RESIDENTS’ RAGE: Meeting held to discuss illegal housing issue in the Valley of Almanzora

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PACKED: Crowds of people filled the cultural centre in Albanchez ©AUAN

A HUGE meeting, organised by AUAN and Albanchez Residents Association (ARA), took place in Albanchez yesterday (Monday) to ask for an urgent solution to the issue of illegal houses in the Valley of Almanzora, as well as the rest of Andalucia.

The cultural centre in Albanchez was packed to the rafters with not only residents of Albanchez but also by residents from other municipalities in the Valley affected by the issue.

A panel, which was chaired by Estanislao Beltran, the president of Albanchez Residents Association, were present at the meeting and consisted of Maura Hillen, president of AUAN; Marta Bosquet, Member of the Andalusian Parliament and the national executive of Ciudadanos; Francisco Ramos, provincial coordinator of Ciudadanos; Eduardo Amor, planning lawyer; Benedicto Bonil, technical architect and Ronnie Howley, a town planner.

Also present were the coordinators of Ciudadanos in Cuevas de Almanzora and Albox.

Throughout the meeting, those affected insisted that houses on asentamientos (houses waiting to be legalised via a town plan) should be allowed to obtain a form of permission known as an AFO which would at least allow them to register ownership of their property and have peace of mind whilst the legalisation process, which can take up to 10 years, is ongoing.

Lawyer and spokesperson for AUAN, Gerardo Vazquez, explained during the meeting that there was talk of an amendment to give provisional services to houses on asentamientos for a period of two years.

However, in his opinion “these sort of provisional licenses for such short periods of time are of little use, and are certainly of little use to the houses in the Valley of Almanzora.”

He continued by saying: “I believe that this is the third provisional licence that I have seen since 2012 and the last ones did not work. And the type of provisional licence suggested does nothing to solve the problem of the lack of escrituras (deeds). To solve this problem an AFO is required.  And we are not just saying this now. We said this before during the last reform of the planning laws, when we explained that there was a gap in the last reform because it did not provide a solution for asentamientos.

“This is what we are asking for now, simply and plainly, an AFO for houses on asentamientos”.

Mr Vasquez later said: “We cannot continue with half-hearted solutions at this stage.

“It is time to be brave and to take the bull by the horns once and for all. It breaks my heart to see elderly people meeting at this time of the evening, asking yet again for a solution to the problems that they are unjustly suffering.

“And worst of all is that many of the people that we have seen before in these gatherings are no longer here because they have died whilst waiting for a sensible solution to this planning Calvary.

“Many have embargos on their houses, because they are in the name of a promoter with economic difficulties, which of course is of great concern.

“It is not logical that other houses in similar conditions are permitted to obtain deeds via an AFO, whilst they cannot because of some byzantine distinction between groups of houses on parcelaciones and these houses in asentamientos.

“The law has to be just to merit the name. And practical solutions have to be found that are relevant to the daily life of the people, and now is the time to provide practical solutions for the planning situation in the Valley of Almanzora”.
The problem of the illegal housing issues in Andalucia has been brought to light recently after the ten year anniversary of British couple, Len and Helen Prior’s, house being knocked down.

The couple, who are now in their 70s, saw their €350,000 Vera villa torn down in 2008 due to complex planning laws not being followed and were finally awarded compensation of €220,334 and €9,194 in moral damages in October last year, but are yet to see the money.

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