Damage limitation luck

As Spring gradually starts to emerge from her grey cocoon, there are a few updates to give you as we continue our existence in this beautiful but challenging environment.

Nissan track repair 29 Apr 14Firstly, the Nissan passed its ITV without so much as ‘an advisory’, which surprised our mechanic Honest John because both sets of back lights are cracked – the worst affected being the reversing light but as it is meant to be clear anyway, it was deemed ok!  So, for the not insignificant sum of 160 euro we have yet another year of motoring.  Oh, and he had to put a new number plate on.  However, there remains a problem with the tracking – it pulls rather markedly to the right – Honest John believes it was caused by contact with a hard object, like a kerb but neither Joe nor I remember doing this.  I guess we will need to get it sorted some time.

Road collapsing 24 Jan 15You will probably remember me waffling on about the new road below us that was finally finished mid July last year.  We had expressed concerns about the rather half-baked job the men had done, and shortly afterwards I posted some photos of some nice big cracks on the surface.  Of more concern were the dramatic earth slips appearing after the first rains which, over time, we reckoned, were bound to result in some undermining of the foundations. Here’s a photo taken last week after 7 months of rainy winter weather, with the eroded soil falling away exposing the water pipes; I hate people like me that say, “I told you so”!

Return to Foggie 16 Jan 15 (13)All this aside, and apart from the inconvenience and land grabbing during the works last year, I still can’t thank them enough for converting our previously precarious access into something that should last for longer than we will.  However, this will surely have disappointed our goat herder friend who, I am sure, was biding his time waiting for our drive to become impassable so we would finally have to beg him to sell us the ‘ransom strip’ of his adjoining land (about 1/3 acre).  It was around 2008 when we first approached him about buying, but his price was a non-negotiable 75,000 euro!  And by the time of our last conversation in 2010 he’d dug his heels in and said it wasn’t for sale.

The second piece of good news, or in my parlance, damage limitation luck, is the following:

An amendment to Spain’s penal code has just been passed by the ruling Mariano Rajoy-led government that dictates judges must ensure that property owners who purchased an illegally built house in good faith are compensated before any demolition order is passed. This long overdue legal change could positively impact thousands of home-owners –which includes many Brits – who had previously faced the prospect of losing their home and their investment under the old law.  

The Spanish Senate, it seems has finally seen sense in the face of sustained pressure from the opposition Socialist party and AUAN, who have been tireless in campaigning on behalf of the estimated 300,000 home-owners whose properties are at risk.  This amendment, according to AUAN’s lawyer, “protects the good faith of buyers, but doesn’t go as far as we would have wished”.  AUAN says it will keep on campaigning until all properties currently deemed illegal are finally recognised by the law and provided with proper water and electricity connections; something that has often been denied home-owners like us who bought such properties!

Almonds back of hill 22 Feb 15As I’ve written before, I’ve been confused by the reluctance of anyone, anywhere to give us any clarification, except to seemingly block our every move to be allowed the luxury of water and electricity.  Strange really as all over the place are fincas (patches of land with or without a building) with mains water, and there is even a fenced off plot next to our nearest neighbour, quite bereft of any building that has had an electricity meter on the gatepost for a number of years.

Not sure where that leaves us, as we certainly purchased our property in good faith back in April 2006. We bought a plot of some 40,000 sq m or so, with full planning permission (and plans) for a rather splendid house, plus an already existing log cabin on the site, with all the legal paperwork.  It came as a shock when about 2/3 of our land was taken by the Junta and called Parque Natural, but we still had no idea that our very existence here would be under threat.

Fig terrace Maroma 13 Mar 15I mentioned earlier what I call ‘damage limitation luck’.  This new road, however poorly constructed it might turn out to be along certain stretches, must surely have added some value to our property, whatever its status may be.  I’ve read that a list is being drawn up by the mayors which is divided into three categories: ‘legal’, ‘illegal’, and ‘demolition’.  Certainly at this stage we are not wishing to rock the boat and demand answers.

Top gate 14 Feb 15Will it be demolished or won’t it is obviously the most pressing question but I think the fact that the house has now been standing for all these years goes in its favour.  However, its proximity to the Parque is a minus – although all the houses along our ridge are within a stone’s throw of the damned Parque.   And we’ve been told they are all illegal until ratified.

In such a climate of uncertainty, for our home to be earmarked for demolition is obviously something that potentially could happen and your guess is as good as ours.  But since we’ve managed without anyone else’s electricity and water for so long, it makes sense that it would be the lesser of two evils for our home to be deemed ‘illegal’ ie, allowed to exist but having ‘paperless’ status – forever destined to be in a sort of no-man’s land without any entitlement to mains services (not that this would bother us!).

So, to recap, one piece of damage limitation luck is that we now have a good access but it was at some cost to us.  The second is that with this new legislation, the powers that be may find it much easier to leave us alone rather than going to the expense of a legal fight and potential compensation.

Sunset euphorbias 8 Mar 15This whole Foggiebabe blog continues to be a painful but inestimable privilege to write.   Should it ever come to it, I will relish broadcasting to a wider world our humble story of love, compassion and living in harmony and peace with nature; a David and Goliath fight against double dealing, obfuscation and deception.

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