News - Costa del Sol Archive 2004-07-21

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Week July 15th to July 21st 2004.

COSTA MARINAS IN CONFLICT

Boating tourism potential upsets environmental concerns

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

REGIONAL GOVERNMENT APPEARS CONFUSED OVER WHAT COURSE SHOULD BE TAKEN WITH NUMEROUS COSTA TOWNS CURRENTLY CONSIDERING PLANS TO EXPAND EXISTING SPORTS MARINAS OR SEEKING PERMISSION TO CREATE NEW ONES.
The Tourism Department has recognised that ‘boating tourism’ – currently a 90 million-euro industry on the Costa – has huge untapped potential, and the Junta de Andalucia-affiliated regional Port Authority has recommended a doubling of the current 4,300 mooring spaces.
At the same time, regional government’s Environment Department has concerns regarding the environmental impact of marinas and has indicated a preference for expanding existing facilities rather than creating new ones.

GREEN LIGHT FOR TORROX
One new marina project that has already received the green light from both the Junta de Andalucia and the Environment Ministry’s Coastal Authority is Calaceite in Torrox, partly because it is considered to have less environmental impact because of its naturally protected location. The east side coast has only one existing marina, at Caleta de Vélez (which is currently seeking approval for expansion), and Nerja and Rincón de la Victoria are both trying to gain approval for future facilities.
Meanwhile Málaga, which has very little recreational mooring space, has two new marinas in the planning stage, but at least one of them is considered to have little chance for approval.

SEEKING APPROVAL ON THE WESTERN COAST
On the western Costa, Mijas is vying for a new marina – possibly of up to 2,000 mooring spaces – at La Cala, while the Benalmádena marina and Marbella’s Puerto Banús are in the advanced stages of seeking approval for expansion.
Fuengirola has also long been seeking the expansion of its marina, and has created several plans, but has yet to receive a response from the regulating authorities.

 

Spain reacts with indignation as HMS Tireless visi

BY DAVID EADE

FROM THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN MADRID TO THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT IN SEVILLA, FROM THE TOWN HALLS OF THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR TO LOCAL ECOLOGIST GROUPS, SPAIN HAS REACTED WITH ANGER AND INDIGNATION TO THE ARRIVAL OF THE NUCLEAR SUBMARINE HMS TIRELESS IN GIBRALTAR’S NAVAL DOCKYARD.
HMS Tireless was berthed in Gibraltar from May 2000 to May 2001 whilst undergoing major repairs to its reactor’s refrigeration system. The presence of the stricken nuclear sub caused widespread protests in Spain because of the fear of the devastation that could have been caused by a nuclear accident onboard the vessel.
Last Friday HMS Tireless sailed in to Gibraltar again. This time the submarine was making a routine visit and not seeking refuge. Nonetheless the Spanish government has made it clear to its British counterpart that this submarine is not welcome in the region and has expressed its disbelief at London’s insensitivity on the issue.

BRITISH EMBASSY TAKES ACTION
In an unusual move the British Embassy in Madrid dispatched its director of communications, Jon Davies, to the Campo de Gibraltar municipality of Los Barrios to meet with the mayor Alonso Rojas. Sr Rojas is also vice president of the Diputación de Cádiz as well as the Campo de Gibraltar town halls and he expressed to Mr Davies the unrest amongst public institutions and citizens groups at the visit of HMS Tireless.
Mr Davies assured Señor Rojas that the United Kingdom had no wish to offend Spanish public opinion and that the visit of HMS Tireless was merely routine.

VISIT ‘NOT A SURPRISE’
It appears that the Spanish Ministry of Defence has known for a month that HMS Tireless was visiting Gibraltar. All the countries of the NATO alliance, of which Britain and Spain are full members, are obliged to communicate the routes and the ports of call that all their submarines make whilst in the waters of the Mediterranean.
On Monday Britain’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, issued a statement in Brussels to the effect that HMS Tireless would leave the Rock in the next couple of days. He was speaking after a meeting with his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, at a summit of European foreign ministers.

