Sunday, August 12, 2007

Costa Blanca News 3.8.7.
AUN to meet town planning chief
News Staff Reporter
NEW regional government town planning chief (Conseller) José Ramón García Anton has agreed to meet with residents affected by development abuses. The tête-à-tête with members of Abusos Urbanísticos No (AUN) will take place on September 18, according to AUN sources. Members of the association wrote to Sr García Anton after he was appointed to run a new super-department following the May elections comprising town planning, the environment, water and housing. Sr García Anton replaced Esteban González Pons at the head of the regional government's most controversial portfolio. Charles Svoboda, vice-president of AUN, said: "In terms of what we expect to achieve, our expectations have to be low given the track record of theValencian government, however we will hope for a better understanding of the plight of so many small property owners when faced with the juggernaut of the developers and the weight of regional laws that contravene not only the Spanish Constitution but also so many EU laws, accords, directives, etc. "We will also insist that these rights be respected, reminding the councillor that the failure to do so has caused much unnecessary grief for not just those victimised by the predatory system but also the Valencian economy - and brought down the wrath of the EU parliament and European Courtactions against the abuses witnessed here."Mr Svoboda went on to say that in the letter sent to the councillor AUN had once again offered to help the authorities in redrafting laws and regulations that they believe would be positive for the region in terms of the economy and the environment.
( Note: There is another CBN article in this issue concerning AUN's commentsregarding absurd attacks on the foreign media for causing the propertycrisis, but it it is not accessible on line.CVS)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Overbuilding threatens Spain's coasts, Greenpeace warns
The Associated PressPublished: June 27, 2007
MADRID, Spain: Rampant construction along the Spanish coastline is damaging Spain's shores and endangering the vital tourism industry, environmental organization Greenpeace warned on Wednesday."The numbers demonstrate the failure on the part of local administrations to find a solution to the problems of the coastline and the need to adopt important reforms regarding the management of the coast to put the brakes on the coast's destruction," the report said. In a report, the Greenpeace said that Spanish developers plan to build more than 200,000 hotel rooms, 316 golf courses and 112 marinas. These significant projects in environmentally sensitive areas threaten to damage Spain's coastlines that annually attract millions of tourists, they said. Tourism accounts for about 12 percent of Spain's gross domestic product. Greenpeace also said Spanish police are currently investigating nearly 200 cases of corruption in the southern coast region of Andalucia that it sayshave led to illegal building along protected coastal areas. The Spanish Environment Ministry had no immediate reaction to the report, although a spokesman said the government is also trying to protect the coast. Last week, the European Parliament firmly condemned Spain for the environmental damage that overdevelopment had caused in Madrid and along theMediterranean coast. In a motion, it said the mix of lax building laws, greedy developers and corrupt politicians had had a "disastrous effect" on the country's environment.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Press release from Michael Cashman MEP
Spain must act now to stop persistent abuses of land laws insists Cashman

"I urge all politicians at regional, national and European level to act now in order to stop these abuses which have turned people's dreams into nightmares" pleaded Michael Cashman British Labour MEP and First Vice President of the Petitions committee who has been leading the defence of citizens affected by abusive land laws in Spain's regions over the past several years.

Speaking in yet another debate on the issue in the European Parliament in Strasbourg - following the most recent fact finding mission which went to Valencia and several other parts of Spain in February of this year - Michael explained "It saddens me to have to take the floor on this issue once again. More than 18 months after the adoption by this House by an overwhelming majority of a report back in December 2005, we're still here debating the same issues and nothing has changed."

"Despite our best efforts - the adoption of a report and 3 missions to Spain - people are still receiving letters saying they will have to cede large portions of their land, land they have legally acquired and hold title deeds for. They still receive letters saying they will be forced to pay for new infrastructure. They still have no significant access to information regarding these projects nor the possibility to appeal against such decisions. This is in breach of EU law and Spain should be held accountable." continued Michael

"We must also address the issue of the legal purchase of illegally built properties where people have been duped and conned either in connivance with local politicians or at worst their indifference" said Michael.

