Valenica Land Law Abuses Fight For Justice Continues

Published on 01/11/2010 in Your Spanish Home

After her visit to Valencia early in 2009, Danish MEP Margarete Auken spoke out against the land laws that were (and still are) responsible for ruining the lives of many European citizens, both Spanish and otherwise. I have tried long and hard to find some more acceptable way of expressing the previous statement but, after much deliberation, I am forced to admit that there simply is no way of putting the Valencian government’s apparent disregard for human rights that would make it more acceptable.

Valencia land lawsThis criticism has been given international support in the European Parliament by MEPs of various nationalities, who voted in favour of Margrete Auken's controversial report. Despite strong backing in Brussels, however, the recommendations in the report have so far been completely ignored by both central and regional governments in Spain – indeed, we could say that they have been deliberately and quite adeptly buried.

Nevertheless, the struggle to be heard – the struggle for justice – goes on. Pressure groups and associations such as Abusos Urbanísticos – No (AUN), spearheaded by Enrique Climent and Charles Svoboda, receive continued support from Spanish MEPs such as Raúl Romeva and Carlos Carnero, whilst campaigners of the likes of Michael Cashman, David Hammerstein and Roger Helmer fight to keep the issues at the forefront of British interest.

MEP Marta Andreasen attracted further international attention to the problem with her very public support for those affected by the laws in question and by her backing of the EU threat of sanctions against Spain if the problems are not dealt with satisfactorily, before the end of the Spanish presidency.

Many hoped, at the very least, that the European Parliament would ‘make some noise’, which might shame the Valencian  authorities (amongst others) into drawing back from the worst excesses of their policies, and shame Spain into doing what she must, in the light of the proliferation of housing scandals now coming to light throughout the country. They are still hoping.

After years of painstaking preparation, AUN took the fight to the European Commission whose members offered some hope to the protesters that the European Court of Justice would take action. In a recent shock setback, however, Niilo Jääskinen, the Advocate General appointed by the Court, has made known his disagreement with the Commission’s stance, declaring that the EU’s laws are not applicable in this case. Jääskinen appears to suggest that Valencian land laws are 'proper and legal'.

What he fails to acknowledge is that they also happen to be unethical, immoral and an infringement upon basic human rights. And what those in Valencia fail to acknowledge, in their consummate glee,  is that the Advocate General addressed only one limited aspect of the land grab laws - that relating to public contracts, not the broader legal, moral or ethical issues.

Those in the Valencian regional government have jumped, somewhat prematurely, on Mr Jääskinen’s report as justification for the property abuses which they have spent years denying. ‘It is time for those who collaborated in the campaigns of defamation against Valencia town planning to pay the price,' says Juan Cotino, Valencian Town Planning chief.

As for ‘campaigns of defamation’, the only ones responsible for bringing into disrepute the Valencian government are, sadly, the very members of said assemblage. To be honest, however, they have benefitted from ‘a little help from friends’ - that is, from the constructors who got the ball rolling to the notaries who helped them net the prize.

‘They should repair the damage they have done and say sorry,’ concludes Cotino. So where do we start? With the builders and agents who’ve been the game’s star players? With those in power who’ve enjoyed ringside seats? No, of course not, Cotino wants a 'sorry' from the losing team - those who've lost everything from their home to their life’s savings and their mental health. Yes, Mr. Cotino, I suppose we are indeed a sorry lot. Nevertheless, I have a feeling that the apology you seek will be a long time in coming.

‘We’re surprised and disappointed with the narrow approach taken by the AG and the conclusions he has reached,’ says AUN vice-president Charles Svoboda, ‘but it’s not the end of the story. The ones who should repent and apologize are the ones who caused the unnecessary grief for the victims of the land grabs and the arbitrary actions which had the predictable negative consequences for the Valencian economy, job losses and all.'

For some things, Mr. Cotino, ‘sorry’ doesn’t cut it – but it might just be a start.

Written by: Linda Palfreeman

About the author:

This article was written by Linda supporting the work being done by AUN (Abusos No) in their fight for justice against Valencia's draconian land laws.

