A WOMAN has been thrown into jail after failing to carry out a court order to demolish the home she has lived in for 15 years because it fell foul of planning regulations.

Rosario Sanchez Leal, a resident of Conil, a whitewashed town on the Atlantic coast in Cadiz province, was on Monday transferred to a prison in Puerto de Santa Maria after a court ordered her to demolish her home or face arrest.

Her arrest provoked a protest from neighbours and those similarly affected homeowners and members of the Plataforma de Afectados por Viviendas Irregulares de Conil (PAVIC), who gathered outside the Civil Guard station on Monday morning to demand her release.

The group is circulating a petition demanding her release.

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The mayor of the town expressed his “shock” over the arrest and has called for more clarity on the matter as to why she has been thrown in prison when in Spain it is usual for first time offenders to have their sentence suspended if under two-years.

Juan Bermúdez from the Izquierda Unida party (IU) said he had been aware of the court order against Sanchez and had prepared a report with documentation from Conil’s Urban Planning Office to have the case thrown out and allow the woman to avoid jail.

“My report was not taken into consideration,” he said.

Sanchez owns one of 14 homes that have outstanding demolition orders imposed by the courts but there are an estimated 7,000 homes in the municipality of Conil that do not meet building regulations.

The vast majority of these were built without the proper licences on land that was not classified for development, a common problem throughout Andalusia and one that has affected thousands of expat property owners.

But after prolonged legal battles great strides have been made in regularizing such property thanks to efforts by pressure groups such as the AUAN, which has fought to legalize the homes of hundreds of expats in the Almeria region.

Lawyer Gerard Vazquez a leading campaigner in AUAN commented on the case in Conil telling The Olive Press: “It’s shocking that authorities would send a woman to prison over refusing to knock down the home where she has lived with her family for 15 years.”

““It represents a new low and one that will no doubt horrify those members of the expat and Spanish community in Andalucia who are still fighting to regularize their homes, as it does me,” he said.

The most famous case involved British couple Helen and Len Prior who bought a villa complete with planning permission from their council in Vera (Almeria). However, it was later deemed illegal and knocked down by the Junta as the building licence had been issued on land zoned as agricultural use only.

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Len and Helen Prior lost their home and endured a decade of legal battles before they got compensation.

It took 10 years of court battles before the retired couple finally received €236,000 compensation from Vera council in 2018, far below what their home was worth nevermind the huge legal fees they wracked up fighting for it.

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