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21/03/2010 - British expats stage march in Malaga over plans to demolish 'illegal' homes



Hundreds of furious expats have staged a march in Malaga today over Spanish government plans to demolish illegally built holiday homes in Andalucia.The protest group took part in a rally in the southern city carrying placards in Spanish and English which read 'we've done nothing wrong' and 'citizens betrayed'.

Demolition orders have been served on a score of houses across southern Andalucia and the regional authority passed a law yesterday which means illegal properties can be bulldozed with just one month's notice.

The authority, which has semi-autonomous powers, is determined to rescind planning permission granted illegally by formerly corrupt councils.

Maura Hillen, president of the pressure group AUAN, said: 'In the wrong hands, this legislation would be like putting machine guns in the hands of babies.'A conservative estimate states there could be as many as 100,000 illegally built properties across Andalucia, many of which are owned by British expats.

The owners, the majority of whom are pensioners, were either duped into buying homes by unscrupulous private sellers who had had their planning permission revoked or were granted permission incorrectly by councils.

Many of those served with demolition orders have developed serious health problems as a result of the stress of possibly losing their homes.Helen Prior, 64, whose £350,000 villa in Almeria was bulldozed more than two years ago, took part in the march without her husband Len, also 64.She said: 'The stress of this for two and a half years is unbelievable. It's exacerbated Len's heart trouble.'

The couple, who are due to receive compensation after a Spanish supreme court ruling, are still living in their garage - the only part of their house, called Tranquility, which wasn't razed to the ground

Marta Andreasen, UKIP MEP, criticised a visit by Minister for Europe Chris Bryant to the region earlier this month. She said: 'I don't think he achieved very much. I don't think his visit was very sincere.'He's not doing anything to resolve the problems of the people who are already suffering.'

Many of the pensioners in the protest group, known as the Albox Eight, have suffered health problems after being served with demolition orders. Terry Haycock, in his sixties, has suffered from partial blindness and facial paralysis; Muriel Burns, 70, has stress-related respiratory problems and her husband John Burns, 82, has developed a hernia. All three were unable to attend the rally.