Costa del Sol News - 12th January 2005

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Week January 6th to January 12th 2005.

LAND LAW LIMITS FINCAS

Strict protection laws put the brake on inland building trend

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

THE TOUGHER RESTRICTIONS ON BUILDING IN RURAL AREAS THAT CAME INTO EFFECT TWO YEARS AGO, ARE NOW MAKING IT MORE DIFFICULT FOR FOREIGN BUYERS TO PURCHASE OR BUILD COUNTRY HOMES IN INLAND AREAS.
A recent study, by the property assessment company Tasaciones Andaluzas (Tasa), concludes that the regional Land Law (Ley del Suelo) ‘greatly limits the ability to construct buildings for recreational and residential use’ in rural areas. The law puts restrictions on the type of structures that can be built and allows building on rural properties only if they meet certain size requirements. It prohibits the construction of single-family homes on land categorised as rural unless the building is “justifiably linked” to agricultural, forestland or livestock activities.

COSTLY COUNTRY HOMES
The result of the restrictions created by the Land Law, according to the Tasa study, is that country homes – or land where they can legally be built – are a limited commodity, meaning owners of existing homes can demand ever greater prices. In some areas, especially the Guadalhorce Valley, the Ronda mountains and the Axarquía, the cost of a country home has increased and in some cases nearly tripled due to the tightened land-use regulations. ‘Fincas’ with existing homes now sell for up to 21 euros per square metre, according to Tasa.

While the Land Law has the positive affect of protecting rural areas from overdevelopment, its affect on real estate in inland areas has put the brakes on a trend that had been an economic boon for many villagers who owned unprofitable agricultural land.

Buyers from the UK, Germany or other European countries, willing to pay relatively large sums for the land as vacation or retirement property, were viewed by many small farmers as an opportunity to cash out. That option – as well as the economic engine represented by the influx of affluent foreigners to the area – is now reduced by the tougher land-use restrictions.

 

La Línea fireman and his dog search for survivors

Spanish rescue workers join international aid effort in disaster zone

By David Eade

A LA LÍNEA DE LA CONCEPCIÓN FIREMAN AND CIVIL DEFENCE OFFICER, JESÚS DOMÍNGUEZ, HAS FLOWN TO SRI LANKA WITH HIS RESCUE DOG ‘BOSS’ TO HELP FIND POSSIBLE SURVIVORS AFTER THE RECENT CATASTROPHE THAT HAS STRUCK THE REGION.
Sr Domínguez is part of an eight-person rescue team sent from Spain, which included another dog and its handler from Córdoba. They left Madrid’s Barajas airport just hours after the full impact of the disaster became apparent.
The group first flew to Germany to meet up with a rescue team from that country before going on to Colombo and then Motul, one of the zones most severely devastated by the 8.9-grade earthquake and resulting tsunami tidal wave.
‘Boss’ has been specially trained in rescuing victims and learnt his skills in La Línea at the hands of Jaime Parejo in the spring of 2002. Sr Parejo ran a course in the town with South American instructors who are specialists in carrying out rescue missions in countries worldwide.

The course was also attended by firemen from throughout Andalucía, the Canary Islands and South America. After leaving his post in La Línea, Parejo became responsible for the rescue organisation in the province of Huelva.

‘BOMBEROS’ DONATIONS
In Spain, as in Britain and other countries in the developed world, major charities such as the Red Cross are appealing for funds to help the victims of the tragedy. Spain’s firemen also have their own charity, Bomberos Unidos sin Fronteras, with a Caja Madrid bank account (2038-0603-28-6006434259) to accept donations.

 

Alhaurín lobbies for Guadalhorce hospital

By Oliver McIntyre

Alhaurín el Grande Mayor Juan Marín Serón recently accompanied the Junta de Andalucía’s Health delegate for Málaga, María Antigua Escalera, on a tour of the properties the town has offered up as possible sites for the planned new Guadalhorce Valley medical centre. The main site is a 40,000-square-metre plot in the town’s rural Villafranco del Guadalhorce district.

Alhaurín Town Hall used Sra Antigua Escalera’s visit as an opportunity to reiterate its call for a true regional hospital for the Guadalhorce Valley. “It is the only region without a hospital,” said Health councillor Sebastián Burgos García. Nonetheless, whether the Junta de Andalucía opts for a full-fledged hospital or stands by its decision to instead provide the region a diagnosis and treatment centre (CARE), the Town Hall will offer the land for the facility, he said.

Citing the benefits of the Villafranco location, Sr Burgos stated: “It is equidistant to several towns, and even closer to some others than to our own urban centre.” He went so far as to say that if the Junta were to choose one of the other towns that are lobbying to become the site of the medical centre – like Cártama, Coín or Álora – it would smack of political favouritism, as those towns have governments ruled by the socialist PSOE party, which also rules the Junta.

