Britons left homeless say council to blame

FURIOUS: Martin Wade and Abigail Wesson have had to abandon their cave home (inset).

A BRITISH couple, who had to abandon their cave home because the caves below collapsed, are furious.

They believe the town hall should never have granted planning permission in the first place.

The caves in Fuente Nueva, near Baza, Granada, were set to be demolished some years before, according to a neighbour.

But the mayor of Orce says he believes the couple think that by telling their story to the Press, they’ll be able to get compensation.

Martin Wade and his fiancée, Abigail Wesson, bought their cave in 2009 and spent more than €30,000 renovating it. In April 2011, the ceiling of a cave below theirs collapsed.

Then on December 19, 2011, a hole opened in the road in front of their property as reported by the Euro Weekly News.

The ground fell through to another, unfinished cave house below as seen in the picture above.

They moved out into rented accommodation just before Christmas.

Then, said Wade, in April this year after light rain and snowfall, the cave started to leak because of faulty waste pipes from another property.

cave-2
DESTROYED: The remains of the cave after it collapsed.
On Thursday April 12, two days after their lawyer spoke to the mayor, Jose Ramon Martinez, workmen filled the hole and built a retaining wall in the cave below.

Wade said that the mayor knows full well that the caves were never structurally sound. Martinez said that after more than 16 years in office he is well aware that caves need specialised maintenance.

He said that the Fuente Nueva caves were abandoned but had not yet been condemned, 10 years before, when an Italian developer bought, and reinforced them.

The couple’s builder, from nearby Galera, then purchased the seven caves and began reforming them. The cave they own is the only finished one.

In December last year, the builder filed a police report against Wade, accusing him of having dug channels, changing the direction of rainwater and causing flooding.

Wade said that he and his fiancé had been forced to dig the trenches to enable rainwater to run off a bank of soil left by the builder. Wade then filed a report against the builder for bad workmanship and lack of maintenance.

Martinez said that last year the town hall and builder agreed to repair the pipes if the couple paid about €300 to fill the hole, but the couple wouldn’t agree.

He believes that if they had paid, then the problem could have been nipped in the bud.

“They could then have started legal proceedings for damage compensation, if they’d so wished,” he said.

Wade said that the hole wasn’t even on their own property and definitely wasn’t their responsibility.

He added that two architects’ reports proved that the builder was at fault, and that by filling the hole the town hall had simply masked the underlying problem.

Wade can hardly believe that he and his fiancée have been so blatantly robbed of their life- savings.

Martinez said that as the Spanish saying goes, “a bad agreement is better than a good argument,” and that this problem could have been settled out of court.

He said the town hall is on great terms with its expatriate residents.

“Things are already bad enough with the recession. Bad Press about Spain is negative for everyone, including other British people and especially those who own businesses here.”

One English resident, Christine Price, has a cave home in another Orce village, built by the same Galera builder.

She said that she and her husband were very happy with their cave and their builder.

Martinez said that the hole was filled as an emergency measure, and that once the land has settled, the town hall will work on the pipes.

“The courts will then have to decide who’s going to pick up the bill,” said Martinez.

Wade is indignant; “Nobody seems bothered that when it rains, it pours through the roof and makes the bedroom and kitchen a paddling pool, which it never did before the collapse.”

He said that even though it’s too late to save their home, they want to prevent other Brits from falling into similar traps.

By Susan Leach
[email protected]

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