 

Vélez rubbish collectors end strike

By Oliver McIntyre

In a late-night meeting last Thursday, representatives from Vélez-Málaga Town Hall and the UGT and CSI-CSIF trade unions reached an agreement that put an end to the rubbish-collectors’ strike that had lasted for a week and seen the accumulation of some 600 tons of refuse throughout the town. The previous day, around 2,000 people – some of them summer tourists – had taken to the streets of Torre del Mar in protest, overturning rubbish containers and shutting down some of the main avenues. One large group of protesters even made its way to Mayor Antonio Souvirón’s private residence and filled his backyard and swimming pool with garbage bags, bottles and other rubbish thrown over his fence.
By Thursday, armed with a report from the Junta’s Health Department confirming that the accumulated rubbish had reached a public health risk, the Town Hall had put its own workers on the streets to begin collecting the mess. The workers who were striking are employed by Urbaser, the company contracted to provide the town’s sanitation services.

WORKERS WIN THE DAY
According to trade union representatives, the workers came away with about 90 per cent of their demands, which included higher pay and a 35-hour, Monday-to-Friday working week. The agreement was reached shortly after midnight on Thursday night and later ratified by the workers. By Friday morning, the Urbaser workers, along with the extra help of the replacement crews that were brought in during the strike, were on the streets beginning the large job of cleaning up the accumulated mess.

 

Airlines are top complaint for tourists

Association says customers have right to compensation for overbooking

By Oliver McIntyre

THE NUMBER ONE AREA OF COMPLAINT FOR TOURISTS - BOTH SPANISH AND FOREIGN - IS AIRLINE TRAVEL, ACCORDING TO A REPORT RELEASED LAST WEEK BY SPAIN'S TOURIST DEFENCE ASSOCIATION (ASDETOUR), A TWO-YEAR-OLD CONSUMER-PROTECTION GROUP.
Eighty-five per cent of all complaints filed by tourists were aimed at airlines, chiefly for overbooking, but also for lost luggage, delays and flight cancellations, according to the report.
In the case of overbooking, Asdetour points out that customers have a legal right to compensation of between 75 and 300 euros, depending on the type and distance of the flight. Although not yet in effect in Spain, new European Union regulations increase that amount to between 250 and 600 euros, and also provide for compensation in the face of some flight delays, according to Asdetour.

SAVE ALL DOCUMENTATION
The association says compensation payments for overbooking are supposed to be automatic, but that airlines often make things more difficult by creating a cumbersome claims process. Asdetour recommends that customers be persistent in claiming their compensation payment and that they save all documentation.

DISAPPOINTING ACCOMMODATIONS
Most of the remaining 15 per cent of tourist complaints were due to either the location or the quality of accommodations not matching what was promised. Rounding out the list were a relative handful of complaints regarding cruises, train travel and food poisoning at restaurants.

 

Derailed freight train in Álora cuts rail traffic

NEWS Staff Reporter

Part of a freight train carrying aluminium and automobiles derailed at the north entrance to the Las Mellizas station in Álora on Saturday morning, halting rail traffic for four hours and requiring the passengers of six trains to be transferred to busses to continue their journeys. The accident occurred at 9.00 when the engine, the first cargo car and part of the second cargo car came off the track at the location of a rail switch, according to Renfe.

The passenger trains affected by the track closure included the lines that run between Málaga and Sevilla, Ronda, Bilbao and Madrid. In the case of the Málaga-Madrid line, two trains were impacted by the closure, one heading from Madrid to Málaga with 277 passengers and one on its way from Málaga to Madrid carrying 216 people. The Málaga-Sevilla line also saw one train in each direction affected, with a total of 182 passengers. One Bilbao-to-Málaga train loaded with 160 people and one Ronda-to-Málaga train with 30 riders were also affected. Rail traffic was re-opened in one direction by 11.55, and about an hour later traffic was re-established in both directions. Last weekend's incident marked the second time in a week that the stretch of track near Álora had to be temporarily shut to traffic, the earlier cut do to a power failure.

