’ by angry locals – just so happens to be owned by an employee of the Junta of Andalucia and his wife, a Socialist PSOE councillor.

And this, of course, might explain why it has been allowed to stand while the tasteful home of Len and Helen Prior just 2 kilometres away was demolished in one fell swoop at the swish of a beaurocrat’s pen.

Built by Junta employee Alfonso Rodriguez, the harbour master in Garrucha, and his councillor wife Carmen Munoz, it has raised considerable anger among expatriates furious that the homes they have licences for may now have to be knocked down.

“It’s ridiculous that their property is the only one without a ‘denuncia’ from the Junta”

“It’s ridiculous that their property is the only one without a ‘denuncia’ from the Junta,” said John Bull, 67, a near neighbour, whose home is slated for demolition.

Built entirely legally, with a town hall licence, the former engineer for BOC is mystified. “It is one rule for one, one rule for another and quite skewiff.

“The Junta is clearly showing favouritism.”

The issue has now raised its head again after the High Court ruled that the Priors home Tranquilidad should not have been demolished after all (Demolished homeowners can rebuild their lives).

It has confirmed exactly what expatriates have been thinking since the Priors’ house was demolished in January;2008,  that the regional government is showing impartiality when it comes to deciding which properties are pulled down.

Helen Prior told the Olive Press: “It was a tiny cortijo and the licence they got was for a renovation and instead they have built a Travelodge.

Bigger

“We understand they didn’t even have the 10,000 metres needed to build. I have no idea how they got away with it. It is bizarre and unfair.”

The Olive Press can reveal that the 100-year-old cortijo was demolished to build the 420-square metre, four-storey mansion in Loma de Vera.

But, as confirmed by Vera council, it only had a licence as a renovation. According to the law on the restoration of a ruin, any new structure has to be built over the ‘footprint’ of the original building.

Yet the mansion was built more than 15 metres away from where the original cortijo stood and bears no similarity in style.

Although by law a larger construction can be built over the site of an original ruin, it is still required to comply with strict guidelines.

According to its owner Sr Rodriguez, the original cortijo was 135 square metres in size. He said the law allowed him to build a property with ground floor dimensions of up to 25 per cent greater than the original dimensions – in this case 175 square metres.

But John Bull, whose property 100 metres away is earmarked for demolition, said the original cortijo was far smaller.

His views are supported by official land registry (catastral) records, which show that the structure officially measured less than 80 square metres.

Vera’s councillor for urban planning, Paco Vázquez, expressed surprise at the Olive Press findings. He said: “The project presented was for a restoration and they should have built over the existing area.”

The revelation will do little to reassure Loma de Vera’s expat community – or indeed the thousands of Brits living in Andalucia who have a demolition order hanging over them – that the Junta is acting even-handedly in the matter.

Another local Angela Willis, who lives opposite the ‘Travelodge’, received the unwelcome news last year that the Junta had presented an unfavourable report about her property.

It is the same procedure which set the wheels in motion for the demolition of the Priors’ home some five years ago.

An aggrieved Mrs Willis said: “It’s not sour grapes, and personally I get on well with the owners, but I am angry that our mayor Félix López was still signing permits in October 2003 despite knowing that there were discrepancies here.”

Earlier this month Lopez was due in court on bribary charges after a developer came forward alleging that payments in excess of 600,000 euros were made by his company Dico to Vera Council to obtain approvals of suspect land reclassifications.

But despite the fact that Lopez could go to prison, a combative Mrs Willis said she still wanted to stay. “If they accepted our taxes I’m entitled to be here,” she insisted.

35 COMMENTS

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  1. this confirms it 100 per cent… the Junta has dual standards.
    well done to mr bull, the priors and angela willis for standing up and pointing this MONSTROUS miscarriage of justice out to the media.
    finally people are standing up and being counted. it is the only way this fine country will ever become a modern democracy.
    roll on the Auken report and operation malaya!

    geoff thompson
    marbella

  2. Geoff Thompson is absolutely correct and it is MAINLY IN ANDALUCIA that you get these problems. For example if you are in Galicia and you attempt to build illegaly as soon as whatever you are erecting is seen the Council assisted by the Police IMMEDIATELY put an order stopping any further building going ahead. The builder and owner are arrested and a court date is set. When found guilty an enormous fine is levied and sometimes imprisonment also. Hence the offence is almost non-existent.In Andalucia,as Operation Malaya just for one example has shown the more money you have the more people you can bribe, Police Chiefs, Judges, anyone?

