Monday, 29 January 2024, 17:23
Palmeras 25 is a modern development, built in Benalmádena in 2019, which 42 residents call home. The main entrance of the building faces a lane, just a few metres long, which connects the residents with the main street, Avenida de las Palmeras. What none of them knew when they bought their dream home was that they would need to pay 1,000 euros a month to the town hall for using this lane to head out onto the street.
In 2019, when the building was erected, the construction company Sentiano SL signed an urban planning agreement with Benalmádena council so that the residents could enter and exit through this lane, which is the "natural exit to the street". The agreement detailed a payment of 1,000 euros per month to the town hall for the cleaning and maintenance of this road, which is part of the Benalmádena Racquet Club, a facility managed by a private company. It also included the transfer of 41 parking spaces from the construction company to the town hall and the remodelling of two padel tennis courts.
The residents discovered this after they had already bought their homes. Today, almost five years later, they continue the battle because they refuse to be "charged for leaving our house", as they pointed out. They described the situation as "bizarre" as mechanised gates were installed to regulate passage along the road, which only open with a remote control. "If the electricity goes out in the racquet club, we can't get out", they said. Another frequent situation is that "if a visitor comes, brings us shopping or a parcel... we have to go downstairs with the remote control so that they can access our doorway from the street". "It's like being prisoners in our own homes," they said.
The residents refused from the beginning to pay the 1,000 euros. In the midst of the battle, in October 2022, the Andalusian Anti-Fraud Office (OAAF) received an anonymous complaint about the case and decided to investigate the possibility that there had been "acts or omissions that could constitute fraud, corruption, conflict of interest or any other illegal activity". The investigation is still open, although in its most recent report, to which SUR has seen, the Anti-Fraud Office pointed out two key issues.
It said that the legal figure that was used at the time to allow the neighbours access to their homes via the road was not the correct one and, among other issues, it pointed out that the correct thing to do would have been to establish an easement. The Anti-Fraud Office also pointed out "disproportionate" consideration in reference to the 1,000 euros.
It asked the council to investigate whether the urban development agreement followed the procedure set out in the regulations, and to re-quantify the cost of using the thoroughfare.
The OAAF established a deadline for the council to send all the information by and if it does not do so, risks a possible sanction.
Sources from the current council (elected in May 2023) pointed out that they are collaborating with the Anti-Fraud Office as they are the "main interested parties" in clarifying what happened.
From the previous council, the then councillor for sports Joaquín Villazón, who was in charge of negotiating the agreement, defended that it was made with the "endorsement of the technical reports". "The construction company wanted to make the entrance in the lower part of the building because that meant an easier sale, that entrance led to the racquet club road and in exchange for allowing them to use it, we tried to negotiate the best possible agreement for the racquet club," he said.
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