Rules introduced in 1988 left many coastal properties liable to demolition without legal redress or compensation. These laws applied retrospectively are being likened to the notorious Highland and Irish land clearances of the 19th Century. It was a time when vast swathes of countryside were cleared of their inhabitants by unscrupulous developers. Since the introduction of the contentious laws 96 percent of appeals have been rejected. Many home owners, whose only assets were their homes, have seen their properties reduced to rubble before their eyes. In a fig leaf gesture of contrition Spanish MEP Gabriel Mato concedes; “The Spanish government must recognise that those affected must be fully compensated. We are talking about people who have lived in their homes for many years and who lost their property without explanation.” ZIGZAG APPLICATION OF THE LAW In terms of nationality the application of the laws are indiscriminate; they apply to all nationalities including Spanish. It has been noted however that unfair demarcation has curiously left owners of ‘some large hotels and private developments untouched.’ Bizarrely, family-owned homes adjacent to such urbanisations and hotels are razed to the ground whilst their neighbours blithely continue without interference. Sr. Mato’s colleague Carlos Iturgaiz asks: “How can the demarcation line be applied in a zigzag?” Their concerns echo those of British MEP Michael Cashman who is now advising constituents to avoid buying property in Spain. He says he is greatly concerned at the scale of the problem and the appalling affect the ‘clearances’ have had on his constituents. He told the committee: “Thousands of Britons with properties in regions like Andalucia, Valencia and Murcia were affected.” Saying that dubious application of the law had “taken away confidence in Spain generally” he added his own voice to those calling for EU funding for Spain to be withheld until the issues were addressed.” DREAMS REDUCED TO RUBBLE Another British MEP, Roger Helmer, disclosed that he too had received dozens of complaints from people in his own East Midlands constituency. “Some have seen their dreams, their homes, and their life savings reduced to rubble before their eyes.” The committee heard that 15,000 petitioners had appealed to the committee about the issue. Alicia Paz Antolin, Spain’s General-Director for Coast and Sea Sustainability claimed that owners who lost rights to legally built properties were being ‘fairly compensated.’ Not surprisingly this was not acceptable to many petitioners and her statement was received with scepticism. The committee, perhaps sensing obfuscation in the minister’s carefully worded response, is to write to the Spanish Government asking for further clarification on the application of the law and simultaneously to the European Commission with a request for their own clarification the legal basis of each of the cases. Image credits.