  3. Fred, the problem with that is that the judicial system is so constipated, it will take years to come to a definitive decision – half the people involved will be dead by then. Even if it does come to court soon(ish) the judge can decide that it is indeed illegal…..then after an appeal six months or so later by the owners of the “Travelodge” the very same judge can change his mind and declare the dwelling to be legal!

    Look at Endesa case in Los Gallados/Mojacar……Just ask Astrid (the vet in Mojacar) about it!

  4. Surely if enough people filed a denuncia against this “house” it would start a formal enquiry. Then possibly even the complacent authorities would be embarrassed into taking action.

    John Mullany
    Torrox

  5. I don’t think “embarrassed” and “council authorities” are words which you will find in the same sentence.

    We were forced (after trying many times to resolve things amicably) to file a denuncia against a neighbour.

    The council confirmed that the neighbour had broken the law (building a shed on our land) escrituras were consulted, boundaries were checked by the town hall and a demolition order was served onto our neighbour.

    3 years later, it’s still standing, the neighbour has returned to the UK and the town hall are still sending the local police once every 3 months to see if the shed is still standing, even though they know the neighbours are in the UK.

    They will not demolish the shed as they say the owners must be present.

  6. As a British couple, we purchased a house in one of the Lecrin villages 2 years ago for a holiday home with a view to moving out to Spain once we retired. The terrace roof needs repairing as it is leaking and damaging the internal ceiling and contents. We have had a quote through a reputable local estate agent for the work to be carried out by a local spanish tradesman and have signed a contract of works to support this transaction, which we understand protects both parties. Naturally an addition fee has been charged for the project management which will be conducted by the agent. All costs are above board(visible) and subject to VAT as a legitimate invoice will be issued for the work. We are now being told that the local council are looking to us for an additional 450 euros for a license to conduct these repairs. Whilst being morally outraged, I am having a problem understanding why we need to pay this additional fee (tax) for repairing & making good our property.Nothing is being knocked down or enhanced in any way to the original plans of the house.

    I would be interested to know if anyone has had a similiar experience and whether there are grounds to refute these rediculous charges.

  7. Trevor, in my village a friend was fined 500 euros just for re-painting his cortijo! It seems you need a license in this area to do such a simple task.

    If you live in Spain you have to simply be aware that the local authorities are mostly all corrupt and will charge and fine you at any opportunity to make few bucks. You have to pay this fee because Spain is run like the Wild West. If that upsets any natives then so be it – your country is a mess with regards to planning law, and the EU agree.

    Spain makes up its own rules as it goes along. If I were you I would take a lawyers advice, which may even be free for the first hour, and then serve the ayuntiamento with a denuncia since this fee sounds totally ridiculous. Don’t let them get away with it.

    Btw, a local would not have applied for a license; they would have just done the repair and told noone. You should have done that too probably… I would.

  8. Thanks very much for your reply Fred and whilst it would appear that we cannot change the situation currently, it’s comforting to now that we are not being singled out and that this is a broader issue in Spain, conspiracy theory as to Foreign investors being target, aside. We have a trusted local solicitor on board who is suggesting that we go with the flow to cover ourselves and avoid any penalies later down the road.Digging deeper into my pockets as I type.Hey Ho.

  9. Trevor, any kind of work needs permission from the council and requires the payment of a tax (based on the cost of the works). Strictly speaking you should even get an “obra menor” to paint an internal wall. I know of a company in my town who were caught out on that once. Spruced up their entertainment facilities and loos with a coat of paint for an official visit from the mayor, but did not get a license. Mayor clocked that “work” had been done so followed up. Next thing they had a fine!

  10. An obra menor is not required in all cases; it depends on the local authority. This is the madness in Spain; the “law” is just applied randomly and is simply designed to ensnare honest people into paying more fines. I have never met a local who ever applied for a obra menor to paint their property! Some entire towns repaint their houses annually, so a law for one and a law for another. In fact, another stupid law implemented by stupid people (IMHO).

