Carmenes del Mar is a community of 416 homes situated in the village of La Herradura in the municipality of Almuñecar in Granada.
In 1995, property developer Cerro Gordo S.A., part of the COMAREX group (an important real estate developer in Granada), proposed a construction project on Cerro Gordo in La Herradura (Almuñecar). The Junta de Andalucía gave the go-ahead to both the urban development and the subsequent increase in the number of houses planned by the developer, both being approved without objection by the council.
Within months, the construction of 416 homes spread over six urbanizations had begun. While the construction work was being carried out, engineers were already warning of structural irregularities. Nevertheless, the developer, ignoring the warnings, decided to continue with the promotion and between 2001 and 2005 sold practically all of the properties.
First Alarms Sounded: “Chacón Report 2008”
Already in 2005, the first evidence of deterioration was coming to light: uneven road surfaces, land slippage, and cracks in the retaining walls. By 2007 the problems had become obvious and untenable. The report delivered by Dr. D. José Chacón Montero, a professor from the University of Granada specialising in Geotechnics (Dept. of Civil Engineering), known as the “Chacón Report 2008”, made it clear that the building techniques used in the construction of the houses were not adequate for the type of terrain being built on. The report demonstrated a pre-existing tendency to landslides on the hillside, described in old geological manuals, and showed that the geological deficiencies of the land made it wholly unsuited to this type of construction. Additionally,the report showed that a suitable geological survey had not been carried out. In other words, the special characteristics of the terrain being built on were known, but nothing was done to avert the problem.
The spokespersons of the property owners believe that the Junta de Andalucía, which from the beginning was aware of the problems, has abandoned to their own fate the more than 400 families, claiming to have no involvement in the case, in spite of having taken, on various occasions, legal action against the buidling licences given over the years by the Almuñecar Town Hall. “The new president cannot continue to turn a blind eye, allowing home owners to suffer this injustice”, the residents insist. The Junta de Andalucía has an obligation to ensure compliance with planning laws, and if these laws are not respected it must take appropriate measures to uphold the law, including intervention if deemed necessary.
We are, therefore, victims of the business practices typical of the construction boom, when "anything goes" when it comes to building another urbanisation, and the future inhabitants are disregarded from the start. Today those same practices could leave more than 400 families without their homes. In addition, this episode damages the much vaunted “Brand Spain”, and undermines the credibility of not just the tourist trade of the region, but also the real estate market of the whole country.
Legal actions demostrate evidence of fraudulant behaviour
Faced with this situation, the affected home-owners have set in motion a whole series of legal actions whose aim is to defend themselves and to try to save their homes. Up to now, these actions have presented evidence of, for example, the existence of expert reports that advised against the construction techniques used in this zone. It is possible that the judicial process will last another five or six years, which could mean that by the time a final sentence is pronounced, it will not be feasible to repair the damages, and all because of a political class and a legislative system that protects the builder at the expense of the buyer.
Therefore, what is needed, say the residents, is that the adminstration help remedy the problems now, and step up with the technical and economic resources that will eventually be called for when the judicial process identifies who is responsible. The Town Hall is the only administration that up to now has proved willing to lend a hand, but owing to the magnitude of the problem they feel powerless to help.