Concluding his speech, Michael made a passionate plea:

"I urge the Commission to take the final decision regarding a case against Spain to the European Court of Justice in order to uphold community law and fundamental rights of EU citizens. I remain hopeful that this issue will be resolved and justice finally served. Resolution cannot come soon enough for the thousands of EU citizens affected"

IT'S NEXT WEEK ( when the Commission case will be presented to the ICJ)
from Valencia Life
Spain has consistently ignored the warnings from Brussels over matters of urbanizing, and as a result the European Union announced yesterday that it is intending to take the Valencian Urbanizing Laws or LUV to the European Court of Justice motivated by its incompatibility with European norms overpublic contracts. Brussels believes that the LUV in no way corrects the problems created by the previous law - the LRAU - in that there were not sufficient mechanisms to guarantee adequate competition. The presentation of the case in this way is the last option open to the EU, who first started opening a case against Spain for infractions in public contracting in April last year, and sent a second missive in October, stating that the reply it had received was not good enough. Equally forming a part of the action are the alleged irregularities of urban development and the vulneration of property rights, in which the EU clearly recognizes that Spain has little room to maneuver in these sorts of cases. A statement from the Valencian Government spoke of the LUV as being a modern law and that the case as presented would allow the autonomous government to adequately defend itself, which the federal government in Madrid has failed to do. Cristina Serrano, the Autonomous Secretary in the Conselleria for the Territory added that there are thirteen other autonomies that are in the same situation as we are, and therefore the matter is not a case of Valencian Urbanizing, but Spanish urbanizing as a whole. She went on: The LUV that replaced the Socialist LRAU scrupulously fulfills European legislation for public contracts and represents great advances for our autonomy in terms of social and sustainable building. The case follows on from the visit by Euro Labour MP Michael Cashman and Marcin Libicki of the Petitions Committee last February, which according to Carlos Iturgaiz of the Partido Popular was very clearly politically motivated, after Mr Cashman stated that the Urbanizing was the result of criminally corrupt business practices supported by an incompetent local administration.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Come join Abusos Urbanisticos No in a
on Saturday, June 2 at 11 a.m.
A bus will leave from Bar Frau in Benissa at 9 a.m. sharp, and will leave Valencia at 4 p.m.To book a seat or for more information, call Jan at 600 837 054 or check outor web site, www.abusos-no.org
For those driving or taking the train to Valencia, the demonstration will begin in the Plaza Rodrigo Botet (off the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and next door to the Astoria hotel) and finish in the Plaza San Lorenzo, Valencia.
We will assemble at Plaza Rodrigo Botet at 10:45 a.m.We hope to see you on the bus or in Valencia!
If you scroll down on the map, you will see that the railway station is two blocks south of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and the Plaza de Rodrigo Botet is located slightly north of the Plaza del Ayuntamiento and in a little side street to the right that leads into the Plaza. The Astoria hotel is also located in the little plaza.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Please tell friends and neighbours

From Plaza Rodrigo Botet to Plaza San Lorenzo, Valencia
Assemble at Plaza Rodrigo Botet at 10:45 a.m
For anyone wishing to travel by Coach one has been arranged and leaves from Bar Frau, Benissa at 9 a.m. sharp, leaves Valencia at 4 p.m. To book a seat or for more information, call Jan at 600 837 054

The urbanistic front:

The PSOE candidate for mayor of Madrid, Miguel Sebastian, has asked the PP mayor Alberto Ruiz-Gallardon if urbanistic favours were given to people implicated in the Marbella corruption “affair.” He indicated the reasons may be the “intimate” relationship between the mayor and a young female representative of Madrid companies under investigation in Marbella……

The court has accused the brother-in-law of the PP Vice-Mayor in Calpe for his participation in the supposed increase in costs of the water-works in the town. Vice-mayor Juan Rosello and 3 others will have to defend themselves in court.

The Valencia Regional Government has approved the re-designation of 10.5 million m2 of agricultural land in San Miguel de Salinas as building land. Moreover, it has given the green light to an urbanisation in La Serreta in Novelda, to construct 2,500 dwellings and a golf course. In Denia it has approved a doubling of the permitted heights of construction in the Las Marinas area.

The Mayoress of Montforte del Cid has paralyzed the construction of 100 bungalows in the MASA urbanisation Montecid. The local police have sealed off another 15 dwellings that had been started without the proper building licence.

Spanish and foreigners in Orihuela are protesting against plans to allow another urbanisation, comprising of more than 3,000 dwellings in the Villamartin area.

The proposal for a new regulation plan, submitted by the town hall of Catral, has been refused by the Regional Government because it contained “grave irregularities”.