    Who would not agree that it is stupid to pay a tax for painting a wall! Anyone? Pedro? Jorge? Thought so.

  11. This is a very interesting thread, and, I must agree, very frustrating. Some years ago I did some minor works, obra menor. I was given a list of “activities” that required a license and the payment of a fee amounting to four per cent of the cost of the work. The list included some activities that I felt were “taking the p***”, like tiling a floor or a wall, but painting was not one of them and nor were repairs. Furthermore, when I indicated to the town hall official that the cost of my minor works would be minimal, as I was doing the work myself, he didn’t understand the concept of DIY. As a result, nothing further was said or done about a licence or a fee!
    I don’t often agree with Fred, but on this occasion I think he’s right and we should just get on and do things as discreetly as possible. After all, when in Rome …
    If you still have a problem with this, Trevor, why not try and get hold of the list of what is chargeable.
    If you need support, use the local Foreigner’s Department, if your council has one. I don’t know where you live, but another option for help and advice might be the FOREIGN EXCHANGE (Lauren White on 958 417 621) or THIS IS REAL SPAIN.COM (Brian Dolan on 953 584 711). Good luck!

  12. In future, we will not bother to do things legally, but will get away with whatever we can.

    I certainly won’t be applying for permission to tile my bathroom or paint the inside of my house (or the outside come to that, unless I was thinking of changing the existing colour)

    When my neighbours have built illegally (and in some cases they have been issued with a demolition order) nothing has actually been demolished.

    It’s one rule for them and another for us, or so it appears.

  13. IMPORTANT MEETING IN MOJACAR 30TH MAY 2009

    A meeting is taking place in Mojacar between Urban Abuse organisations and the Ecologists in Mojacar on Saturday 30th May, starts at 11.00am in the Hotel Best. Maximum of 300 seats, so get there early.

    It is being organised by the AUN, AUAN and the AULAN.

    The objective is to find common ground between the organisations and a way to move forward in light of the Auken report.

    At the moment the ecologists are very much against wholescale legalisation of houses. This meeting is intended to show the human aspect of the situation, and to find a way to work together.

    A large turnout will impress upon the ecologists just how many people are affected. (The Priors wil be there)

    If you have an illegal house, you need to be there. Even if you don´t have an illegal house, you will be very welcome.

    Should you require further details, please contact me.

    The Best Mojacar Hotel is on the Playa:

    AVDA. COSTA DE LEVANTE, S/N
    URB.MARINA DE LA TORRE, 04638 MOJACAR, Spain
    +34 902 223 329

    for a map, just type in Best Hotel Mojacar into your search engine.

  14. Dear All Respondents
    RE:Repair Tax(Obra Menor)thread,
    What fantastic advice…and spot analogies and observations of how the Brits and other foreign types are being targeted…thank you so much! I am currently following up this situation with the all those parties mentioned in your posts and hope to clarify this situation shortly.

    This is a Fab Forum…may it continue… (wonder if it get monitored by the Spanish Big Brother?)

  15. Yeah, Trevor, bit of a worry that! However, we’re all anonymous in this forum (aren’t we, ed?), so I guess it’s all OK.
    As a point of interest, when I suggested to my very respectable Spanish lawyer last year that maybe I should offer to pay unpaid taxes from earlier years, he told me not to bother, just pay from now on, as Hacienda doesn’t have the resources to go back in time – they can barely cope with the current.
    Oh, well… Plus ca change, eh?

  16. Juan Bau (or whoever you really are) your juvenile sentiments in an effort to bate our participants are not welcome on this website. With 20% unemployment in Spain alone which is one of the highest in europe and your economy suffering like the rest of us, I would have thought you would have more focus elsewhere. We’ll continue to underpin your economy with our financial contributions to investment and labour in the vain hope that it will be respected one-day….Take your hot air comments and stand under a wind turbine somewhere to be constructive!

  17. Juan, we’ll stay and use this thing called the EU to make Spain comply. We have a perfect right to be here. I see your politicians visited Gibralter today; how things change lol. As Trevor rightly says, you need us expats to recover your country from financial oblivion. Those Spanish rules of yours (or “nonsense”, as we like to refer to them) are really doing your country a lot of good are they Juan?

