LOSING part or all of one’s house or finca is a common occurrence in Spain, it being a country that has developed fast in the last couple of decades.
The action of seizing private property is called ‘expropiacion forzosa’, or forcible expropriation, and is the equivalent to a compulsory purchase order in the UK.
Ultimately it pursues the same aim: to obtain land for a proposed development that is considered necessary for ‘public betterment’, or if there is a compelling case in the public interest.
In Valencia, a variation of compulsory purchase is known as ‘land-grab’ and dubbed by British MEP Roger Helmer as ‘the Robert Mugabe school of land re-distribution’.
Indeed, it was deemed so unjust that the European Commission reprimanded the regional politicians and considered taking legal action against the Spanish Government over it.
In Andalucia, this generally does not happen as regional laws do not allow a developer to confiscate land to ‘develop’ rural areas.
However, compulsory purchase orders are still common, if, say, an archaeology–freak finds a Roman amphitheater in your garden, or more likely, the Government needs to build roads, reservoirs, bridges and more recently, high-speed train AVE lines.
So what can one do if faced with expropriation? In principle, not a lot as the ‘public interest’, if genuine, prevails over private considerations.
What is important however when the Government wants to take a chunk of your land is to ensure that you are properly notified of the proposal.
This gives us the democratic right to object (which rarely, but sometimes succeeds), suggest alternative options, agree or disagree with the compensation offered and, ultimately, provide the authorities with a bank account to pay the sum!
The construction of various AVE high-speed railway lines has probably been the largest compulsory purchase sector over the last decade, and it is not an easy ride.
Those affected by the Antequera to Sevilla AVE are waiting to get paid three years on
Recently we have learned that people affected by the Antequera to Sevilla AVE line have been waiting for over three years to get paid.
And there have been other anomolies, such as the Valencia, land-owners where a motorway is to be built getting offered just €10 per m2, while owners who had an AVE going through their land got €45.
Fortunately, only a very small percentage of property owners will ever have such a problem and therefore it is almost anecdotal.
That is, apart from my dad, who had the Marbella to Ojen road cut right through some rustic land he inherited from a great-grandfather.
That was, quite simply, tough luck!