The story of a retired British couple whose house in Almayate is the subject of a demolition order has captured international attention after they posted their plight on social media, as well as attracting support from SOHA (Save our Homes Axarquía).
Gill and Bob Ward, a retired couple from Cornwall, bought the property, part of an old farmhouse near Almayate, in 2004 and, as it was “a ruin” as Gill describes it, they sought planning permission from Vélez-Málaga town hall to rebuild it.
Work got under way in 2006 once permission had been granted, which required the original facade to be preserved, while other improvements were allowed.
Sometime into the project the original wall collapsed, or so they were told by the architect, who assured them that it wouldn’t be a problem. The work was completed and the Wards moved into the property.
“In hindsight we learned that we should have applied for a new licence after what had happened with the wall,”the couple explained to SUR inEnglish on Wednesday.
In 2013, Gill, whose name is on the deeds to the house, was summoned to court for a criminal offence of “knowingly building illegally without the correct licence”, she explained. She was advised by her solicitor to plead guilty and was given a two-year suspended jail sentence as well as being ordered to apply for, and present to the court in Malaga, a new permission to carry out building work in order to make the property legal.
Having heard nothing for two years after presenting the required new permission to the court, the couple assumed that all was well and continued to live in the property until they received a letter from Vélez-Málaga town hall on 5 July. The letter advised them that the house would be demolished on 17 July. This time the house was saved by a court order temporarily denying the demolition workers access to the property.
Since Gill posted their situation on a Facebook page after narrowly avoiding the bulldozers on Monday, the group Save our Homes Axarquía (SOHA) has got involved as has local English-language radio Talk Radio Europe. SOHApresident Phil Smalley said they were “waiting to hear from the couple’s solicitor and to hear back from the town hall and hoping for a solution”. The couple also said they had been approached by the press in the UK.