 

Twenty illegal immigrants die off north Morocco

Patrol vessel takes 16 hours to arrive at the scene of tragedy

BY DAVID EADE

A NEW TRAGEDY HAS STRUCK THE STRAITS OF GIBRALTAR REGION. IN THE LATEST INCIDENT 20 ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS HAVE LOST THEIR LIVES AFTER THEIR LAUNCH CAPSIZED OFF THE COAST OF NORTH MOROCCO.
According to the Moroccan newspaper Ahdath Magribia, the launch left the Martil area in the province of Tetuán, around 30 kilometres south of Ceuta. When it was close to the Straits of Gibraltar one of the immigrants used his mobile phone to called his family in Martil to summons help as their boat was capsizing.
The newspaper states that the family then contacted the police but neither that force nor the gendarmerie responded to the alert. It was more than 16 hours later before a patrol vessel rescued three young men who had been in the sea for a long time.

One of the rescued men died later from hypothermia whilst the other two are in hospital in Tetuán. The newspaper claims that the Moroccan authorities will not give the media access to the survivors. All the people in the launch were Moroccan and resident in the province of Tetuán.

DOUBLE WAVES IN 2004
According to figures given by the general chief of IV Zone of the Guardia Civil in Andalucía, José Piris, at a press conference in Cádiz, a total of 1,325 illegal immigrants were intercepted off the coast of Málaga up to November of this year. This compares with a figure of 776 in 2003.

In all of Andalucía the total number of detentions was 9,591 with the most being held in Almería and Granada. This overall figure shows a decline over 2003 when the total was 11,645. Sr Piris put this success down to the efficiency of the SIVE electronic surveillance system that operates off the Cádiz coast.

 

Vélez courts controversy

By Dave Jamieson

The opening of a court within a residential apartment block in Vélez-Málaga has been met with opposition from residents. The inauguration of the temporary facilities, which includes court rooms on the fourth floor and cells in the basement, was marked by a demonstration of about 50 people, protest banners hung from balconies, and the need for a dozen National Police officers to maintain order. A high-level VIP party attending the opening of the two low-level courts, including Vélez’ new fourth chamber, was lobbied by a number of those who live in the El Mirador building to hear their fears of a lack of security and demands for a rapid solution. One of the protesters said that the provincial justice delegate, Aurora Santos, had assured them that the movement of prisoners from the cells to the temporary courtrooms would be carefully controlled, but that this had not relieved residents’ concerns.

At the formal opening, Sra Santos said that Velez’ new court house, which will eventually house all four court rooms, was set to be constructed on a 3,650 square metre site in Calle Huerto Carrión at a cost of 4.35 million euros. The project, which will take 18 months to construct, will also provide facilities for a civil registry and a forensic clinic, and according to the delegate, will be operational in three years. There is also a possibility of a fifth chamber being included in the plans. Vélez courts cover 14 municipalities in the Axarquía, serving an area of 85,000 inhabitants.

 

Marbella’s finances brought to light

By David Eade

The State auditing body, the Tribunal de Cuentas, has concluded its investigations in to the finances of Marbella Town Hall over that the last period of the GIL era. The period covered is the years 2000-2001 when the now deceased Jesús Gil was Mayor but when his later successor, Julián Muñoz signed many of the town planning agreements.
The tribunal has detected more than 90 irregularities over that period with a sum of around 60 million euros spent, in the view of the investigators, without justification. The report will now go to the Cortes Generales where it will be studied by a joint Congress and Senate Commission.
One of the most damming allegations in the report is the alleged payment of 42 million euros to businesses owned by the architect Carlos Monteverde. It is claimed that the payments were non-existent projects or copies of others that had been carried out in other municipalities in Spain and France. A case involving these payments has already been brought before the Andalucía court.

 

Bolín swats at public works over Marina project

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE

CONTINUING ON HIS WEEKS-LONG SERIES OF RHETORICAL ATTACKS ON THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA’S PUBLIC WORKS DELEGATE IN MÁLAGA, BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN LAST WEEK ACCUSED JOSÉ MARÍA RUIZ POVEDANO OF “PARALYZING” THE TOWN’S PROPOSED MARINA EXPANSION PROJECT.
The Mayor’s criticism came on the heals of several public denouncements he’d made against Sr Ruiz Povedano during the last few weeks, accusing the Public Works delegate of partisanship in his attitude toward Benalmádena and of stalling or badmouthing several of the town’s proposed projects.

In his comments last week, Mayor Bolín accused Sr Ruiz Povedano of dragging his heals on approval of the technical reports filed by the Town Hall to address Public Works’ only remaining concerns about the marina expansion project, the issue of access roads to the marina. The Town Hall worked with an architect “for over a year” to come up with the access-road solutions, said the Mayor. The resulting report was submitted to Public Works on October 22, but the Town Hall has to date received no response, he said.

