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Antiguo 18-may-2006, 20:11
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Para los pocos promotores que sepan leer inglés, ahí va eso. Se os ha juntado todo.

Es un artículo de financial times en el que quitan las ganas a cualquier inversor, como consecuencia del cocktail Marbella-Levante.


What’s Spanish for ‘confiscate’?
By Leslie Crawford
Published: May 12 2006 16:32 | Last updated: May 17 2006 15:56

Lieve de Clippel and Hubert van Bel spent 18 years carefully restoring their villa on the Mediterranean, joining four 18th-century farm buildings into a single, 1,000 sq m home that overlooks a terraced valley of orange groves and almond trees. The couple, antiques dealers from Belgium, travelled the length and breadth of Spain to find materials for the restoration: stone columns, antique doors, old oak for the beams and 300-year-old terracotta tiles for the terrace. It is now a stunning home that would not look out of place in the pages of Architectural Digest or House & Garden. Tall, gently swaying palm trees mark the highest point of their estate, which has dramatic views of the Rock of Ifach jutting out of the deep blue sea at Calpe, on the Alicante coast.


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But thanks to Valencia’s controversial town-planning laws, Lieve and Hubert’s home will probably be razed to the ground, and their 30ha property carved up into tiny plots for a new housing development.


Last November, the couple received a letter that shattered their lives. It informed them that the municipality of Benissa, to which they belong, had approved a new housing development for 104 homes to be built on their property and the terraced slopes of the adjoining valley, known as Coma del Pou. According to Valencia’s town-planning laws, existing landowners do not have to be consulted before new housing projects are approved. Land can be confiscated with only minimal compensation, and landowners may be forced to pay hundreds of thousands of euros for the “urbanisation” of their plots, even when services such as roads, piped water and electricity already exist.


Thousands of homeowners have been affected by Valencia’s “land- grab” laws, and the problem is spreading as other regions, including Andalusia, Murcia and Madrid, adopt similar town-planning regulations. More than 15,000 affected landowners have banded together to denounce Valencia’s town-planning regulations before the European Parliament. Last month the European Commission took note and began legal proceedings against Spain to force the government to correct breaches of EU law contained in the Valencian law. For the moment, the Commission is concentrating on the fact that housing projects in Valencia are not put out to public tender in violation of EU public procurement laws. But other actions could follow.


In addition, Irwin Mitchell, a large UK law firm that specialises in human rights cases, is preparing to challenge Valencia’s land-grab law before the European Court of Human Rights.


All of this, however, may come too late to save Lieve and Hubert’s home.


Because town halls do not make town plans available to the public, Lieve and Hubert had to pay €550 to a notary public to obtain a copy of the Coma del Pou “urbanisation plan”. It confirmed their worst fears.


Not only was their property to be carved up into 17 plots; there was no trace of their house in the plans submitted by the property developer. By some mysterious, and as yet unexplained sleight of hand, the land registry office had deleted all records of the 18th-century dwelling. “I took along the tax receipts I had paid on our property over all these years,” Lieve says. “But the land registry officials just shrugged their shoulders. They said it would take months to investigate the matter.”


With no proof of their home’s “existence”, Urba-Benissa, the company that will develop the Coma del Pou housing development, will be free to raze the property, replacing a meticulously restored villa with 17 identical, pastel-coloured holiday homes.


If Lieve and Hubert want to keep part of their land (about half of it will go to the property developer and the town hall), they will have to pay more than €1m for services they already have, such as roads and sewerage.


“This is legalised robbery,” says Hubert. “The property developer does not need to show proof of financial solvency to propose a housing project. Urba-Benissa has a paid-up capital of just €3,000, but it will be able to kick-start the project with the fees and land it confiscates from existing landowners. The company will start with our property because it has the best sea views. It will be under no obligation to finish the entire 104-house project. And then original landowners, like ourselves, will have no one to claim compensation from even if we were to fight this in the courts.”


Lieve and Hubert have filed challenges to the urbanisation project with Benissa’s town council, but received only threats in response. Juan Bautista Rosello, Benissa’s mayor, warned Hubert that the more they complained in public, the less chance they stood of keeping their home.


Rosello declined to be interviewed for this article. But it is clear that Spain’s 10-year-old property boom - heavily concentrated on the Mediterranean coast - has inflated the ambitions of the Benissa mayor, who recently raised his salary to €50,700 a year - more than the earnings of a supreme court judge. Rosello’s latest plan is to create a suburb of 2,000 homes along a new ring-road around his small town (population: 11,700). The ring-road will be wider than an airport runway and have palm trees planted down the middle. The new houses will be built on the land of nine farmers, who will have to contribute €22m towards the €30m cost of the project. If they don’t cough up, they will lose their land.


