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.”
These actions will surely damage Spain’s reputation even further. It a senseless act and despicable in its timing!
And lets face it, there’s not much reputation left is there? I spoke to three Spanish friends this week. I was amazed to hear that all of them will be moving their families elsewhere in 2010 because their own country has become utterly incompetant on all levels. Spain has nothing to lose now; Spain’s reputation is mud and its credit rating downgraded even further last week, and its corruption levels climbing globally. Spain gave nothing back. It takes, and gives nothing. A greedy corrupt place it is.
Merry Xmas all.
Alcalde, Jose Maria Roman is nowhere to be seen in Chiclana so I assume he has left his heavily guarded office building like the scared-rabbit he is along with Candida Verdier, Delegate of Urbanismo and they have gone to their holes to dream up their next plan to antagonise the people of the “afueras”. After all it seems they much prefer CONFRONTATION than the DIALOGUE that has been offered on numerous occasions by the Platform Association that has tried to resolve the problems of the Urbanisation by offering that each household pays a basic deposit, for example 3,000 Euros then a set amount each month over a period of 20, 25 or even 30 years is paid on top of the utility bills in order at least for the introduction of mains water and sewage removal to be implemented.
It is about time this sort of practice in Spain was brought to the attention of the EU and world!
I think that this case is being a little misrepresented.
The owner started building these properties in late 2006 or early 2007. In February 2007 building inspectors reported him and eventually got a court order to stop the building, which he ignored. In September 2007 a demolition order was granted under the previous Alcalde. After various judicial processes this has been carried out and had to be carried out before the court order expired.
The residents were not owners as the article suggests, they were tenants paying a rent of 550€ per month to the builder. Contrary to what Fred says, this an example of the local authorities upholding the law and clamping down on illegal building.
I feel for the tenants who are victims of this builders scam. He is currently in jail on other charges. It has nothing to do with the other illegal houses many of which are unlikely to be affected in the same way, It also has nothing to do with the urbanisation debate which Paul refers to.
We can’t complain about illegal building and then condemn action aimed at trying to prevent it.
No Bob, there is nothing “contrary” in my posting. It is a fact that these ongoing demolitions will damage Spain’s reputation because of the manner and timing in which they are being carried out. It is a fact that Spain is corrupt; and it is a fact that Spain has had its credit rating downgraded. All facts.
Regarding the specifics of this particular case, you’d better take it up with the Editor, who you seem to be saying has written a non factual article.
Fred, are you suggesting that builders who clearly and knowingly, flout the law, should be ignored?
This man had apple notice that he should cease building.
No of course not, but you don’t know the full truth of this case. My comments are general; people will see the demolitions and it will just be lumped together with all the other instances of planning irregularities and corruption – that’s my point. And there’s still no contradiction in my original post, Bob.
To build a house one needs the involvement of planning people, ayuntamientos, lawyers, notaries etc etc. So they should all be in jail too. Are they? No… the law being upheld in this way is ultimately punishing the little people, not the people higher up the chain.
What ever way you look at this its very hard on the occupiers. If the builder had been served with a notice not to build why were they not stopped by the police then and arrested?
I agree that builders should not be allowed to flout planning rules. Where I live a big two story blot on the landscape was built in Pago last year. It was reported to the planning department when in progress – nothing was done.
I think a lot of “who you know” has effect. Spain has completly screwd it’s self in the property market. This will carry on until they can see that having the foxes in charge of the chickens is not a good way.
its easy to see why the rest of the civilised world will always see spain as a primitive & corrupt country who cant really be trusted
The cases in Chiclana per se Bob are that the Ayuntamiento have an “Eye in the Sky” flying over the whole of Chiclana de la Frontera the whole of the year taking photographs and if and when a case is challenged in court the Councils Lawyers are able to produce as evidence photographs to show what a particular area of land was like, whether there was a building on it or not or building going on at ANY particular time in ANY particular year.IF the Council can carry this out then WHY CAN THEY NOT STOP THE ILLEGAL BUILDING CONTINUING IN THE FIRST PLACE and arrest those responsible and charge them and take them to court? Simply because it is NOT in their interest to do so and because of the whole chain where the builders spend money in Chiclanas building industry buying materials which would close without them, then consider the estate agents, lawyers etc who receive further work from the building of the same single property and don’t forget any backhanders for turning a blind-eye.Welcome to the REAL-WORLD OF CHICLANA BOB,NOT THE UTOPIA YOU APPARENTLY LIVE IN!
It’s not “spain” that’s corrupt its the spanish politicians and the local government system. This could not happen in some other EU countries eg Scandinavia or Germany, on such a widespread scale. The system is the problem and all municipal powers for areas with a population under 50,000 should be administered centrally by a regional authority like the Junta. Untill there is systemic change only the symptoms of the problem will be sporadically dealt with, not the problem itself.
I’ve lived all over the world, Africa, Asia, Europe… I’ve experienced some very corrupted political systems. I’m sorry to say it, but Spain is the worst by far, it’s like the Wild West. And it’s not just the political system, it goes deeper than that – it’s a cultural attitude. Every single Spanish lawyer, agent or bank I’ve ever dealt with here has tried to pull a fast one of some description. I’ve never had to pay so many bribes in my life, not even in Nigeria. There’s something seriously wrong with the Spanish sense of morality, or rather, lack of it. And don’t get me started on the racism or the lack of work ethic…
Steve: The EU has been informed about this, and they are threatening to withhold 185 mill. € if the Spanish government don’t change their ways! We are at the moment, fighting to keep our property here at the Costa del Sol, as the Junta de Andalucia belives that the Costa del Sol (El culo del España) needs a 4 mill. m2 industrial park! This is supposed to be the Project of Opportunity, but only a opportunity to the people in power – the rest of us… Well, they are saying they will offer us 0,40 € for our land and the houses (legal) – adios! And, what do you think will happen when they have 4 mill. m2 of land, classification will be changed and everything will become urbanized. Welcome to Spain!!!
Pete, well done. You explain the reality of Spain 100% correctly.