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Construction scandals – the good news!

Published 16/07/2009

Following recent worrying news for some Spanish home owners and scandals in the local and international newspapers, here is the good news that came from cases mentioned in the latest report relating to the Alicante, Murcia and Almería regions.

In a previous article I mentioned the report submitted by the Petition Committee of the European Parliament, led by its president Martin Libicki and vice-president, labour M.P. (and ex- Eastender star) Michael Cashman,regarding Spanish urban development in 2007. The report contains around 15,000 petitions and complaints filed by owners of property in the Valencia Community.

The 2007 report highlights the problems that have arisen due to rapid urban development throughout Spain but in particular it directs special criticism at the Valencia region for the huge increase in construction in recent years, approved purely for profit motives with little regard given to public interest.

In this article I will study briefly the cases mentioned in the report that have occurred in the Alicante, Murcia and Almería regions.

Catral: Regularly mentioned in the local press are the infamous illegal properties built on the outskirts of the natural park of El Hondo, Catral, numbering approximately 1,300.According to current information the new "Plan General de Ordenación de Catral (Town Plan) legalises these properties. However, between them the owners will have to foot the bill to complete the infrastructure.  It is estimated that before the end of 2008 the properties will have full approval.

San Miguel de Salinas and Orihuela: In these areas the situation is less optimistic as there are hundreds of illegal properties built in certain rural areas and the procedure to make them legal is moving at a very slow pace.

Castalla: The Town Hall of Castalla has legalised around 400 properties built, initially, without the necessary licenses.

Murcia: In Murcia it has been calculated that there are more then 4,000 illegal properties on rustic land. When the Murcia town plan was approved in 2001 it stipulated a 5 year regularisation period for these dwellings. Advancement in the procedure has been slow and the administration is, at present, studying new ways to simplify and speed up the process.

Almería: The report submitted by the European Parliament Committee especially draws attention to Almería and the Albox and Valle de Almanzora cases. The Valle de Almanzora development is infamous due to the large quantity of properties constructed and sold whilst being totally illegal. Fortunately the territorial order for East Almería will legalise some of the properties and they will receive full approval by the end of the year.

In general one can see the most flagrant cases of illegal construction, which would never have occurred if the respective Town Halls would have enforced their authority to discipline urban development and would have proceeded with legalization by creating new urban areas in their town planning. This solution would have been far more acceptable than the callousness of demolishing property at a cost to themselves in terms of bad publicity and damage to their reputation, at a cost to every citizen in terms of lack of faith and respect and an incalculable cost to the property owners both financially and morally.

Changing the Town Plan is only acceptable to avoid demolition if the law follows through by:
• Prosecuting those for building illegally
• That changing the Town Plan is not allowed to become common practice and, therefore, encourage unscrupulous developers to continue to flout the law and build on any type of land knowing that the properties would eventually be legalized. In some cases minor demolition will need to continue to act as a deterrent.
• Town Halls maintain extreme control on preventing construction on land that is not classed as urban land

Pablo Arteaga

Pablo Arteaga
Lawyer
lawyers@abacoadvisers.com



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