Lieve and Hubert, meanwhile, are close to giving up the fight. They are planning to return to Belgium, where they are building a house. “Even if we saved our home here, it would break my heart to see the Coma del Pou valley destroyed. I do not want to live surrounded by identical holiday homes,” Lieve says.


Alicante becomes drier, more desert-like, the further south you travel. The Moors built an oasis at Elche, diverting the brackish waters of the Vinalopo river into a network of canals to irrigate a lush green forest of palm trees, which is still there and is now a UN world heritage site.


Real estate developers have shown no such sensitivity towards their environment. Due to the construction boom, Alicante’s coastline is paved in concrete, and developers are now attacking the dry, barren hills behind the coast.


Maria Harling (not her real name), a retired nurse from London, settled here to escape a cruel relationship. She thought a warm climate would be kinder to her health after suffering two heart attacks in the UK. She did not have much in the way of savings, but found a modest bungalow with an orange grove close to La Granja de Rocamora, just south of Elche. Maria enjoys pottering around her citrus trees and cooking fried fish in her open-air kitchen. She was the first black person to settle in the village, but says she encountered no racism and quickly made many Spanish friends.


In January this year, La Granja de Rocamora’s town hall approved a housing development on Maria’s orange grove and surrounding farms - but not before friends and relatives of the mayor had been let in on the scheme and had begun to acquire farmland at rock-bottom prices. (Maria says water for irrigation was cut off last year to lower the value of farmland in her district.)


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Antiguo 18-may-2006, 20:14
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Desde luego olvidaros de vender apartamentos a los guiris.

Municipal governments have the authority to reclassify “rural” land into “urban” land, making it instantly available for development. When land is reclassified, its value can increase more than 100-fold. With building land increasingly scarce, reclassification has become the biggest racket on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. Municipal officials take bribes to reclassify land, while friends and relations are tipped off to buy rural plots earmarked for reclassification so they can make a killing overnight.


“I can’t get hold of the title deeds, but I can tell farmers are selling because they are buying new cars,” Maria says.


Francisco Rocamora Bernabeu, deputy mayor and the cousin of mayor Jose Ruiz Rocamora, admitted in an interview he was “a small landowner” in the area earmarked for development. He said it was “likely” that Procumasa, a big Alicante building company selected to “develop” the new housing project, was also buying. The area has not yet been reclassified “urban” because the housing project is waiting for clearance from the Valencian government.


Rocamora Bernabeu insists that the plans were discussed at a meeting with landowners “about a year ago”, and that a vast majority of the affected property holders approved the housing project. But neither Maria, nor any of her neighbours, were invited to the meeting.


Ruiz Rocamora, the mayor, has told Maria that half of her orange grove will be confiscated for the housing development, and she will have to pay €240,000 towards urbanisation costs. “At my age I cannot take out a mortgage on my property, and if I don’t pay the urbanisation costs, the mayor says the property developer can confiscate a further 40 per cent of my property,” Maria says. “What will I be left with then?”


Her neighbours, Jan and Maurice Leach, are also retired and, like Maria, are living with the threat of expropriation and huge “urbanisation” fees. The uncertainty has taken a severe toll on their health, and they were too unwell to be interviewed. But in a letter, they wrote: “We found out about the urbanisation plan by accident. We cannot believe a law would be so cruel. The town hall says the urbanisation agent will take 50 per cent of our land. NO PAYMENT. They want €18,000 per 1,000 sq metres for infrastructure. We already have water, sewerage, electricity, street lighting and a pavement. They want €24,000 from us to build a road at the back of our property (we do not need one as there is one at the front).


“They say that should we be unable to pay these charges (and we cannot) they will take the rest of our land and possibly our house. What do we do then? We have no other property here or in England, and no funds to dig into. We only have our monthly pensions. We could end up homeless.”


Spanish families are also affected by Valencia’s land-grab laws, but they are wary of protesting for fear of upsetting town hall officials who are generally powerful figures in small communities. Some mayors rule their towns like private fiefdoms - dispensing jobs, contracts and favours as the whim takes them. Spain is a young democracy, and few public officials, particularly at local level, feel the obligation to be accountable to their constituents.


