Human rights gone wrong

“Anyone can give up, it’s the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that’s true strength.” Anonymous

Oleanders & corner cabin 23 May 14All looks calm and peaceful doesn’t it? Early summer sunshine, green leaves, flowers, birds tweeting, blue sky. If this photo could register pollutants like dust and noise levels, then this idyllic scene maybe would lose a lot of its appeal.  But I’m only talking about this short time while the men are down below us,  working hard to give us a nice track that nobody around here seems to have asked for, except maybe the dignatory that I mentioned in the last post!

Day 18 track repair 21 May 14 (23) Day 8 track repair 7 May 14 (3)Well, the young whipper-snapper of a digger driver certainly believed that our quality of life would be greatly enhanced by what they are doing.  When I questioned him about our bank he said (in broad Andalús), “What’s the problem? You are going to have a wonderful road here (his arms swept around expansively in a wide arc), so what does it matter if we had to do this here (pointing to our reduced and collapsing bank) – the digger had to get through”. Oh, that’s all right then!  We lived quietly at the end of a ‘no through road’, and now we’re being opened up to vehicular traffic.

Day 9 track repair 8 May 14 (5) Day 10 track repair 9 May 14 (36)Once our bit was terraced and ‘done’, they moved on to start the shoring up of the next three crevasses, the first two of which lie below the track that borders our land.

Day 3 track repair JB & man 30 Apr 14The activity became even more frenetic than before, with increased traffic flow from the cement lorries and speed ace Señor Alonso with his red lorry and boulders. Perhaps they were behind schedule?

Before we left to go out for the day Joe went down to have a chat with the men, both of whom seemed suddenly preoccupied by their mobile phones. In his firm but gentle manner, Joe explained to them that if they need to widen the track as they go along, they certainly do not have our permission to cut into our bank any more.

Day 9 track repair 8 May 14 (4) Day 10 track repair 9 May 14 (25)Day 9 track repair 8 May 14 (2)We returned much later after they’d gone home.  As we’d predicted, they’d cut into our bank further along and loose earth was everywhere.  Joe was philosophical; I felt sick. I took lots of photos and phoned our friend Chris, a civil engineer.

I wrote up a report, with photos and did my best (via Google Translate) to put it into meaningful Spanish.  Surely I had to do a denuncia now?  First thing the next morning, we walked to our boundary overlooking the works and I took more ‘before and after’ photos because there was still more vandalism they could potentially do.

Day 10 track repair 9 May 14 (35) Day 10 track repair 9 May 14 (48)Chris turned up and, although shocked at the cavalier manner in which the men had ‘stolen’ our property without permission, he did consider the bank further along to be reasonably stable.

Day 18 track repair 21 May 14 (24)However, the remaining ribbon of bank which is all that stands between our drive and the track below is potentially unsafe and will erode more with each rainy season.  He was ready to accompany me to the police station to log my complaint.

I walked down to where the men were busy, too busy to acknowledge me, so intent were they on moving soil from our bank to make a temporary standing for the digger.  Sod the great British sang-froid, I’m afraid a switch went in my head and I started shouting to get their attention.  My Spanish wasn’t up to the intricacies of what I wanted to say, but I just demanded to know who their jefe (boss) was. They sniggered and said, “we all are”, but that the Junta was managing it. I told them I owned the land, I hadn’t given permission for them to take any of it, and then I mentioned the magic word “denuncia“.  A change of attitude from indifference to belligerence ensued; evidently I’d rattled their cage.

After the initial venting of my spleen I felt calmer, I guess you could say more resigned. Logging the denuncia could start off a process of reprisals and investigations by the Junta into our legitimacy; did I really want that?  At the moment we still have our heads just beneath the parapet and we’re enjoying our own special kind of peace.  We still haven’t a clue about the legality of our house and all the other houses around us – the alcalde (mayor) himself years ago told us that all the houses outside the nearest village were illegal.

“…It’s no secret that Andalusia has a big problem with illegally-built homes, and thoughtful people will be able to guess that the incompetence of the regional government is a big part of the problem.

Andalusia has an estimated 300,000 homes built without proper planning permission (20,000 of them in Marbella alone). Back in 2001 the regional government, or Junta, introduced a decree offering ways to legalise the majority of them, whilst denying any semblance of an amnesty. Now it turns out that the decree was impractical and ineffective, and needs to be modified…

When the decree was introduced in 2012 the Junta claimed it would directly legalise 10pc of homes built on land not zoned for building and offer a route to legal recognition and basic services for another 80pc. Only 10pc – some 30,000 homes! – would end up illegal and at risk of demolition, in theory at least.  In reality, the decree failed to achieve its objectives, and the problem is nowhere closer to being solved…”

This would probably all seem insane to any ordinary person!  Human rights, my arse!!  We have to dumb down about the rape of our land because we might be a target for the feared, omnipent Junta.  This definitely wouldn’t happen in England! We’ve got all the right paperwork, including a building permit, but are nowhere nearer to finding out our status than we were 8 years ago, despite paying many ‘experts’ very good money to help us.

Day 13 track repair 14 May 14 (13)Anyhow, I’m slightly gratified to report that my rant the other day must have had some impact because, by and large, they left the remainder of our bank mostly untouched. However, I’m continuing with the photo log for future use, either legal or otherwise, and will continue to give the odd progress report in future posts.

P1060783So many wondrous things have been happening in and around our own private little world at Foggie, that we cannot dwell on those things that we can do very little about. I apologise for introducing a degree of negativity in the last few posts, but the heading of this Foggiebabe blog does proclaim, “Spanish tales from the edge”!

Wildflowers around cabin 19 May 14 (4)We chose this life here, but certain things we didn’t choose.  The material adversities have always been fun to overcome, and largely under our control.  But this question mark that hangs over homes that were bought legally and in good faith – with some poor people even facing demolition – is something we and so many hundreds of thousands of others are struggling to understand.

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