The courts have cancelled two big urbanisation projects: One in Xixona comprising 5,300 dwellings because it was “not in public interest” and another in La Nucia, 3,884 dwellings and a golf course, because no firm guarantees for water supplies have been given.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

From Weekly Report 18.05.07 Ciudadanos Europeos

The new national Ley del Suelo has been approved, forcing promoters to give 5 to 15% of the plots in each new urbanisation plan to the town hall, and include 30% for social dwellings (VPO). Prime minister Rodriguez Zapatero is using the law in the election campaign, assuring it will end speculation and corruption. The association Abusos urbanisticos NO has strongly been criticising the proposal since the law permits expropriation of small owners of farm land at a very low price, that the promoter then sells on with great profits

There are 12.000 registered real estate agents in the province of Alicante, more than in any other provinces than Madrid and Barcelona. A representative of the registered agents in Valencia has admitted that the prices for second hand dwellings have gone down up to 18%. From other areas come reports of even greater reduction in prices for second hand property, and waiting time for sale of up to 20-30 months.

The promoters in the Valencia Region are still starting up the construction of 100.000 dwellings this year, admitting that they will not be able to sell 20.000 of them. They admit that sales to European citizens have dropped up to 50% in certain areas. They have now raised the sales commission to real estate agents to 8% in a desperate attempt to get rid of their surplus stock, in addition to giving premiums of all kind to new buyers. The company GV, promoting a golf project in Bonalba (Alicante) is promising a cheque of 4.000 Euro to any new buyer………

The illegal construction of 1.376 houses and 980 swimming pools in Elche threatens the socialist led municipality of having their urbanistic competences withdrawn by the PP government in Valencia.

Several big promoters are leaving Spain, going to other countries where the grass is greener. Hansa Urbana has bought 35,5 million m2 in Mexico to make a luxury project for the American market. Grupo Roig in Valencia has also invested 500 million Euro in another luxury project in Mexico.

300 cases have been opened to demolish houses in Catral, by the regional government. Another 100 houses under construction have been refused water and electricity.

Another 4 people have been arrested in Telde, Gran Canaria, accused of being part of the ongoing corruption scandal. One of them is the leader of the town planning office, the other 3 representing private property companies.

Morgan Stanley has been evaluating the property scene in Spain. One of their conclusions is a decrease in the property sector by 20 to 70%.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

9th May 2007

AUN MEETING held at Restaurante Asia, Benissa

The meeting went ahead, despite Chuck and Lisa Svoboda both having very bad colds and sore throats. The former was the principal spokesperson, aided by Hubert V. who provided German translation, and others who helped with Spanish and French.

European Parliament
As already reviewed at a previous meeting the Petitions Committee ( FFV) visit at the end of February was for five days. Having arrived in Madrid, the FFV travelled to Almeria, Murcia, Valencia and back to Madrid. Apart from “victims” the delegation met with EU Ambassadors in Madrid, the British Consul and various town officials, plus representatives of the Valencian and Madrid Governments. The Valencian Government hosted a large and hostile gathering presided over by its own Minister for Urbanismo ( Conseller Gonzalez Pons) and attended by an equally angry group of developers and promoters in Valencia. (Having criticised the fact finding mission for spending less than it would cost a land law victim for legal fees, the Valencian Government went on to spend some €500,000 to take PP Mayors to a tourist fair in Berlin and a week or so later later, some 40 promoters to an impromptu exhibit in Brussels timed to coincide with the Petitions Committee meeting, in order to offset the effect of the fact finding mission.) The FFV Report was ready within two weeks, and was adopted by the Petitions Committee on 11th April. The vote had 15 members in favour 3 against (all Spanish PP from Valencia), the other EPP ( ie. from other EU states) representatives left the room rather than have to vote and reveal divisions. A number of Spanish MEPs supported the report.

During the visit the Valencian Government managed to upset and insult the MEPs – this was observed in the report and without helped our cause considerably in most quarters. All three reports thus far from the EuroParl proclaim the land laws to be totally unacceptable in terms of EU law and against the rights of EU citizens.

Michael Cashman MEP, is still busy helping and supporting the fight for changes to the land laws.

Demonstrations against Land Laws
There have been several demonstrations against the land laws in various parts of Valencia during the past few weeks. Whilst some members/supporters of AUN have informally joined in these demonstrations, it was not felt appropriate for AUN as such to take part alongside radical and nationalist protesters who have platforms with which we do not agree. It is good that others are getting mobilized against the land law and environmental abuses, but some of these are becoming excessively nationalistic and radical.

