Costa Blanca Calpe Couple win Court Fight over Land Grab

April 23, 2009 | | Comments 0

Calpe Family Wins Spanish Land Grab Court Battle

A Costa Blanca family is celebrating victory in a David and Goliath struggle over the development of property earmarked for a money-spinning housing project under controversial ‘land grab’ legislation.

The ten year battle ended with a High Court judge slamming Calpe Town Hall for waving through a project to build 80 homes near the historic Las Salinas – despite the development never receiving the blessing of regional government planners. Antonia Avargues, whose family own 25 percent of the land needed for the Pla Roig Dos development, said the court’s President Edilberto Narbon Lopez had ordered their “substantial” legal costs be paid by the town hall.

In his ruling, the judge said the plan progressed in the “totally barbaric” pursuit of profit – estimated to be more than 21 percent. And the judge ruled the plan had been annulled. “The project was never passed by the government; therefore the town hall has risen above all the tolerable limits.” He ruled the local authority had “provoked” a succession of court appearances which left the Avargues family facing “unnecessary costs.”

Work was halted after the long-running legal battle got underway – but not before roads and infrastructure were built – including street lights and electricity boxes for the proposed homes. Antonia told Round Town News the family was faced with selling land under the LRAU laws for a pittance, along with an initial payment of 35,000 euros towards the infrastructure costs which later began to escalate. Currently an independent town councillor, she said the project was included in a 1999 plan and despite never being authorised, work began – so she took her lawyers advice and denounced the illegal project. “This victory is very important for everybody living in the region of Valencia,” said Antonia. “It has been ten years of loss of sleep and worry and constantly being bullied. “Ten years ago people did not realise how a town hall could manipulate the law – now through learning the hard way, people are beginning to win this sort of case, which is a good thing.”

Antonia added she was a strong opponent of the LRAU. “The case does not depend on whether you are in agreement or not with the law, it is just an example of how abused the law can be and has been in the past. “The law is the law – that’s what lawyers say. However, laws can be changed.” And she said the notorious legislation was also open to abuse by developers – accusing them of demanding “up to 100 percent more for the cost of infrastructure than is actually needed.”
Antonia said developers also used the law to demand land be signed over, paying a fraction of its value in return. She added: “That is why so many elderly retired people always have to give in to the developers. “The legal fees fighting this case have been outrageous; however, we will of course get them back now.”

Antonia said the family hoped to reach an amicable settlement with the developers Agrupacion de Interes Urbanistico Pla Roig Dos, including neighbours that owned the rest of the land. She said the neighbours had denounced the Avargues family for putting the entire project at risk. “This case went ahead in 2004 because they continued the work with only provisional planning permission. We denounced the town hall again for allowing the work to carry on without permission.” And she repeated some of the judge’s words – such action by a local authority promoted “fear and bad faith.”

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