Ex-pat councillor in Almeria awarded MBE

maura hillen

While Maura Hillen might not have any links with Adeje, her story is worth reading as a fine example of intergration here in Spain.

The leader of an association representing owners of illegal homes in Andalucia has been appointed an honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), for services to the British community in Spain.

The award to Mrs Maura Hillen, an Irish national, reflects her work as President and spokesperson of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No! (AUAN), which campaigns for the legalisation of homes in the Almanzora Valley, where thousands of properties – mostly British owned – have lacked a final habitation certificate since they were built some 10 to 15 years ago.

Under Maura Hillen’s leadership, AUAN – which in English translates to ‘No to Urban Planning Abuse in Almanzora’ – lobbies the Spanish authorities at local, regional and national level for the legalisation of homes, to get them properly connected to water and electricity, with mitigation of the costs of doing so, and information and support for affected home owners. AUAN has some 500 members, mostly British but also Belgian and Irish nationals.

The British Ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, said:

“Since 2008, Maura Hillen MBE has made a tireless contribution towards resolving the property problems that affect thousands of British homeowners in Spain. I am very pleased that Her Majesty The Queen has approved this honour, which recognises her dedication and resilience.

“Under her leadership, AUAN is a professionally-run, well-respected organisation that has secured expert legal advice and in turn proposed realistic solutions to the Spanish regional and national authorities.

“In March last year, the Criminal Code was modified following proposals from AUAN that judges take into account that most owners purchased in good faith, and that compensation should be paid prior to any demolition. That was a significant step forward in reforming a legal system that AUAN argued had failed adequately to recognise the rights of homeowners or compensate for their losses.

“I know Maura intends to keep campaigning for more action to resolve outstanding cases and to increase the legal security for future buyers.”

Maura Hillen MBE, president of AUAN, said:

“I am very pleased and delighted to accept this award not only for myself but on behalf of every member of AUAN who has also played no small part in defending the rights of homeowners in Spain, most especially committee members, past and present, and those that came before me as president of AUAN.

“This award is a recognition and vindication of their efforts and perseverance as much as it is of mine.”

Mrs Hillen is also Councillor for Tourism & International Relations in Albox, Almeria, and a deputy mayor.

Make your voice heard, your presence felt…

Today, November 25th, is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

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In Adeje there are a number of public events taking place, so if you are in the town do join us in making your voice heard and presence felt against this scourge. Events begin at 9am and run until 9pm. According to Adeje equality councillor, Carmen Lucía Rodríguez del Toro it’s important that everyone plays their part in this fight, and activities are aimed at all members of the population, from kids to adults to senior citizens.
There’s an art exhibition by students from the local secondary schools opening at 9, and at 10 a video showing in the Adeje Cultural Centre for older students. From 11.30 students from 5th and 6th class in local primary schools will be in the Plaza España taking part in workshop about and around the theme of domestic violence.

At 12.30 there will be a musical show in the Cultural Centre which will followed by a reading, in the Plaza España, of the manifesto against violence against women and a minute’s silence in memory of all the women who have died as a result of gender violence. The Adeje department of youth are also organising a photocall for anyone who would like to take part.
The British Ambassador to Spain, HMA Simon Manley, as well as the British consul and vice-consul, Charmaine Abrouin and Helen Díaz de Arcaya Keating will be present at the minute’s silence as they are in Adeje for a meeting with the mayor, José Miguel Rodríguez Fraga.
Events will continue this afternoon in the Adeje Farmer’s market with an information table run by the Group Against Gender Violence with a ‘henna tattoos against gender violence’ activity as well.
From 6pm in the Cultural Centre the prize giving in the Short Stories against Gender Violence competition will take place, followed by performances by local artists Ainhoa and Agoney.