There is a planned demonstration by AUN and others who wish to join us which will take place on 2nd June in Valencia. Permissions have been applied for and more details will follow when plans are finalized – the route should start in the large square by the Church at 11.00. It is felt more suitable to let others cause upsets prior to the elections, we will deal with the new Government after the elections – when we will prove to them that we are still here and still fighting. ( Theme: We didn’t cause the problems: We suffer from the problems: We must be part of the answer to them.)

Stock Market and Property Market
Recently, as predicted, the house market has begun to collapse with related problems on the stock market. The AUN regularly-almost day by day- informs important journalists and media outlets of the situation regarding the land laws. A good sign for homeowners is that in recent weeks the local newspapers Costa Blanca News and CostaNachrichten have also shown more concern and interest in the problems and given extra coverage of the situation. Britain´s Daily Telegraph has had a large article regarding land problems which was printed in the Business Section. Bloomberg, New York Times, Herald Tribune, the Economist and the Financial Times and are amongst the most recent non Iberian media outlets to take on the fight. TV Channel 4, amongst other Spanish media will be showing a programme before the elections, which should help the fight and further the argument against the Valencian Government’s policies and practices. Unfortunately, as in a lot of cases, things could get worse before they get better, but hopefully it will not be too long before families who wish to do so should find it easier to sell because there should be a safer market for purchasing property.

Local Elections
The AUN has no electoral affiliations, however it suggests that when considering who to vote for, it is extremely important that you take a long hard look at the propaganda from each party, and be skeptical of promises made. The best outcome for residents is for minority governments who will be more responsive to local issues and rights and thus work harder for the people. Absolute majorities or construction oriented coalitions do not respect peoples’ rights as has been shown all over Spain.

The next matter being discussed concerned the local area of Benissa (see foot of notice).

Court of Human Rights
At long last the first twelve or so cases will soon be presented to the Court of Human Rights ( ECHR) in Strasbourg. At this point Charles explained the AUN Legal Fund procedure, whereby a donation of 50 euros from everyone helps to pay the legal fees (€300) for the few in order to establish ECHR precedents, win cases and help the many. Members of AUN who have joined the Legal Fund are eligible for their contingency fee being paid to the British solicitors Irwin Mitchell. If the case is lost there is no further payment due. If the case is won, the homeowner is liable for 20% of the compensation awarded by the ECHR. In effect, because of the rigorous screening processes involved, any case making it onto the ECHR court docket has a good chance of success.

Title Insurance
The Society has been trying to obtain Title Insurance for the last two years. Until now no company has previously shown any interest. Recently a new company has done so and the matter is being looked into and considered. Cost, the extent and the amount of coverage are important issues to clarify-plus discounts for AUN members! More on this soon.

A question was asked as to whether the foreign press were aware of the financial problems in Spain, we were assured that all media are given information regularly from AUN and Ciudadanos Europeos. We were reminded that the BBC has also carried a story recently on their website. In recent weeks the foreign and Spanish media have been full of stories, regarding the plummet in Astroc shares ( 77%) with a capital loss of many billions of Euros-which has had a knock on effect for the IBEX and several Spanish banks.

The originater of Astroc is a recently rich Valencian , who began as a part owner of a small factory and who through manipulating local laws buying land and getting greedy town halls to reclassify the status of the ground, had managed to acquire a fortune of some 9 billion euros. (9,000,000,000)- for a time the world’s 95th richest man.
He has recently lost a lot of this, thanks to the scandals relating to the land laws, higher interest rates, etc.

Apparently the more serious financial problems of Spain have come about due to the banks’ assistance in investing in building projects, which are becoming less feasible or practical. At the present time the Spanish Central bank reports that 250 billion euros are owed to banks by developers. This amount is one quarter of Spain´s national product (GNP) . When this amount is added to the amount owed to banks in mortgages the total becomes over one half of the Spanish national product.

Whilst we are all hopeful for a change in the laws and an end to the over development of Spain, the financial and social consequences could be bad for everyone. Construction is now the main work for the Spanish – no construction, no jobs, no alternative employment. And there are a lot of the construction workers who are illegal and who have no social security safety net. This will affect us all, not only with prices of properties going down and difficulty in selling, but the crime rate from the unemployed could be a major problem.

