In what may be the first clear indication of a policy change in the government of Andalusia, the Ministry of Territorial Planning has stepped back from further action in a house demolition case.
Homeowners Noel and Christine Payne have endured nearly 16 years of court proceedings defending their home in Albox. The property was constructed in 2003 with planning permission granted by Albox Town Hall but that permission was overturned by the regional government and the couple have been obliged to defend their home against demolition ever since.
In February of this year a court suspended the demolition order against the property until such time as the town hall could confirm that the property could be granted an AFO (an alternative form of documentation for houses built in contravention of planning law). However, in a shock move last week it was revealed that lawyers of the Junta de Andalusia had appealed this decision in a move described by the president of AUAN, Maura Hillen, as “contrary to everything the new government of the PP and Ciudadanos has been saying with regard to its policies on illegal houses”.
However, the Ministry moved swiftly to review the case and decided to desist in this appeal. Speaking to the “La Voz de Almeria” newspaper the Director General of Territorial Planning in Andalusia, José María Morente, said , “we will review the legal situation of the case and we will resolve it on that basis, acting within the law; but being very aware that it not the same thing to pursue a planning illegality ten years after the fact as it is to pursue it when it is happening”. He went on to say that the case was initiated by the previous administration and the government is now working to create new legislation so that “dramatic” situations such as that of Mr and Mrs Payne are not repeated.
The homeowner’s association, AUAN, welcomed the news saying that it was a good day for common sense. Their spokesperson stated “On behalf of AUAN we applaud this new attitude on the part of the Junta, and we are very happy that rational thinking has finally prevailed”.
A spokesperson for AUAN went on to announce that the association is due to have a working meeting with the Minister of Development and Territorial Planning, Marifrán Caraza, as well as with the Minister for the Environment, Carmen Crespo, the Delegate of the Junta de Andalusia in Almeria, Maríbel Sanchez, and the Delegates of the Junta de Andalucia in Almeira for Development and the Environment, to speak about the new legal text that will be shortly approved to extend the figure of an AFO to asentamientos (houses awaiting legalisation via a town plan), something that the associations have been demanding for years.
Their spokesperson said “This may at last provide a humane solution and regularise many thousands of houses in all of Andalusia, some of which have spent 30 years trapped in a planning labyrinth. If by your acts you are known, in AUAN we believe that these are good acts that should be recognized”.