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16/11/2010 - Property owners want greater say in the process to legalise their homes

The Save Our Homes Axarquía (SOHA) association is demanding that the Junta de Andalucía form locally-based task forces involving the property owners themselves to find a solution to the ongoing problem of “illegal” homes in the eastern region of Malaga province.

“At the moment the Town Halls and the Junta are working towards a solution, or they tell us they are, but those with the most to lose - us - are not asked to participate in the process,” says SOHA President, Philip Smalley. “We should be involved.”

SOHA is formed by a group of homeowners, many of whom are foreign nationals, whose properties in the Axarquía countryside have been deemed illegal. Many having put their life savings into these properties and the members have no intention of letting them go without a fight.

“We had started in a small way when the first letters went out from the Viñuela Town Hall advising us that the Junta de Andalucía was impugning the licenses issued to us and that the Town Hall was not defending the action,” explains Smalley, whose own hose in Viñuela has been declared “illegal.”

“The main concern is that whilst our licenses are being disputed or already annulled our homes are worthless and the threat of demolition is like the Sword of Damocles hanging over our heads.”

In Axarquía alone there are thought to be more than 10,000 properties which have been built on rural or farming land, where construction is forbidden. In total, SOHA estimates that in Andalucía as a whole there could be as many as 300,000 illegal buildings.

The Junta de Andalucía should know when all new homes are built because unless they do, the building licences signed-off by the Town Halls are invalid. Over the last few years the regional government has declared thousands of homes illegal, and have ordered some to be demolished.

It has emerged that out of the 31 municipalities in Axarquía, only 14 have completed an inventory of buildings located on ‘non-developable land’ for the Junta de Andalucía. This inventory is a fundamental tool to decide the future of each property on a case by case basis. The Junta has stated that the remaining municipalities have six months before they will close the window for reviews and the General Territorial Plan (PGOU) will be formally adopted.

Amongst those municipalities who are yet to complete this study are Alfarnate Almáchar, Árchez, Benamargosa, El Borge, Canillas de Albaida, Cómpeta, Cútar, Macharaviaya, Salares, Sedella, Arenas, Canillas de Aceituno, Comares, Iznate and Moclinejo.

“The Junta says it is helping the small towns of the Axarquía to formulate a new PGOU which will have the effect of legalising many of the "illegal houses" whilst also doing inspections of the "illegal" houses to see which might be made legal within the current law. Whilst the Town Halls of the Axarquia are working with the regional government, Viñuela has been obstructive in trying to force through a PGOU that the Junta de Andalucía was unhappy with. This went to the Supreme Tribunal in Madrid where I believe the Town Hall lost its case.”


The recent calls for task groups to be created involving homeowners is the latest step in a long battle. In March more than a thousand foreign residents took to the streets in Malaga to defend their homes’ legal status and to avoid their demolition.

“We have no ambition other than to save our homes - homes for which we were issued licences and paid taxes. We have no alliances with any external group or political party.

“Our numbers soared when the Priors had their house in Almeria demolished - this seemed to concentrate peoples' minds!” confirms Philip Smalley.

He refers to the case of Helen and Len Prior whose home was demolished in 2008 by the regional government, five years after they moved in. The Priors had received warnings that their home had been built illegally, but they had appealed against the decision and were waiting for it to be heard in a court in Madrid. The regional government acted before their case was heard and gave the Priors just a few hours to move their belongings.


SOHA is just one of the many organisations representing owners of homes declared illegal. 'Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No' (AUAN) and Defender Nuestras Viviendas are another two, dedicated to resolving the situation which according to Smalley is both financially and emotionally draining.

“Some of our members have developed health problems from the stress that they are living under. In the Almanzora valley this stress is aggravated by the fact that the authorities have cut off electricity and water to the properties.”

Hundreds of expatriates and Spanish nationals alike are facing the demolition of their homes after thousands of building licences were deemed illegalin Almanzora.

The permissions, which were issued for homes built in 2003, have now been declared null and void. It is claimed that the Town Hall, was not authorised to consolidate the PGOU but decided to forge ahead and issue licences to build the homes, half of which are owned by foreigners.


However, there are suggestions that there may be a glimmer of hope in the case of Almanzora. It is believed the Junta de Andalucía will approve the latest Town Hall PGOU meaning that many of the homes will be legalised.

Similarly, Smalley adds: “It is interesting that the Parliament of Extremadura (PP and PSOE together) has voted to declare an amnesty and legalise all the houses that were built illegally but in good faith.

But until that happens in Axarquía, Philip Smalley says the campaign will continue.


Source :Sur in english