WHEN Maura Hillen packed her bags and headed to Spain nine years ago, she could never have imagined what a pivotal role she would end up playing in the lives of hundreds of expats.
Leaving her busy life in London’s banking sector, Maura and husband John moved to Albox for a ‘slower pace of a life in the sun’. But it didn’t take her long to get involved in local politics.
In fact, just one year after setting up in Spain Maura was named president of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No! (AUAN).
Since then she has spent the best part of a decade fighting battles on behalf of the hundreds of expats wronged by the Spanish property system (Not to mention being voted into local council where she currently acts as deputy mayor for Albox.)
And now, eight years since she took the reigns at AUAN, Maura, 53, has been awarded an MBE for her services to the British community in Spain.
“I am of course very pleased but AUAN is a collaborative effort and I see this as more of an award for the association and its members than me personally,” Irish expat Maura told the Olive Press.
“It is a real vindication of our efforts over the last 10 years and we are all delighted.”
In total, AUAN represents 500 expats, mostly British, Irish and Belgian. Under Maura’s leadership the association has defended the rights of expat homeowners, won compensation claims for countless victims and even forced change in Spain’s murky legal system.
Her personal highlights include watching the Spanish senate vote ‘virtually unanimously’ to amend the criminal code in March 2015. This allowed a person who had purchased a property built without planning permission by a rogue developer to be compensated prior to demolition.
Her work also led to a change in administrative law, to allow compensation to homeowners when their planning permission was revoked due to an error on the part of the administration.
But, for Maura, greater things are still to come.
“My proudest moment is yet to come but it is coming soon,” she said. “On July 20-21 the parliament of Andalucia will vote on a bill to amend the planning laws of Andalucia (LOUA) which will allow many more properties to become regularised.
“There is every indication that this bill will be passed. This will be my proudest day.”
Maura is also determined to finally win compensation for Len and Helen Prior whose property demolition nightmare has been ongoing since 2008.
And she has already begun work to see a reform of the Land Registry.
Clearly as determined as ever, Maura deserves all the praise she gets.
The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley has his say on Maura Hillen
“SINCE 2008, Maura Hillen MBE has made a tireless contribution towards resolving the property problems that affect thousands of British homeowners in Spain. I am very pleased that Her Majesty The Queen has approved this honour, which recognises her dedication and resilience.
“Under her leadership, AUAN is a professionally-run, well-respected organisation that has secured expert legal advice and in turn proposed realistic solutions to the Spanish regional and national authorities.
“I know Maura intends to keep campaigning for more action to resolve outstanding cases and to increase the legal security for future buyers.”