A Spanish retirement dream has ended in a couple’s worst nightmare.
John and Jenny Harvey say they face financial ruin after their home in the sun was deemed to have been built illegally.
After heart-breaking legal wrangles, the couple have returned to West Yorkshire – and are now living in a basement flat.
Meanwhile, they face a fine of £68,000 and have been ordered to undo thousands of pounds worth of renovations to their Spanish property.
Mrs Harvey, 62, said the couple felt “persecuted” and insist they had carried out the works legally.
She said: “We have been living in a basement flat in Normanton since we returned. It’s a long way from the dream home we thought we would be enjoying.”
The couple, originally from Altofts, sold up and moved to the Andalucian village of Lanjaron five years ago.
They invested £210,000 – their life savings – into a two-acre farm. They renovated the entire building, fitting a luxury kitchen and bathrooms.
They say they spent 18 months getting the proper planning consents from the local authority.
But in 2008, following a complaint from a neighbouring farmer, a court ordered that the property must be demolished.
Mrs Harvey, who has since been diagnosed with breast cancer, said: “The local council went back on what they said and said they had only granted permission for a shed, not a home.”
The stress forced the couple to return home in July 2008.
In October 2011, the Spanish authorities relented and assured the couple the home would not have to be demolished – but they still want it returned to its former state, without any internal walls.
Mr and Mrs Harvey have lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights, but have been told any decision could be years off.
MEP Michael Cashman is aiding the couple. He said: “Mr and Mrs Harvey were the innocent victims of agents, developers and complicit planning authorities.”
Mrs Harvey is now warning others about the pitfalls of buying abroad. She added: “We are now on the poverty line.”