Spain told to change 'land-grab' law

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The Independent Online

Spain has been given two months to change land laws that are wrecking the holiday-home dreams of Britons in Valencia - or face European court action.

The European Commission's ultimatum is the latest step in a battle with Madrid over controversial "land-grab" rules that have left foreign home owners in the Valencia region facing huge unexpected bills and the loss of part or all of their property.

Labour Euro-MP Michael Cashman, championing the cases of 15,000 mostly British, Belgian, German and French property owners who petitioned the European Parliament for help, said today: "I'm delighted to hear the Commission is continuing action against Spain in what has become a long and painful fight for justice for many affected by this unjust and inhumane law.

"This progress came about as a result of people power, and shows that the EU can and does stand up for its citizens fundamental rights."

Mr Cashman went on: "I hope that the Spanish national government will take this legal and political opportunity to resolve the problems as soon as possible."

About 20,000 compulsory purchases have so far been allowed by the Valencian authorities under the 1994 Valencia land and town planning law.

The Spanish Government says the aim was to ensure community development plans were not blocked by individual land-owners.

But the law has been used to reclassify rural land as urban without the owners' permission - effectively giving developers compulsory purchase rights on foreign-owned homes at a fraction of the market value.

Unscrupulous developers can claim back existing properties or portions of land - and even charge the occupiers to contribute to the cost of installing roads and drains.

The rules were amended last December, but the Commission says the replacement law - the Ley Urbanistica Valenciana - still breaches EU public procurement regulations and therefore fails to protect citizens' rights.

"Spain now has two months to provide a satisfactory response to the Commission's justifiable concerns." said the statement.

"If no such response if forthcoming, the Commission, supported by the European Parliament, can take Spain to the European Court of Justice in order that citizens' fundamental rights to their homes are respected."

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