This a rough translation of an article that appeared in today's El Pais, Andalucia edition.
Public prosecutors redouble their request for the demolition of illegal builds.
Faced with an illegal build, demolition. This is the view put forward by Andalucia environment prosecutors faced with illegal builds that come to court.
The head of environmental prosecutors, Luis Rodríguez, stated that they are increasing their requests for demolition although, to date, judges have been reluctant to take such a drastic decision. “Our duty must be to demolish” stated Rodríguez.
An investigation by Seprona has identified 3,343 illegal builds in Andalucia. In rural areas or on the coast and normally built in the middle of nowhere.
These builds need to be prosecuted in line with the law with a prison sentence for the builder of between 6 months and 3 years for builds in special protection areas and between 6 months and 2 years in land without an building license. “In whichever case, the courts should order the demolition of the build.”
Perhaps the sentences are being applied but there is only a dribble of demolitions ordered by the courts. Luis Rodríguez points out that there are very few, less than 10%, of sentences where demolition is requested, something that, in his opinion, should change. What normally happens is that a fine is imposed and the builder, with a previously clean sheet, gets a suspended sentence. “They don’t correct the damage created. The offenders pay the fine and keep the property. In the end the fine is considered as just another construction cost.” stated the prosecutor.
Rodríguez sees this as sending the wrong message; that in spite of their illegal status, these houses are going to remain standing. “Our duty is to demolish these buildings”, said Rodríguez who has two environmental prosecutors in each province.
Disconnection of electricity and water
As well as demanding demolition, the prosecutors are also requesting measures to dissuade the developers of these illegal builds. They are asking the courts to disconnect the mains water and electricity supplies the moment that judicial proceedings commence.
It appears that many owners have made illegal connections to the mains electricity supply and are getting water from wells with the consequential impact on the regions aquifers. Illegal tipping is taking place as there is no formal rubbish collection.
Ombudsman’s report 2000
In 2000, the public Ombudsman for Andalucia published a report entitled ‘Illegal urbanizations in Andalucia’ where he highlighted the magnitude of the problem.
The report pointed the finger at local councils. “Councils have been accessories to the problem, either by ignoring it and not taking action, or actively, by approving licenses when they shouldn’t have.”
The ombudsman’s office stated yesterday that this report concentrated on illegal Urbanizations. What the Guardia Civil are talking about now are single builds in remote areas, normally developed by the owner themselves.
According to the ombudsman, the problem of urbanizations has been reduced, whereas the development of single builds in remote areas has increased dramatically.