A STAGGERING 11,000 houses are to be legalised in one fell swoop.
The plan, which has been announced by the Junta, will give the thumbs up for the vast majority of illegally-built homes around the Axarquia.
While described by environmentalists as ‘giving a free reign to build on rustic land’, it comes as a major boost for homeowners, hundreds of them expats.
Announced at a meeting of the region’s mayors, the Junta’s head of public works, Josefina Cruz, revealed that only 1,500 of the 12,760 homes investigated are now facing demolition.
“It is fantastic news” said Phillip Smalley, head of the English-run residents group Save Our Homes Axarquia (SOHA).
“At the moment it is just words but we are really hoping it will come to pass.
“When a figure as senior as Cruz says this we have to take it seriously, it sounds very promising.”
The British embassy also welcomed the news, after having to step in to help mediate for hundreds of expats in the area.
Ambassador Giles Paxman said: “This is a real step forward for owners of illegally built properties in Andalucia.
“The announcement will bring relief and hope to many people whose lives have been blighted by planning irregularities.”
At the meeting on Friday, Cruz explained that the decree was being made out of a necessity to calm the situation down.
“This is not an amnesty, but recognition of a reality, and responding to it, but with conditions,” explained Cruz. “What we are doing is recognising the existence of 11,025 homes which can start a process of legalisation.”
However, of the remaining 1,735 properties, 976 are less than four years old, while 859 are deemed to have been illegally built on ‘specially-protected land’ and cannot be made legal.
This is despite many of the homeowners claiming to have bought them in good faith with construction initially approved by their local town halls.
The amnesty also excludes the two areas of Alcaucin and La Vinuela, where thousands more illegal homes have been built and the mayors are facing corruption charges. These will be dealt with separately.
One English owner Paul Blowes believes he is still facing the demolition of his home despite getting the correct licences.
“Before we began building we were given a licence by the Town Hall with all the correct stamps and signatures, and the Junta even came down to inspect the land.
“Then four years later the Junta deemed the house illegal and said that it was built on land with special protection.
“Now they want to demolish it, but no one ever mentions compensation. It is a big issue.
“If they want to knock it down because the mayor was corrupt. Where is the recourse? I could lose everything but no one ever takes the blame.”
Smalley added: “We do have to accept some houses were built in places they shouldn’t have been, but if you built a property believing it to be legal, with the proper licence then the owner has to be compensated before their home is demolished.”
The move has attracted criticism from environmentalists, with GENA – Ecologists in Action, in particular, warning of the serious consequences of the ‘urban amnesty’.
GENA president, Rafael Yus, told the Olive Press that it allowed people to “break the law”.
“It sets a very dangerous precedent and gives people a free reign to build on land listed as protected land,” he said. “It is a bad day for the environment.”