MARINA EXPANSION PROGRAMME DELAY
The Town Hall has been trying for eight years to get the marina expansion project off the ground. “During this time, the initial project has undergone modifications, always negotiated with Public Works, in order to conform to the law and the requirements of the administration,” said the Mayor. “The only point that still needed to be modified was the access-road issue.” Sr Bolín concluded his statements by once again accusing Sr Ruiz Povedano of partisanship in his dealings with Benalmádena.

Later in the week, Mayor Bolín issued yet another statement, this time accusing Sr Ruiz Povedano of “ordering his staff to slow down all paperwork related to the town of Benalmádena.” He said the delays suffered by Benalmádena documents are not suffered by “towns in which the PSOE or related parties rule, such as Manilva, Mijas and Vélez-Málaga.”

 

Nerja quits Axarquía association

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja has carried out its threats and left the association of Axarquía municipalities. A proposal by Mayor José Alberto Armijo was carried by the Town Council last week, although opposed by all the opposition parties. The reasons given by the Town Hall for formally abandoning the organisation on January 1 were the association’s “constant inactivity and continuing instability”. Sr Armijo’s motion talked of a “lack of organisation in the distribution of resources” to benefit Town Halls, and of the ruling Partido Popular party’s unwillingness to continue funding such an operation, saying that Nerja paid in much more than it got out of the association.

Opposition councillors were quick to criticise the decision, one saying that “with work and effort”, the association could produce results and others claiming that, as the future of Andalucían towns lay in regional development, Nerja’s departure was prejudicial to the municipality. Those remaining members of the association, including Rincón de la Victoria, Vélez Málaga, Algarrobo and Torrox, have also expressed their concern at the decision, claiming that many of the area’s necessary services, such as the management of tourism support and the use of water from the Viñuela reservoir, are more profitable with the association’s support. However, some association representatives appear to have suggested that the action of Nerja’s Mayor - removing his town from the grouping on a majority Council vote - may not be legal, as the organisation’s statutes require a unanimous vote before a member may quit.

 

Stabbings at Mijas cement plant

NEWS Staff Reporter

Two workers at the Hormigones y Minas cement factory in the Las Lagunas area of Mijas were injured in armed attacks on two consecutive days last week. The events, which also included the invasion of two gun-toting intruders at the facility, gave the impression of a site under siege, which workers indicate is not far from the reality they have been living in recent years, as some residents of the tough neighbourhood where the plant is located have taken to threatening, intimidating and attacking workers.

In the first incident last week, two men armed with a sword and a steel bar entered the facility and attacked a security guard. “They destroyed his face, nearly cut off his ear and severed the tendons in one arm,” said a trade union representative. Following the attack, the security company sent two armed guards to watch the facility that night. But when two intruders entered the site wielding guns, the guards were forced to bunker down inside one of the buildings and wait for reinforcements to come bail them out. The following day, even as police were detaining a local neighbourhood man as a suspect in the attack on the security guard, a truck driver waiting to enter the cement plant was attacked and stabbed in the leg with a knife.

Directly following the incidents, cement plant workers and truck drivers held a protest in demand of greater security from law enforcement authorities. They used about 20 trucks to block traffic in the area of the roundabouts at the Parque Miramar shopping centre. Company representatives say the plant, located in what they describe as a marginalised area behind Dunnes Stores and La Cantora restaurant, has been suffering frequent robberies and aggressive harassment for the last five years.

 

Success for Málaga’s Christmas round-up

Twenty-one escaped horses cause havoc on autovía

BY DAVE JAMIESON

WHILE MOST PEOPLE WERE SPENDING THE EVENING OF BOXING DAY TRYING TO DECIDE WHETHER NEXT DAY’S LUNCH SHOULD BE TURKEY RISOTTO, TURKEY CURRY OR TURKEY SANDWICHES, MÁLAGA’S ANIMAL WELFARE INTERESTS HAD AN UNUSUAL TASK ON THEIR HANDS.
In the early evening, reports started coming in that a number of horses were running loose in Avenida del Duque de Alhumada, with some in danger of running onto the autovía where accidents would be almost certain.
By 21.00, a unit of local police had found 11 animals and managed to corral them sufficiently to restrain them until a transporter lorry, arranged by Málaga’s Sociedad Protectora de Animales y Plantes (SEPE), arrived to take them to a place of safety some two hours later. Getting them on board took much patience, and during the operation, a black mare escaped custody. Despite intense searching, she was unable to be found and it was decided to take the remaining ten to a refuge operated by SEPE.

