A RETIRED couple face financial ruin and a crippling fine after their dream home was deemed to have been built illegally.
John and Jenny Harvey moved from Hunmanby to Spain and invested £210,000 – their life savings – in a two-acre farm in the white-washed Andalucian village of Lanjaron.
But now they must undo thousands of pounds of renovations to their property – or face a £68,000 fine, the local authority has ruled after investigating a breach of planning laws.
The decision “has ruined our lives” said Mrs Harvey, 62, a former legal executive for Martin Summers in Hunmanby.
The Harveys say they have been “persecuted” and are the victims of “deceit, fraud and theft”. They insist work to upgrade a farm building to a two-bedroom villa was carried out in line with planning permission.
Five years ago the Harveys moved to the white-washed Andalucian village of Lanjaron after spending thirty years in Hunmanby, investing £210,000 – their life savings – in a two-acre farm and dream home.
Mrs Harvey said that they spent 18 months ensuring the planning was handled correctly.
But in 2008 a court ordered the demolition of the property following a complaint from a neighbouring farmer.
Mrs Harvey said: “He was telling lies to get us into trouble. We sold up everything to move to Spain. We had all the proper planning permissions and documents to allow us to build.”
The stress of living with a demolition order forced the Harveys to return to Britain in 2008 as their idyllic retirement hung in the balance.
Mr Harvey, 69, a former builder, who moved to Spain after suffering a heart attack, was treated for high blood pressure on his return. Mrs Harvey was diagnosed as suffering from stress.
Their plan for Mrs Harvey to return to work was derailed when, three months later, another bombshell hit the couple: Mrs Harvey was found to have breast cancer and underwent eighteen months of gruelling treatment.
“It was very difficult but I’m still here. I’m still getting regular scans. I’ve been looked after very well though,” Mrs Harvey said.
Mrs Harvey described their Spanish ordeal as a “nightmare”. “We have been living in a basement flat in Normanton since we returned. It’s a long way from the dream home we thought we would be enjoying.”
The couple turned to the European Court of Human Rights in a bid to seek justice but any appeal granted could be years away.
In October 2011 the authorities in Lanjaron assured the distraught owners that their house would not be demolished but now they have been instructed to return their renovated home to its original use.
“We are now on the poverty line. We do not have any money to pay fines or have any work carried out on the property”, said Mrs Harvey.
MEP Michael Cashman, who assisted with the appeal to the Brussels court, said: “Mr and Mrs Harvey were the innocent victims of agents, developers and complicit planning authorities.”
A demolition threat also faces a British expat couple in Albox, Andalucia, after they lost an appeal to save their property. The couple – one of a group of British owned properties served with demolition orders in 2012 –have vowed to save their home.
More than 300,000 properties in Andalucia, many sold to unsuspecting British expats, are believed to be illegal. They were built with planning authority issued by corrupt local councils before a recent clampdown by the regional government.
A decree passed in January will allow for most of these homes to be “regularised” at considerable expense to the homeowners but 10 percent will have to be demolished said the regional Housing Minister Josefina Cruz Villalón.
Expats held a protest march in Seville yesterday.