“We feel totally unprotected and abandoned,” says Teresa (not her real name), whose family farms 40ha in La Granja de Rocamora. All their income comes from raising young cattle and chickens, and from selling cereals, oranges and some vegetables. “When the housing scheme is approved, we will lose the right to farm here, and we will have to hand over half of our property to the urbanisation agent, Procumasa, which was handpicked by the town hall. We will be forced to pay for the entire costs of urbanising our land, even though half of it will be expropriated. I cannot afford the €1.5m bill. So I have only two choices - sell my land to Procumasa, at a price it dictates, or find an independent buyer. But who will want to buy my land with that kind of liability attached?”


Procumasa is the fourth-largest builder in the province of Alicante. Its website advertises the company, in English and Spanish, as “a leading company in promoting and developing new residential areas”. But a spokeswoman said she had no information on the Granja de Rocamora housing scheme. Nor could she confirm that Procumasa had been buying farmland in the area.


Maria says that since the development scheme surfaced, she “lives, eats and dreams urbanisation”. She would like to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, but after two heart attacks, she doesn’t think she could stand the pressure of a prolonged legal fight.


It is pointless to fight the property development laws in Spain. Magistrates rarely authorise injunctions to halt construction of a disputed development, and when they do, it is usually for just a few days.


“There is no redress for aggrieved property owners through the Spanish courts,” says Chuck Svoboda, a retired Canadian diplomat and Benissa resident who founded Abusos Urbanisticos No (”No to Urban Abuses”) to fight town-planning corruption on the coast. Svoboda is a tireless campaigner, a phenomenal networker and a thorn in the side of Rosello, Benissa’s mayor. Without him, Valencia’s town-planning laws would never have come to the attention of the European Commission. His lobby group now has more than 17,000 members.


Svoboda says Valencia’s town-planning laws have transformed the region into “Ruritania on the Med”.


“You cannot halt the bulldozers tearing through your property with a court injunction. If you refuse to pay the ‘urbanisation fees’ demanded by property developers, your house is embargoed. And you cannot sell your house and walk away from the nightmare, because the moment a new residential plan is approved, your house will lose all its value,” he says.


Svoboda says Valencia’s town-planning law makes no attempt to define the “public interest” - the only legal argument in Spain that justifies the confiscation of property. “The fundamental flaw with the law is that responsibility for town planning is handed over to property developers, who are allowed to initiate schemes and propose new areas for development. As a result, it is not the public interest that is being served, but private profit.”


Imaculada Rosas, a property lawyer in Marbella, agrees. “The costs of legal action against property developers are prohibitive,” she says. “A magistrate could take a year just to read your petition. It could be 10 years before he hands down a sentence, by which time the properties are already built, the new owners have moved in, and the property developer, in all likelihood, is no longer in business. So there would be nobody responsible for paying compensation even if the courts did find in your favour. There is no redress for property abuses in Spain.


“Criminal proceedings are rarely pursued against property developers,” she says. “A judge will often ask for an administrative court to rule whether building permits are valid or not, and this also takes years.


“The legal system is bankrupt. The law is not responding. We need special courts to act with speed against corruption in the construction business.”


The plight of land-grab victims, however, has come to the attention of Irwin Mitchell, the British law firm. It has now lodged land-grab cases before the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, with the intention of setting a legal precedent and establishing the grounds for more cases to be determined in favour of victims of abuse.


Normally, land-grab cases would have to work their way up the Spanish legal system before being heard at the European Court of Human Rights. But Irwin Mitchell argues that the Spanish legal system is so slow, that “justice delayed is justice denied”. Based on this principle, the Strasbourg tribunal is being asked to examine the grievances of property owners in Spain.


Irwin Mitchell believes town-planning laws in several Spanish regions violate human rights. “There is the right to the peaceful enjoyment of private property, and the issue of timely access to justice,” says Hugh Robertson, a lawyer with the firm. “The abuse of town-planning laws often hits people who can least afford to fight back: old people, retired people who live off their pensions and cannot afford to pay the urbanisation fees demanded by property developers or meet the cost of litigation.”


Last month, the Spanish government took the unprecedented step of dissolving the city council of Marbella, a somewhat jaded Costa del Sol resort, following the exposure of a construction racket run by town planners. So far, more than 20 suspects have been arrested, including the mayor, Marisol Yague, and Juan Antonio Roca, the former town-planning chief.


Roca, who is being held in prison awaiting trial, is accused of building a €2.4bn empire with 120 front companies that invested the bribes he received for granting thousands of municipal building licences for illegal property developments. Prosecutors allege that Roca approved 600 housing developments during his time as chief town- planner, receiving in return at least 10 per cent of the villas, flats or land involved. Police have also seized 340 works of art, a live tiger, 133 thoroughbred horses, a helicopter and two palaces in Madrid that belonged to Roca and his associates.


