A former Bond girl is leading a group of British expatriates who hold the balance of power in a Spanish village before its elections tomorrow.
Valerie Leon, 71, who had parts in The Spy Who Loved Me and Never Say Never Again, has lent a dash of Hollywood glamour to an election campaign that could be decided by 600 British residents of Albox in Almeria, southern Spain.
The main point of contention is which party will help to halt a series of demolitions of villas owned by British expatriates.
Albox, like many other villages in the region, is home to scores of expatriates who bought villas, only to discover that they had been built illegally. The British Embassy estimates that 4,000 are embroiled in legal battles over illegal homes and dozens face demolition orders.
The socialists have supported recent changes to the law which mean that compensation must be awarded to expatriates before the bulldozers can move in, but the centre-right Popular party government has resisted changes in the law to help them.
Ms Leon, 71, from west London, who had parts in Revenge of the Pink Panther, Carry On Matron and Carry On Up the Jungle, said: “I think it’s horrific what has gone on and is still going on.
In England when we buy a house we expect a lawyer or the land registry to tell us if there are any problems. I understand that in Spain the land registry does not have to say if there are problems.”
Ms Leon, who has been visiting Almeria for 20 years, added: “What has been happening is that English people see a property, want to buy it and then go to the land registry and are told that all is in order. Then after they buy the property they might find out in fact that it’s illegal and has a demolition order on it.”
Helen and Len Prior, both 70, from Hurst in Berkshire, whose €350,000 villa in Albox was demolished in 2008, are living in a garage with a converted camper van for a toilet and fighting for compensation.
Maura Hillen, president of Auan, a campaign group for British homeowners, is standing as an independent candidate in Albox.
“If I am elected I could help the British and other people resolve this issue of illegal homes,” she said. In March the Spanish parliament voted in favour of guaranteeing compensation to property owners if their homes were demolished because they were illegal. Until now judges could order the demolition of properties before compensation was paid.
Often developers declared themselves bankrupt so that homeowners were left with nothing and many British investors lost all their savings.
Next week the Spanish upper house of parliament is to vote on changing the rules so that the land registry must show whether a property has been declared illegal.
Via The Times.