  18. Hi Fred et al,

    I’m convinced that ‘El-Bau’s’ post above is a trojan spoof, planted to stimulate emotional negative feedback from us, maybe in an effort to close this site should it reach ‘a’ level. My reasoning for believing this is that the Spanish would never own up to having ‘lack of rules’, in such a public arena, perception or otherwise, after all they are proud of their heritage and political protocol and why not indeed. We respect that …just don’t understand it which is our democratic EU prerogative, hey. The other flaw in the statement made is that the spanish would never refer to the French in the same sentence let alone to paint a foreign scenario….to feed back to us….don’t anyone waste any more time on this prankster…there are real issues and pains that our readers need support with…keep up the good work…..

  19. Perhaps the nonsense Fred and others refer to would become more sense when just the first Expat living in Spain makes the supreme, extraordinary, heroic effort to speak and understand more than five words of Spanish language. Come on, we know you can do it, if you try.

  20. make all the comments that you wish. but why are the english so convinced that they are welcomed wherever they go? if you have been cheated here in spain, then leave. i do not see any outcry from the spanish population regarding your plight… trevor and fred, you are both so wise… perhaps you should leave spain and assist your country with all its problems?? it is a shame you both are wasting your collective talents in small, backward, uneducated spain…

  21. Yawn…you still here?

    You are right about one thing El-Bau, we will make all the comments we wish as this is a British site set up for the British to air our frustrations, pains and indeed successes in navigating our way through your archaic political processes. So in doing a full 360, your negative and invalid comments are not welcome here…they serve no purpose and they are boring…..bye, bye

  22. Dear Trevor. Just today (Friday 24 July) you said, “your negative and invalid comments are not welcome here”. I think you made a similar statement a few days ago.

    Maybe I missed something. But have you had bestowed upon you some kind of authority to represent and comment on behalf of all the readers and contributors of this forum?

    Whether I, or in fact anyone else other than you, consider Juan Bau’s comments to be welcome or not, please do not assume that you speak for anyone else other than yourself.

    Regards
    Koba

  23. Fair-Do’s Koba, I’ll take that one on the chin….

    I and members in the same village (who incidentally I speak for) have found this site to be very useful in terms of the problems that we experienced recently and it was reasuring to know that we were not alone and that the useful advise offered from other members in this forum resulted in multiple positive outcomes.So naturally we were quite affronted that such a personal attack on the Brits abroad had been made so publically on this site and by a party that has not been in any of the previous threads.

    Clearly as you do not feel the same, It would appear then that the character has served their purpose by planting a divide between regional subscribers. As I haven’t seen a posted response from you re. El-Bau’s comments I and the rest of the village would be interested to know which part of his/her communications you have found useful?

  24. Dear Trevor, I haven’t found any of Juan Bau’s comments useful and nor do I, personally, agree with them. But I’m not keen on anyone speaking on my behalf.

    I have no doubt that you and your fellow villages have found some of the material posted in this forum useful and relevant to your circumstances.

    What I will say in regard to Juan Bau’s comments is this. There have been quite a few comments posted to this forum in the past that in my opinion are very derogatory and insulting to Spain and the Spanish people and quite without justification. And I am of the opinion that such comments have contributed (albeit not exclusively) to create a state of divisiveness between some Spanish and some British contributors to the forum.

    I should point out two things. Firstly I do not include you as one of the British contributors who have caused this state of divisiveness to occur. Secondly I do not claim that all of my own past contributions to this forum have been of an entirely positive sentiment. I accept my own share of the guilt. But I do want to propagate the view that not all British people, whether they contribute to this forum or not, share some of the more colourful views that have been expressed about Spanish people.

  25. Fair point Koba and I agree that we have both made our positions clear as is the boundaries of an open forum. I’m not into a war of words with you after all and I shall be monitoring the site on behalf of my family and the participating villagers for more productive postings and genuine issues.

  26. Koba what is this “state of divisiveness” you talk about? There is already a divide between expats and the Spanish, indeed it’s more off a large chasm, indeed a cultural abyss. I laugh when I hear expats talking of “integrating”. Juan, this is a forum for debate – if you don’t like what you read, it’s simple…. don’t visit :) Byeeee.

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