By Paul Burnell
Southern Spain seemed an idyllic place to retire to.
But hundreds of British expats could have their dream homes demolished after being told the houses were built illegally.
Thousands of new homes have been built in Albox, southern Spain as the market burgeoned in recent years but some owners have discovered their homes were constructed without planning permission.
Expats such as Bob Preston, who moved to Spain with wife Yvette from Gloucestershire four years ago, say they have been stranded with no running water or electricity from the mains supply.
Neither can they sell their £120,000 three bedroom villa, to return to the UK.
An investigation by BBC One's Real Story has found that some developers marketed Spanish property in the UK, built without planning permission.
"We thought we would buy from a big developer so we wouldn't have problems," says Mr Preston.
And despite his own checks, he is now lumbered with the property.
"We can't sell the place because who'd buy it. We're trapped here living like this.
"I don't know what we're going to do, I wish we'd never moved out here."
Like others Mr Preston found his house was built on land classified as rural rather than urban - homes should only be built on urban designated land.
"I sometimes feel like a bloody numpty. How did I end up here? I'm not that stupid a person and here I am ended up here," he says.
"The developers shouldn't have built the houses. They knew it was rural land, they didn't have building licences, they shouldn't have done it."
Developers Procoal refused to be interviewed
Recently Almeria's Country Courts ruled that 11 homes would have to be demolished.
Included in the properties currently under investigation is the Almanzora Country Club housing development, in Valle de la Romana of Cuevas de Almanzora, where the building of 1,500 houses has been suspended by the Court until inquiries have been concluded.
But even homes escaping the axe are denied mains supply water and power because technically they do not exist.
A spokesman for law firm Irwin Mitchell Abogados based in Marbella, Madrid, and the UK said the properties were sold using alleged illegal licences or after illicit evaluations.
Two weeks ago the expats voiced their frustration publicly when more than 500 demonstrated in Albox in a demonstration organised by No Urbanism Abuse of Almeria, a group representing 2,000 British residents.
More than 500 people demonstrated in Albox
Homeowners have petitioned the local mayor who many blame for their predicament.
Asked by the BBC how he could have allowed the illegal properties to be built he denied that he had any responsibility and said the developers were to blame.
One of the developers blamed by residents is Procoal, which the BBC has learned is still advertising in the UK.
However its managing director Juan Franciso Alarcon was less keen on publicity when confronted by BBC reporter Paul Kenyon.
Mr Kenyon and film crew were manhandled and forcibly removed from the company's offices.
The residents' ultimate hope could lie in the courts according to solicitor María Eugenia Navarro, of Irwin Mitchell Abogados.
"This is a very complicated situation and each individual, family and their property needs to be considered separately, " she says.
"However it is vitally important that each and every one are considered."
"A group action is one of the options which we would consider."
In the meantime the expats are stranded in a land where the dream sold to them in the brochures has irredeemably soured.
Real Story: Pain In Spain - the property scandal that left Brits stranded in the sun, was shown on BBC One on Wednesday 31 January.
This case originated from an e-mail sent by BBC News website reader, Mike Phillips, Albox, Spain.
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