 

First major fires of the summer hit the Costa

BY DAVID EADE AND OLIVER MCINTYRE

MARBELLA HAS SUFFERED THE WORST OF THE FIRST SUMMER FIRES TO DATE WHEN NEARLY 100 HECTARES OF LAND IN ONE OF THE MOST EXPENSIVE ZONES IN THE MUNICIPALITY WERE HIT.
The fire struck between Elviria and Los Molineros in an area which is 70 per cent urban and 30 per cent forest. For hours Infoca helicopters and amphibious fire fighting planes flew over the zone dumping millions of litres of water on the inferno.
The blaze was whipped up by strong 30 kilometre-an-hour winds causing 50 luxury homes with 80 inhabitants to be moved as a safety measure. In the end event the homes only suffered minor damage largely to the facades.
The fire started at 14.30 when three people were clearing scrubland in Elviria Norte when a spark ignited the inferno. The trio have been detained by the regional government’s police and face court action for negligence, which could see them paying the costs of the fire fighting action.

Those costs could be considerable as 225 people, seven helicopters, three amphibious aircraft, two smaller aircraft and a co-ordination aircraft were all involved. The fire had to be fought on three fronts. It reached the boundary of the toll motorway and was not brought under control until that night.

Another summer fire hit the Doña María area of Benalmádena close to the Club Hípico. It destroyed 40,000 square metres of scrubland between the club and the Málaga to Fuengirola railway line. The Benalmádena fire service received an alarm call at 12.30 but it is believed the fire had been burning since 11.00.

The blaze was brought under control within half an hour but the fire brigade did not return to their station until 17.00 to ensure it did not flare up again. The cause is not known but the local police are convinced it was started deliberately and are questioning people seen in the vicinity at the time.
Fire engines from Benalmádena and Fuengirola attended the blaze as well as an Infoca fire fighting team backed up by a helicopter. Residents of the El Girasol II urbanisation have protested because they claim they received no protection during the blaze and they had to help a neighbour to prevent the flames reaching his house.

50 HOMES EVACUATED IN THE AXARQUIA
A fire that broke out shortly before 14.00 last Thursday near the C-340 road toward Periana quickly burned 15 hectares of scrub and agricultural land between the C-340 and the La Viñuela reservoir and forced the evacuation of residents, mostly British, from about 50 homes in the Cortijo Romero urbanisation of La Viñuela. According to witness reports, the evacuations were handled without incident, other than one British woman having to be assisted out of her home due to difficulties with breathing caused by the smoke.

At one point the fire threatened to reach a petrol station located on the A-335 road. Firefighters were able to push the flames back away from the station and keep the fire from reaching it and possibly exploding its storage tanks.
Strong, variable winds contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, causing firefighters to battle the blaze on several fronts at once, assisted by three pump trucks and three helicopters, which were able to take advantage of water from the nearby reservoir. Some 40 firefighting personnel battled the blaze for over three hours, finally bringing the fire under control by about 17.30. The cause of the fire is unknown.

 

Major investment in Costa del Sol Hospital

News Staff Reporter

The regional government health service and the local health authority approved the enlargement of the Costa del Sol Hospital in Marbella, to meet the needs of the rapidly growing population, in December 2003. Since then plans have been drawn up and a company appointed to direct the project. Now the government has pledged between 20 and 22 million euros, which means that work can start in a matter of months.
The money will be spent on a new building of 10,000 square metres. It will house a day hospital, outpatient consulting rooms, simple surgery operating theatres, an oncology outpatients unit as well as other facilities. In addition 450 new car parking spaces will be constructed bringing the total to 850. The work is expected to start in about three months time and should be completed in two years.

 

Banderas takes greater public role in local projec

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

MÁLAGA NATIVE ANTONIO BANDERAS HAS RECENTLY BEEN IN THE LOCAL HEADLINES NOT FOR HIS ROLES ON THE SILVER SCREEN, BUT FOR HIS ROLE AS A PROMOTER OF LOCAL PROJECTS AND PRODUCTS.
On a single day, Banderas got press attention for two separate endeavours he is currently engaged in, one a business partnership with Antequera’s Hojiblanca olive oil co-operative and the other the creation of a new theatre and drama school at the Málaga Port.
On the olive-oil front, Banderas announced that he is putting himself at the service of Hojiblanca – of which he has been a 10 per cent shareholding partner since last fall – for public promotions of its products throughout the world. He made the commitment while handing out awards to the co-operative’s best member-producers at annual Hojiblanca Awards ceremony.