Specific issues:

A German member from Javea, asked a question, the answer being that the Government is playing games. Both laws LRAU and LUV are both unreasonable, and should be changed. One better point of the LUV is that it states those homeowners with full services and paperwork in order, should be excluded from most infrastructure costs and if land is taken it should not be so much. There are in fact four new laws, the LUV, another one regarding the coastal environment, another as regards non buildable land and yet another pending as regards Golf courses. There is also a set of rules , that seem to be flexible and thus amended whenever a major development conflicts with them .Alas, these laws are very difficult to understand even for Spanish experts . The rules are contained in over one thousand pages, some paragraphs are one and one half pages long, some sentences contain up to one hundred words.

We were asked not to confuse land grab with construction. They are related issues, but not the same. Many prospective developers are obtaining land by land grab – then holding on to the land for months/years as an investment but no construction takes place. Meanwhile the banks have given easy loans, so promoters have their money even without facing their own risks related to building and sales. But banks are now becoming nervous about over exposure in the property market. If they begin to be more difficult in terms of loans, then the promoters may have a tougher time making money. Already a lot of their funds are going into developments in other countries, and banks are looking to the UK, etc to place their funds.

The members/supporters of AUN were reminded that it is best to try to stop the land problems before they happen. It is too late once the developers and bulldozers arrive. That means local political pressure, legal actions, etc. But there are still recourses to the EU, the Parliament , Commission and Courts, which are now becoming more effective pressure tactics.

A gentleman from Los Frailles advised that the New General Plan 2005 (PGOU) for his area came under LRAU but was not approved prior to the law changing in February 06. Now it needs to be approved but supposedly must be modified to comply with the LUV. The local PP mayor has promised that the 400 homes built in the campo would be rendered legal if he is reinstated to the council. It was suggested that the gentleman studies the promise carefully and it was also pointed out that if the houses have already been built over four years ago they may now actually be legal
( prescrito) and if knocked down now the homeowners should be compensated.

Chuck was asked – now that the Petitions Committee has visited Spain and the matter has gone to Luxembourg and Strasbourg – what is the next step? We were advised that there is no next step for now. Given the continued interest and the number of petitions being submitted, the MEPs will no doubt visit the region again, perhaps annually if necessary. The EU Commission and the Courts are already in the picture and should be taking effective action soon, led by the decisions of the Petitions Committee and the EU Parliament. The AUN is very optimistic and full of hope for a change in the laws, the Valencian Government is in a panic with the problems being in the hands of the EU and the threat of funding being decreased in 2008.

The next meeting of AUN will take likely place mid June after the May elections and the planned protest on 2nd June.

Meeting closed 17.45.

Notice for families in Benissa
Whilst the AUN is not connected or sympathetic to any electoral party, several members of AUN residents of Benissa, (Lisa, Ecky, Pauline) are running for election in name of CIBE (Citizens of Benissa).

In Benissa the majority of coastal properties are owned by non-Spanish. These homeowners pay higher taxes for poor services and are not represented in the Town Hall. It is essential all ´foreigners´ use their right to vote and get representation on the council by voting for CIBE.

For residents to find out more about the CIBE programme there are two meetings planned for next week to be held at Restaurant La Michetta (near golf course behind Pepe La Sal Supermercado) Benissa. 18.00

Tuesday 15th May For English speaking residents
Wednesday 16th May for German speaking residents

Thursday, May 10, 2007

DECISION CONFIRMED The National Electoral Commission yesterday ratified an earlier decision by the Valencian Commission to the effect that the video produced by the Socialists We've Had Enough cannot be broadcast as part of the election campaign. In this way, the National Commission effectively silences the voices of protest that have been raised by members of the Socialist party,as well as the Bloc and EU that came after the Valencian Commission blocked the transmission of the video. On top of ratifying the Valencian decision, the National Commission yesterday also told the Valencian Socialists that the video may not be shown publicly at all, and this include inside TownHalls, Cultural Centres or offices of the Party (( Note -copies of this DVDwere circulated with "Información" last week)) It also became apparent yesterday that Francisco Camps, the President of the Valencian Community, will appear in a televised debate on local television station RTVV next Tuesday with Valencian Socialist leader Joan Ignasi Pla. A debate that is to take place the previous day at the Manuel Broseta Club will feature campaign director Vicente Rambla who will present the Partido popular campaign in a discussion with Mr Pla for the Socialists and Gloria Marcos for the Communist coalition EU

Also this coming Tuesday, the coalition of the CIBE and Bloc parties will hold the first of two Meet the Candidates sessions in the Micheta restaurant in Benissa. It is this political group that is unique in the municipality in presenting foreigners as candidates

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