AN elderly British couple’s home is under threat of being torn down by the Junta de Andalucia after housing law changes ruled it illegal.
Having purchased their house in 2001, Noel and Christine Payne were first visited by police on Christmas Day in 2009, some eight years later, who told them that their house was ‘illegal’ and that the legal process was underway for the house to be demolished.
“We bought the house in 2001. Before that we went to the town hall to ask about a construction permit and they told us there would be no problems,” the couple told local news outlets.
The Payne’s claim that they had a licence of first occupation signed in 2003 by then mayor of Albox Francisco Granero, which stated that their Los Guillenes property was in line with regional planning laws.
Christine Payne said: “We looked into everything; we checked the licences and permissions. We were wrong to do so. It makes no sense.”
Expat advocacy group Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No (AUAN) has said that a change to regional planning regulations on rural land made the document signed in 2003 invalid.
Albox Town Hall has reportedly informed the Junta that the house could be granted legal status; but the Andalucian authority allegedly maintains that they are not ‘buyers in good faith’ and have asked local authorities to act on their demolition request.
Amid the news, President of AUAN Maura Hillen, has said the constant stress on the couple has had a ‘distressing’ effect.
She said: “They are distressed, waking up in the early hours of the morning thinking about their lamentable situation, thinking about what they have done to deserve this, why they are being treated like this.
“It is clearly inhuman to treat these people like this, when there are 300,000 illegal houses in Andalucia, which are obviously impossible to demolish, the vast majority of which do not have any licence whatsoever.”
Mrs Hillen later told the Euro Weekly News: “We have been dealing with the Junta for years and have been working to try and get the law changed.
“Mr and Mrs Payne did everything in their power to make sure their house was legal.
“But by the time planning permission was granted changes to the law were already going through.”
The news comes just a month after fellow British couple Len and Helen Prior finally received compensation after their Almeria home was demolished in similar circumstances in 2008.
After a 10-year battle, the Priors finally received a €236,000 settlement from Vera Council earlier this year, having lived in a garage for four-and-a-half years following the demolition.