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19/01/2011 - British couple sentenced to 8 months +demoltion order imposed



A British couple have been sentenced to eight months in prison and ordered to demolish their Spanish villa for breaching planning regulations.

 

David and Janet Hartshorn illegally built a large house on protected land near the Costa del Sol town of Torrox, a judge ruled.The couple appeared before a judge at Criminal Court number eight in Malaga last October 14 for a one-day hearing, with the court's sentencing published yesterday.

 

 Flattened: British couple David and Janet Hartshorn have been ordered to demolish their Spanish villa for breaching planning regulations The judge is expected to suspend the prison sentence, as jail terms of two years and under are usually suspended for first time offenders in Spain.

 

Speaking at the property under threat of demolition, Mrs Hartshorn said she had not yet been informed of the judge's ruling. 'This is terrible news,' she said. 'I am very upset by this. We haven't been told anything about the result of the court case. We have a meeting with our solicitor on Wednesday.'The house was built nine years ago and people are still building houses illegally round here.

'We will definitely appeal. My husband has said he will take the case all the way to to the European Courts to save the house.'

Judges in Spain make their sentences known in written rulings rather than at hearings in open court.

 

Those rulings are then made known to the parties involved through their solicitors.Defendants do not attend a sentencing hearing as they do in UK courts and the ruling was published in reliable local newspaper Malaga Hoy yesterday.The judge ordered them to demolish the house and pay a fine of €5,400 (£4,500).

 

Picturesque: The Hartshorn's home features stunning views, but will soon be demolished.The couple built the 2580-square-feet house on land which only had permission for a house one tenth that size.

In September 2000 they bought a third of an acre of land in Pago de Santilla, near Torrox, on which there was already a tiny ruin of a house of 320 square feet.

In June 2001 the applied for planning permission but were told they could not build anything bigger than the ruin.

 

The judge's sentencing report said: 'However, the accused have built a family chalet-style home with a new storey, basement, swimming pool and asphalted exterior perimeter, with an area of approximately 240 square meters (2580 square feet).'

In January 2004 the town hall in Torrox ordered the Hartshorns to stop the building work 'but despite this the accused continued to carry out the work', which finished in July 2004, the judge added.In September 2006 the town hall issued them with a fine of €73,092, which the couple are challenging.

 

The judge in Malaga said it is not possible to grant the house retrospective planning permission because it is on protected land. He concluded that it was 'inconceivable' that individuals should build on land which is protected by law from development.

 

 Retirement retreat:

 

David and Janet Hartshorn spent three years building a home that contravened Spanish laws. The first British couple to have their Spanish property demolished were pensioners Len and Helen Prior.

The Prior's £550,000 retirement villa was flattened by bulldozers in January 2008 after a court ruled it was illegally built.

 

The couple, from Hurst, Berkshire, had been granted a building licence for the three-bedroom home by the town hall in Vera, Almeria, on the south coast. But the higher regional body, the Junta de Andalucia, said the licence was illegally granted and issued a demolition order.The Priors, both 66, are still waiting for compensation from the town hall for its mistake.

 

Thousands of British expats live in Spain fear their homes are under threat because of similar breaches in planning regulations. Many houses with building licences, the Spanish equivalent of planning permission, are under threat as the licences should never have been granted.

Source : Mail Online Author: Tim Worden