Exclusive by Jon Clarke
TEN families have found themselves homeless just four days before Christmas, when their town hall moved in to demolish their homes.
The owners of the ten illegal chalets in Chiclana had initially refused to leave while neighbours fought a pitched battle with riot police over the action.
Around 30 people were arrested, including one owner who climbed onto the roof of his house and threatened to kill himself with a knife.
Another owner Mary-Carmen Perez Hidalgo, 32, told the Olive Press: “We are all ruined and out in the streets just four days before Christmas.
“We have thrown out all the decorations and lost half the presents, while I dumped our Christmas tree outside the mayor’s house last night.”
The mother-of-two, who is out of work, continued: “Why out of 15,000 illegal houses in the area has this heartless mayor singled us out in Christmas week?”
The uneasy standoff had formed on Friday as demolition crews moved in to demolish the houses in the Majadillas Bajas area.
Initially thwarted by protesters, the demolition crews were forced to return with over 100 police at 2.30am on Monday morning to finally evict the families.
While all have been served with eviction orders it is the first time that any of the estimated 15,000 illegal houses in Chiclana were actually knocked down.
According to Chiclana town hall the homes were built in clear breach of planning law and broke at least six different laws.
The town hall also feared that they were about to be put on the market to unsuspecting buyers.
Each of the owners – who are all understood to be related – have been fined 120,000 euros.
It is understood a further 22 homes in the Marquesado area of Chiclana – a few owned by expatriates – are to be demolished just after Christmas, with another ten in the New Year.
“In total, the police have told us around 2,600 homes are to be demolished,” explained Perez Hidalgo.
When the demolition crews had first arrived on Friday morning, hundreds of locals formed in solidarity to try and help prevent the demolitions in the street known as Callejon de los Frailes.
One local resident Marisol Ayala told the Olive Press: “This is awful, truly awful. These poor people are losing their homes just before Christmas.
“It is so unfair. With so many other illegal houses here, they had no idea this might happen.”
All ten houses were built without municipal licenses and in an area deemed as non urbanizable.
They were all built around three years ago by the same developer.
A total of 2,600 houses in the area are said to have been built under similar conditions.
Most of the owners of the houses have received fines of between 30,000 and 120,000 euros.
The fines have led to the setting up of a platform in defence of the owners.
One English member of the platform Patrick Williams, an ex policeman from London, said: “It has come as a big surprise and seems very harsh.
“Everyone feels for them at this time of year.”
His wife Guillermina added: “We know of at least three English owners with demolition orders hanging over them. It will be a very nerve-racking Christmas for them now.”