British couple get prison sentence for illegal house

TORROX – A BRITISH couple were sentenced to eight months in prison for building a villa on protected land. They will also have to demolish the illegally built villa located in Pago de Santilla, near Torrox, and pay a €5,400 fine. David and Janet Hartshorn appeared before a judge at a Malaga Criminal Court last October for a one-day hearing and the court’s sentencing was revealed this week.

The British couple may not have to serve the jail term as since jail terms of less than two years are usually suspended for first time offenders in Spain.

In 2000, they bought the 1,350 square metre plot of land with a small country cottage on it. In 2001 they applied for planning permission to build a house on the land but they were only granted a license to build on the 24 square metre plot where the original cottage stood. Nevertheless, they built a 240 square metre villa with a swimming pool.

In January 2004 Torrox Town Hall ordered them to stop building work, but they continued and the villa was finally completed in July 2004, according to the Judge. In September 2006 they were issued a €73,092 fine, which they are challenging.

“It is not possible to grant retrospective planning permission because the villa was built on protected land,” explained the judge.

“It is inconceivable that individuals should build on land protected by law from development,” he added.

“We will definitely appeal,” Mrs Hartshorn was quoted as saying in The Daily Mail, “my husband has said he will take the case all the way to the European Courts to save the house.”


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