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Colin Byrne said:
04 November 2010 @ 08:45

Thank you once again for the excellant work Linda, the AUN and others do to highlight the national disgrace which is the so called Land Grab law, which applies to the whole of Spain not just Valencia. We are in Abanilla, Murcia and we are presently subject to Land Grab, see my blog in Eye on Spain. Vikki you are sensible in holding back from investing in Spain. The other issue to be aware of is their habit of constructing completely unsuitable property etc not in sympathy with what is there!. Ie commercial property right up against residential and apartment blocks right up against villa's etc and urbanisation in the middle of the beautiful countryside, miles away from any infastructure.
Anyone who buys a villa in the country with a bit of land is exposed to having a urbanisation built around them and their land taken to build on, not an essential roundabout or for access, but purely through greed of the developer.

Chris Whewell said:
03 November 2010 @ 11:12

Torre Vigia faces uncertain future.


The Torre Vigia has stood sentinel over the town of Campello for over 400 years. But now, having withstood attacks from Berber Pirates, floods and fire, it may soon hear The Last Post.

Spain´s massively controversial Land Grab Law usually concerns shady deals made between local councils (ayuntamientos) and unscrupulous Property Developers. Instances have included Construction companies building vast tracts of houses on land which, in return for financial inducement, an Ayuntamiento has reclassified as Urban, (the land previously being unusable for building as it had the Rural classification.)

In other cases, the law has been imposed over property owners who have built without the correct building licences, or in some cases, with no permission whatsoever to construct. The law is aimed at preserving at least some of the remaining coastal land which has not yet been covered in concrete and tarmac.

The investigative team from has learned that the Ayuntamiento of Campello has been in a secret war with both Regional and National Government, who have been attempting to impose the controversial Land Grab Law over one of Campello´s best known landmarks.

It is not believed that the Ayuntamiento has commited any deliberate offence, nor accepted any inducement to allow developers to bespoil the area, but simply that the town council has been lax in its preparation and production of required paperwork and certification with regard to repair works carried out on the tower.

Consequently, for the past 20 years, the Regional Government in Valencia has held, and attempted to impose a court-sanctioned Demolition Order over Campello´s Torre Vigia.

The tower, (originally constructed to provide an early-warning defence system for Campelleros in the days of attack by marauding bands of Berber pirates in the 16th Century) was rebuilt in 1989, but it seems, without the requisite paperwork for doing so.

According to the Generalitat Valenciana, such reforms are illegal, with the demolition of the entire building being deemed as both adequate punishment for the transgressor, and to serve as a warning to those who might wish to flout the law in the future.

Naturally, the Ayuntamiento have pointed out that the tower dates back to the 1580´s, and is of great historical importance in the area, but this appears to have been met with silence as stony as the tower itself. The Ayuntamiento have also stressed that, after 400 years, the tower was in danger of collapse, and repairs carried out were to avoid that eventuality, but that too has been rejected.

Valencian Regional Government spokesperson Ubetta Maria Doctor-Oravet said today; "It is clear to the Generalitat that the Ayuntamiento have not followed correct procedure with regard to the reformation of the Torre Vigia, and as such, we have been left with no alternative but to order its demolition. We cannot idly sit by and watch local councils bespoil the beautiful coastline of The Valencian Community with these uncertificated development projects, initiated purely for profit.

The move has been met with worldwide condemnation, with the Ayuntamiento soliciting assistance and support from the various Heritage Organisations within Europe and further afield. The only concrete offer came from McDonalds Restaurants, who offered to turn the tower into one of their hamburger eateries, but this potential stay of execution fell through when it became clear that there would be no space for the Drive-Thru.

Demolition will be carried out by controlled explosion on December 28th, Dia de los Inocentes in Spain.

VIKKI said:
02 November 2010 @ 11:19

Thanks Linda for such a good well written article, just can't understand the Valencian authorities in not putting their house in order, when all the inward investment in their province come's to a halt, they will have to act, for I for one have put off all my plans to live and buy a property in Spain until these draconian land laws are scrapped.

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