The head of Abusos Urbanisticos Almanzora No! (AUAN), an organization that campaigns for the legalization of homes declared illegal by planning authorities has been appointed an honorary Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE), for services to the British community in Spain.
Originally from Ireland, Hillen has steered the lobby group that represents more than 500 expat members with homes in the Almanzora Valley in Almeria, southern Spain.
AUAN has campaigned at the local, regional and national level for the legalization of homes, to get them properly connected to water and electricity, with mitigation of the costs of doing so, and called for information and support for affected home owners.
In May last year she was also elected to the local council and is now the councillor for Tourism & International Relations in Albox, Almeria, and a deputy mayor.
"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," said Simon Manley, British ambassador to Spain, announcing the award on Tuesday.
"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.
Last year saw the group win a victory with the introduction of legislation to protect thousands of homeowners across the Spanish costas whose properties are threatened with demolition after falling foul of planning laws.
"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," explained Manley.
"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.”
Hillen, who moved to Almeria province from Weybridge, Surrey with her British husband said she was thrilled with the recognition.
"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," she said on Tuesday.
"This award is a recognition and vindication of their efforts and perseverance as much as it is of mine."