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Antiguo 18-may-2006, 20:15
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Prosecutors estimate that 30,000 illegal homes have been built in Marbella in the past decade - of which 4,500 face court decisions on whether they will be demolished or legalised. Most of these illegal buildings were sold to unsuspecting holidaymakers.


Spain’s Socialist government has made clear that it wants to stop the rot in Marbella, the most notorious example of the construction-fuelled corruption that has infected municipal governments along the coast. The only surprise is that it has taken prosecutors so long to act. Other resorts are coming under investigation. What remains to be seen is how far the Spanish government will go to halt the town-planning abuses that have lined the pockets of officials, undermined public faith in local democracy, and caused so much misery to tens of thousands of Spanish and foreign property owners.


Leslie Crawford is the FT’s bureau chief in Madrid.


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Antiguo 18-may-2006, 21:26
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Que fuerte .. yo ha hace bastante tiempo vi un programa en la BBC que trataba sobre esto mismo y cómo les confiscan las tierras a los inglesitos que se han comprado una casita en mitad del campo. La verdad que es indignante, en serio, es que España es un país bananero, y luego queremos compararnos con Alemania, GB, Suecia etc... jajajajajja me parto de risa!!! ya lo he dicho varias veces, si en España somos los últimos en casi todo no es por casualidad, sino por méritos propios. Somos un país de paletos.

Yo haría énfasis en una frase:

"The legal system is bankrupt. The law is not responding. We need special courts to act with speed against corruption in the construction business."

Y es que el problema de España es ese, que LA JUSTICIA NO FUNCIONA, y hasta que no nos demos cuenta de que eso es una de los principales problemas del país seguiremos siendo un país bananero. Se habla mucho del "estado de derecho" pero qué coño ¿qué derecho es ese si los juzgados tardan años en resolver cualquier cosita? Luego queremos que los propietarios alquilen los pisos vacios....jajajaja ... por aquí !!!


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 21:18
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El problema que comentaba el finantial times es una ley urbanística valenciana que daba todo el control al agente urbanizador: precio de la tierra a expropiar, costes de la urbanización........ sin ningún control jurídico ni judicial. El caso fue muy sonado y por iniciativa de extranjeros residentes afectados (en el que se encontraba el ex-jefe de los servicios secretos canadienses) llegó al parlamento europeo y forzó la reforma de la ley valenciana.

Actualmente los medios de prensa ingleses seguían recomendando invertir en vivienda en España en 2006. En mi comunidad, hay promociones sólo comercializadas para ingleses, los cuales están bien asesorados y conocen sus derechos, otra cosa es que paguen casi el doble que nosotros o que dentro de unos años el golf se convertirá en un secarral.


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 21:41
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Entonces, la ley esa ya no está en vigor? Me preguntó el gobierno valenciano reconoció algún tipo de compensación a aquellos que fueron expropiados de manera totalmente injusta.


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 22:52
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Qué va. Está en vigor y aplicándose reducidamente en espera de la modificación legislativa. Desconozco si recieben indemnizaciones pero siempre cabe la vía lenta, penosa y carísima de la vía contencioso-administrativa. El parlamento europeo aconsejaba la suspensión de la ley hasta que no se modifique.

En principio, la ley intentaba responder a una exigencia: la celeridad del proceso urbanizador y que no se colapsase por la posible negativa de un propietario-afectado. Pero al dar todos los poderes al promotor de la urbanización: se hizo la marimorena, con abuso evidente. Antes había un remedio que funcionaba: al propietario/afectado se le paga más para compensarle.

El tema es también que en C. Valenciana no hay casi terreno para urbanizar, lo que quieren hacer es reurbanizar, de ahí el problema. No son agricultures ya los afectados, sino propietarios de chalets y terrenos ya urbanizados desde la decada de los 60, pero de baja densidad.

Un Saludo.


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 23:02
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Pues ese famoso AGENTE URBANIZADOR, (constructoras e inmobiliarias) con poder de expropiación tanto de terrenos como de casas, ahora ya lo tenemos vigente también en Galicia. Yo no sé si esto será legal en otros países, pero esto en este país ya se ha convertido en puro esperpento.

Da igual si gobierna el PP en Valencia, como el PSOE-BNG en Galicia esto es pura aberración legal, desproteción y pelotazo desvergonzado.


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 23:25
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La verdad es que ese agente urbanizador parece salido de una pesadillas ciberpunk. Un ente privado con derecho a expropiar, increible.


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Antiguo 21-may-2006, 23:41
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Bueno viene a ser lo mismo que un comisario politico en un submarino ruso.


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