AN expat is facing prison for failing to demolish his home after he fell foul of a town hall’s ‘laissez faire’ planning rules.
Gurney Davey, aged 67, only found out about the six-month sentence when a court document was delivered to a neighbour’s house.
“I went straight to Tolox town hall with it. They told me I shouldn’t have received it yet,” he told the Olive Press.
“They said they were going to be sending the notification to me once they had stamped it.”
The news came as a massive bolt from the blue for Davey, whose wife has just died of cancer, which he believes worsened from the stress of the case.
He had never been told about the court case that followed on from a Guardia Civil denuncia for an ‘illegal build’.
Davey’s two-bed home – built in 2004 – should never have been built according to the Malaga court.
In 2016, and then again in 2017, Davey was ordered to knock down his house, but, in common with a neighbour, he waited for more details.
While his Spanish neighbour, Irene Millan, 29, did eventually hear from the court again, she was given six months to ‘legalise’ her property – an option Davey was never given.
However, his neighbour’s apparent good luck turned into a poisoned chalice.
Having spent €20,000 with the town hall to legalise the dwelling, the court finally refused to accept the new paperwork provided by the council.
Instead, demolition was ordered – which went ahead last week.
To add insult to injury Irene’s 54-year-old father, Manuel Millan, whose name was on the deeds, was also sentenced to six months jail and handed a fine of €6 a day for a year.
Now Davey is terrified he is set to lose his home at any moment.
It comes just two months since his wife Diana died from bowel cancer, at the age of 71, in April.
“We thought we had done everything right at the time. We got legal advice and went through a lawyer in order to get permission to build the home.
“Diana fought breast cancer for six years before bowel cancer – I am sure the stress brought it on.”
The couple, originally from Suffolk in the UK, spent €150,000 building their property.
“It came as a package – a plot with a new home on it.”
Davey admits he and his wife were perhaps naive to follow the advice of their lawyer.
The lawyer, from legal firm Manzanares, told them that planning permission would be applied for as an almacen – or ‘warehouse’.
This way it would come under the remit of Tolox town hall, which would give permission and later they could ‘legalise’ the property.
The language of one legal letter, seen by the Olive Press, suggests this would be a mere formality.
But the property never got legalised.
In fact, the Tolox mayor of the time, Juan Vera, has since been jailed and fined for his part in a scheme to allow up to 350 properties to be built on land classified as ‘rural’.
In most cases he had used the very same ‘lax’ procedure of applying to build an ‘almacen’ to try to keep the prying eyes of the Junta authorities away.
“We thought that was the way things worked in Spain,” said Davey, a retired builder.
“We went to see a lawyer and got advice. It turns out that was not the smart thing to do.
“Why would we deliberately try to build illegally? It makes no sense that we would sell up everything in the UK and risk it all.”
Now Davey’s first thoughts are to avoid serving the jail sentence. He said: “My lawyer is trying to get the sentence suspended.”
In the meantime he has been forced to ask the town hall for permission to knock his own property down.
“I will do it myself. I will borrow a JCB from someone and flatten my home of the past 17 years. I will not let the town hall do it and charge me more money.”
He added: “I’ve no idea where to live afterwards. But the land is still mine – maybe I can live in a tent.”
Tolox Ayuntamiento refused to comment, citing data protection laws.