Many people complain that UK planning rules in respect of housing are too tight. That they should be able to build what they like on their own land despite what others may think.

But at least we have some. Compare this to the total mess in Spain as featured in a newspaper once again. The Independent runs with a story about Spanish bulldozers targeting the homes of Britons, featuring the case of two British pensioners of Mr and Mrs Pritchard. They sleep in fear as their house is up for demolition.

The piece highlights the area of Almanzora in SE Andalucia which, according to AUAN* (Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora NO) is said to contain 11,000 illegally built houses.

Many of the problems stem from lack of central and local government control, coupled with what in most cases seems to be quite open corruption. Think about it. In the England you only have to hang a flag of St George out of your window to have the local council busybodies sniffing around. Could you imagine a group of builders just turning up on any old undeveloped land in the UK and building whole estates on it?

The Independent focuses on the plight of Britons caught in this debacle. But one would guess that there are people from all over the globe whose dreams of a Spanish retirement are by now definitely soured. That also probably includes Spaniards as well.

Now many are left with homes with no utilities and no builder to sue as they’ve absconded. Local officials are being charged with corruption and some have been ordered to pay compensation. But this may take years to come through and in the meantime the purchasers will be left to count the cost and possibly return homeless and dream-shattered to the UK. Even if they win and stay they may well have to pay even more to have their homes connected to water, gas and electricity supplies.

The Independent points out that in 2002 Spain built more houses than Italy, France and Germany combined. This points to a massive regulatory failure by the Spanish authorities if so many are ‘illegal’. Consider all the people involved in building large housing estates.

It seems that Gypsies in the UK have more residential rights than ‘homeowners’ in Spain. Where is the EU on this? What of the purchasers’ human rights?

Buyers ploughed their life savings into their new home in good faith and followed the local laws. Following the same approach in the UK would not leave you in this mess.

*AUAN Objectives:

  • To bring about, as far as it is possible, the proper legalisation of land and houses in the Almanzora Valley that are currently considered to be 'illegal' through collective representation to our councils, to the Central and Regional Government in Spain and to Europe if necessary for remedies in this regard.
  • To secure a proper supply of water and electricity from the relevant providers as a legal right.
  • To prevent or mitigate, as far as possible, any potential 'land-grab' or infrastructure costs having to be borne by owners of properties where these should be borne by other parties i.e. property developers where owners had not been informed of the future potential expense.
  • To inform, support, and where possible, advise our members on matters which commonly affect them in relation to the foregoing, as far as is practicable.

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