Twenty minutes later, as efforts continued to find the missing animal, there appeared on the autovía access roundabout - “as if from nowhere” according to witnesses - ten more horses, which led to a considerable amount of whinnies and neighs as the errant mare joined the new arrivals. The group approached at the gallop, and as members of SEPE and police officers tried to stop them from causing accidents, they divided with the black mare reaching the autovía. Several vehicles had to brake sharply to avoid hitting her as she ran along the carriageway in the opposite direction to its traffic flow.

TRAFFIC STOPPED ON MOTORWAY
More units of local police had to be drafted in to stop all traffic on the motorway, and by some miracle, no accidents occurred. The mare eventually left the autovía and disappeared into the countryside. Later in the night, all the missing animals were found together, grouped around the farm from where they had escaped following an attack by stray dogs which had left two sheep injured and two lambs dead. SEPE later criticised the owners for keeping the 21 horses in “totally inappropriate” surroundings. The Christmas rodeo eventually ended at 3.00, remarkably with no serious accident or injury to animal or human.

 

Tivoli sold for 30 million euros

NEWS Staff Reporter

After more than a year of negotiations, the Córdoba-based development company Arenal 2000 last week sealed its deal with the owners of Benalmádena's Tivoli World, purchasing the landmark Costa amusement park for 30 million euros. Upon announcing the purchase, Arenal 2000 owner Rafael Gómez Sánchez boasted plans to turn Tivoli into one of the greatest amusement parks of Spain, and even Europe. He envisions major investments in modernising the park and creating new rides and attractions to dramatically increase the number of visitors. Sr Gómez says that within three years he plans to triple the park's annual visitation, currently at about 700,000.

One of the strategies for upping visitation will be to keep Tivoli open 365 days a year, rather than reducing its operations to weekends-only during the low season as it currently does. The increased opening hours and new rides and attractions will require beefed up staffing, says Sr Gómez, possibly as much as doubling the current personnel of 60 year-round workers (which climbs to over a hundred in summer). He says his idea is not to convert Tivoli into a theme park, as some have previously suggested, but to maintain it as a general amusement and entertainment park. Above all, he was adamant in assuring that his company has no plans to use the site for urban development, which some have feared because of his company being involved in that line of work. Benalmádena Town Hall has also repeatedly stated that the site is zoned exclusively for entertainment and recreational use, and that no changes will be made to that zoning.

 

Spaniards clueless on European Constitution

Referendum to be held on February 20

By Oliver McIntyre

NEARLY 90 PER CENT OF POLL RESPONDENTS ADMIT THEY HAVE LITTLE OR NO KNOWLEDGE OF THE EU CONSTITUTION, ACCORDING TO A NEW SURVEY.
As Spain nears the February 20 vote that will make it the first country to accept or reject the European Constitution via referendum, the Sociological Research Centre (CIS) survey shows that 24.3 per cent claim 'no' knowledge of the constitution's contents, while 19.6 per cent said they knew 'very little' and 44.9 per cent said 'little'.

Despite the apparent lack of information and understanding (which 63.2 per cent of those surveyed blame on the country's government and political parties), Spanish voters are expected to approve the Euro charter by wide margin. In the CIS survey, 42.7 per cent of respondents said that if the referendum were held now they would vote in favour, compared to just 4.1 per cent who said they would vote against it. A significant 22.6 per cent said they would abstain, and 23.8 per cent either didn't respond or said they were unsure how they would vote. When the real referendum finally arrives on February 20, 60.1 per cent of those surveyed said they will definitely vote, while an additional 15.3 per cent said they probably will.

 

Tourism gets financial support

By Dave Jamieson

The region's major municipalities are to receive a huge increase in funds for promoting tourism this year. Paulino Plata from the Junta de Andalucía announced last week that the 2004 budget of 1.9 million euros is to be increased to 3.3 million in 2005. Sr Plata said that there would be "better co-ordination" between the region's provinces through action plans agreed between municipalities on publicity material, attendance at trade fairs and the incorporation of new technologies.
He also announced an integrated approach to the use of the Internet to promote the region, an initiative which he regards as "vital to the future of tourism in Andalucía." Mobile phones are to be incorporated in the project to generate "personalised" promotion, with a welcome message sent to visitors advising them of a free number to call for help during their stay.

A total of 80 separate projects are to be supported by the regional government during this year with the province of Cádiz set to receive over 375,000 euros for 14 initiatives. Málaga follows with more than 342,000 euros for 12 promotions, followed by Sevilla on almost 267,000 euros and Granada's total of over 245,000 euros. Several provinces will receive assistance to finance their presence at national and international tourist fairs, including Madrid's Fitur and London's World Travel Market. Familiarisation visits, events to showcase local gastronomy, the development of guides and promotion material, plus the improved design of websites will also be supported. Paulino Plata has also announced the development of a new project for the Málaga coast which will attempt to redress the perceived lack of equilibrium between residential tourism and the hotel sector.