Retired British expats left without fresh water after 15-year illegal homes battle

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Pensioners living in the Spanish region of Murcia have sounded the alarm over the dire conditions at their properties. The elderly Britons are part of a 200-strong group of expats who have been campaigning for the authorities to grant their homes legal status. The homeowners live in Gea y Truyols, a sun-soaked rural area of Murcia less than a 30-minute drive from the Costa Cálida.

But many of the retirees do not have access to clean drinking water or a proper electricity supply.

This is because the expats unknowingly bought homes that did not have planning permission after being assured the properties were legally sound.

Because they are not considered legal under Spanish law, the houses cannot be hooked up to the proper water and electricity mains.

This has left residents like Keith Willis from Windsor forced to rely on an unofficial supply of agricultural water from local farmers, which comes out of the taps brown.

The retired Heathrow Airport worker, 71, lives with his partner, Pat, and has been in Spain for 21 years.

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Speaking to, the veteran expat outlined some of the problems he and his neighbours face, and what his priorities are.

He said: “Getting fresh water that we can actually drink or cook with because the water now being agricultural water, you can’t do much with it at all really.

“It comes out of the taps brown most of the time. So, fresh water will be the main thing.

“Most places in Spain have bottles of butane gas, which are fine. They run everything perfectly well.”

The expat, who has lived in the area for more than 15 years, accused Murcia Town Hall of being slow to act to resolve the situation.

He said: “Nothing’s happened. It’s still sitting with the Town Hall, waiting for them to get on and do it.

“I bought in 2006, and we were assured at that time by the developer that the papers were with the Town Hall waiting for them to sign it off.

“Whether that was true or not, I’m not sure, but we’ve certainly found out since that the Town Hall have indeed got the plots of land and they’re working on segregation for us all, which is one of our main bones of contention.”

Keith’s fellow expat Linda House, from Essex, has seen some progress at the Town Hall and was due to meet with representatives again this month.

The retiree – who also must rely on agricultural water due to her home being built without planning permission – penned a heartfelt message to her local authority along with her fellow residents last year.

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In a joint letter, the expats claimed they were living in “third world country” conditions and that they “found the situation increasingly upsetting”.

Linda leads local pressure group AUN Murcia, which is pushing for the properties to be recognised legally.

Speaking to, she claimed that the Town Hall was aware that a local developer built their homes without planning permission.

She said: “The Town Hall is culpable. They knew all along that houses here were being built illegally without planning permission or without planning permission that had been passed and sanctioned.”

Local Spanish lawyer Gerardo Vazquez, who has advised AUN Murcia, explained the bind that the expats find themselves in.

He told “To get access to utilities you need what’s called a First Occupational License, which is a document given by the Administration to say the house has been built with planning permission, what has been built is in accordance with the planning permission, it’s got the services.

“Therefore, it can be used and you can connect to services like electricity and water but those houses don’t seem to have that.”

Murcia Town Hall did not respond to requests for comment.

A Foreign Office spokesperson told “We closely engage with the Spanish Government and regional governments on matters relating to UK Nationals’ rights.

“We encourage any UK National in need of consular assistance to get in touch with their nearest Embassy / Consulate or call the 24/7 phone line for support.”

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