MÁLAGA PORT PROJECT
Regarding the proposed theatre for the Malaga Port, the actor met with representatives of the regional and provincial governments to shore up further political support for the project. He came away from the meeting telling reporters that now the “Town Hall, the provincial government and the Junta de Andalucía are all thrilled with the idea.” Initial proposals call for the public administrations to fund the construction of the theatre, while its ongoing operations would be funded by private sponsors. Among his visions for the so-called Teatro del Puerto, Banderas told the provincial and regional government representatives, is for the famed American drama school the Actor’s Studio to collaborate on workshops and productions.

GOLD MEDAL OF ACHIEVEMENT
If the publicity from his non-acting projects wasn’t enough, Banderas was splashed all over the Spanish press once again over the weekend, but this time for an event related to his primary career. The actor was presented with the Spanish Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences’ Gold Medal of Achievement. The ceremony was a star-studded affair held at Málaga’s own La Concepción botanical gardens, a location suggested by Banderas himself.

 

Road construction reveals new Nerja cave

By Dave Jamieson

As Nerja’s famous complex of underground caves prepares for its annual festival of music and dance beginning on Monday July 19, a major new cavern has been discovered as the result of motorway construction work. The extension of the autovía eastwards has already opened several small caves, but the recent find is of greater importance. Situated 158 metres above sea level, it is 125 metres long, covers 150 square metres, houses a small lake and has already been named “Cerro del Sol”. Its maximum height is eight metres, with a smaller neighbouring cave two metres high, and contains numerous stalactites and stalagmites, some of which have been damaged as a result of rock-blasting during the road construction work.

The Cerro del Sol is the second major discovery this year, following the opening of a previously unknown cavern in the Rio de la Miel area. In February, speleologists, who are enjoying a boom in their sport in the Nerja area, found a 60 metre long cave in a very inaccessible area, 539 metres above sea level and requiring a drop of 70 metres to its entrance.

Conflict looms over Estepona luxury hotel

BY DAVID EADE

THE FOUR-STAR H10-ESTEPONA PALACE HOTEL OPENED ITS DOORS LAST SUMMER AND WAS RECENTLY OFFICIALLY INAUGURATED AT A CEREMONY ATTENDED BY MEMBERS OF ESTEPONA TOWN HALL.
However, the fact of the matter is that the hotel is illegally built as it exceeds the rules laid down in Estepona’s town planning ordinance.
Estepona Town Hall has acted to try and bring the hotel in line with the planning regulations by amending the town-planning ordinance. The municipality recognises that a four-star hotel is an important tourist attraction and it also generates many local jobs.

PETITION TO MODIFY BUILDING REGULATIONS REJECTED
The Town Hall submitted its proposals to regional government to modify its building regulations to make the hotel legal but these have been turned down by the provincial commission for town planning. The commission ruled that there was no justification to allow a building over the permitted size on the site.
The Mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos, said he would act in accordance with the commission’s ruling, which had not come as a surprise following a recent meeting with the provincial delegate for town planning. He said the original plans for all the political parties had approved the hotel but the building had tripled in size from what had been presented.

We’re being bombed – with golf balls

News Staff Reporter

Residents of the Girasol II urbanisation in Benalmádena could be excused for donning tin helmets as they claim they are constantly being bombed with golf balls from the nearby Torrequebrada golf course.
There is a daily shower of balls into their gardens, against their homes as well as bouncing off their cars. President of the residents association Antonio Álvarez says this is just one of the problems faced by from the local golf course.
Sr Álvarez stated that the problem started when the first families moved in to the urbanisation of 30 homes. After a year of complaints the golf course did erect a 9 metres long safety net but he says the balls still keep coming.

For its part the Torrequebrada golf course says that since it erected the fence the number of complaints had dwindled to virtually nil. It also blamed some of the residents for the problem as it claimed they had removed vegetation that was designed to protect them as they wanted a better view. It insists the main blame lies with the constructors of the urbanisation who did not take in to account the fact they were building next to a golf course.

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