Irish homes in Spain may face the wrecking ball

FEARS persisted yesterday that thousands of Irish-owned homes in Spain could face demolition despite reassurances from property advisers.

The Spanish government this week reiterated proposals to clear illegal developments from a 800km stretch of coastline.

Property owners face having their homes bulldozed because of planning hitches. It will cost them €5 billion to combat the overdevelopment on the coastline. Madrid hopes that by pulling down homes, chalets and hotels built too close to the coast, it could slow down intense overcrowding and reclaim Spain’s beaches.

Areas affected include the Canary Islands and the Mediterranean coast from Barcelona in the north to Marbella in the south.

Beaches are common property in Spain and it is illegal to build within 100 metres of the coast.

Madrid was expected to put plans to 17 regional authorities yesterday, said reports. This followed comments by Antonio Serrano, of Spain’s Environment Ministry, that agreement was needed with local authorities.

However, legal advisers and property experts here dismissed immediate concerns about Madrid’s plans.

According to Tom McGrath & Associates, Dublin-based solicitors, any move to bulldoze thousands of homes would be economic suicide for Spain. “They’re not going to ruin this industry and wipe out investors and holiday home buyers,” said the overseas property adviser.

Speculation is mounting the move by Madrid is politically motivated with a general election looming in 2008.

The Department of Foreign Affairs says 78,000 Irish people are registered as living in Spain. The figure could be higher with no obligations to register with embassy staff.

Estimates for Irish-owned properties range from 60,000 to 200,000. Neither the Central Statistics Office nor the Revenue Commissioners have figures on Irish-owned properties in Spain.

Regions most popular with Irish buyers include the Costa del Sol and the Costa Blanca, including the cities of Alicante and Murcia.

Independent financial advisers IFG Spain say a number of planning scandals have hit resorts, one that affected 30,000 homes in Marbella.

However, Madrid’s moves to reclaim coastal areas was more of a warning to errant local authorities and developers, said IFG Spain managing director Elaine Higgins.

“This is more of a threat that they won’t tolerate abuses of the system. The real point is if people are thinking of buying, don’t rush to sign anything without getting independent advice.”

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