Costa del Sol News - 26th January 2005

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Week January 20th to January 26th 2005.

EXPATS BARRED FROM REFERENDUM VOTE

BY TOM CAIN

AS COSTA DEL SOL NEWS ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK, THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT HAS BEGUN ITS CAMPAIGN TO SHOW PEOPLE THE BENEFITS OF SIGNING UP TO THE NEW EUROPEAN 'MAGNA CARTA', BUT TENS OF THOUSANDS OF EU CITIZENS LIVING HERE WILL BE UNABLE TO PARTICIPATE.
The foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, said that voting rules do not allow other EU citizens to vote in the referendum, but political analysts say that it is a technicality, because when the Spanish Constitution and the voting rules were drawn up they never contemplated referendums.

When asked about the situation, Sr Moratinos said that if other EU citizens wish to vote in the referendum they can always go back to their own countries. Considering that the vast majority of expats have made Spain their home, they may well be barred from voting in their native countries, which has angered many.
Campaigners are calling the situation a denial of basic rights that should be taken up by the European parliament. They say that as in last year's elections to the Euro parliament, expat voters in Spain are being robbed of their chance to vote. In 2004 many non-Spanish, but EU residents, were deprived of their vote because an old census had been used to determine the voters' list.

Representations are being made at the highest levels to get approval for expats to vote, but with time running out the chances of that approval coming before the first referendum on February 20 are looking very slim.

EU PARLIAMENT RECOMMENDS RATIFICATION
A resolution put forward by the EU Parliament recommending the new Constitution be ratified by the 25 member states so that it can come into force on November 1, 2006, was approved by 500 votes to 137 with 40 abstentions.
The result means that 73.9 per cent of the member states' MEPs are in favour of the new Constitution except for the British and Czech conservative parties, the Eurosceptics, the extreme right and the United Left Group.

 

La Línea fireman returns from Sri Lanka

Rescue team finds no survivors after two-week search

BY DAVID EADE

JESÚS DOMÍNGUEZ, THE LA LÍNEA FIREMAN WHO WITH HIS RESCUE DOG WAS PART OF AN INTERNATIONAL TEAM LOOKING FOR SURVIVORS FROM THE TSUNAMI IN SRI LANKA, HAS RETURNED TO SPAIN.
He spent two weeks searching in an area to the north east of Trincomali known as Kinia. Domínguez said that it was not possible to find any survivors in a zone where more than 400 people died and 200 are still missing.
Once it became apparent after five days that the fireman and his colleagues could find no survivors they changed their role from searchers to helpers by assisting aid teams in the refugee camps.

Jesús Domínguez was part of a rescue team sent to Sri Lanka by the Spanish fire brigade’s own charity organization ‘Bomberos Unidos sin Fronteras’. The contingent was made up of a doctor, seven firemen plus two dogs trained to locate buried people of which Domínguez’s dog was one. The team was fully equipped with the specialist material required to undertake rescue operations in disaster zones.

The firemen’s unit was backed by disaster specialists from Madrid Town Hall and a doctor trained in dealing with catastrophes from the Spanish Society of Medicine. They took with them 1,000 kilos of equipment and a fully equipped first aid post that once it became clear could not be used to save the lives of people buried in the rubble of buildings was put to use in the refugee camps.

FEARS OF A SECOND TSUNAMI
Whilst Jesús Domínguez was in the zone, rumours spread of another tsunami and he told of how all the people tried to flee to higher ground. After working with the refugees in the camps he said it had been very distressing to have to leave them and return home.

 

Gas-leak scare closes Alozaina school

By Oliver McIntyre

A strong petrol odour caused alarm last week at the Serranía de Alozaina school, causing officials to shut it down while firefighters inspected the facilities. Police, civil guardsmen and firefighters were called to the scene on Thursday morning, and the school’s 400 students, who come from Alozaina, Casarabonela, Yunquera, El Burgo and Tolox, were evacuated. The firefighters confirmed that there was no immediate danger or risk of explosion, but the following day the odour persisted and the school was closed pending further investigation into the situation.

Officials believe the smell may be the result of a leak from a filling station located about 200 metres from the school, and that petrol may have seeped into the drainage sewer that passes by the school. From Monday through Wednesday, the school remained closed as the tanks at the petrol station were drained and tested for leaks. Those tests will take until Friday to complete, while results from tests being preformed on the water in the drainage sewer were expected to be available sometime yesterday. At press time, officials at the Town Hall told CDSN that they expected the school to reopen for classes today (Thursday). However, depending on the test results available at the time, that decision could be changed.

 

Cercanías trains change schedules

Málaga-Fuengirola and Málaga-Álora lines both affected

By Oliver McIntyre

LAST SUNDAY RENFE INTRODUCED CHANGES TO THE SCHEDULES ON THE C-1 (MÁLAGA-FUENGIROLA) AND C-2 (MÁLAGA-ÁLORA) CERCANÍAS TRAIN LINES.
In the case of the C-1 line, the changes are temporary and are due to work being performed to double the track along some stretches of the route. The changes on the C-2 line are permanent, aimed at improving service.
During the work on the C-1 line, the total trajectory from Málaga to Fuengirola (and vice versa) will take 50 minutes, rather than the usual 42 minutes. The same number of trains will be run daily (35 in each direction), and they will still depart from the station of origin at half-hour increments. The first train of the day from Málaga to Fuengirola will depart at 5.40 instead of the usual 5.45, and the second train at 06.00 instead of 6.30. Subsequent trains will depart on the hour and half-hour throughout the day (6.30, 7.00, 7.30, etc.), until the final train at 22.30.

In the Fuengirola-Málaga direction, the first train will depart at 6.36 instead of the usual 6.33, and then at six minutes past the hour and six minutes past the half-hour throughout the day (7.06, 7.36, 8.06, etc.), except the final train, which will leave at 23.26. Under the normal operating schedule, trains left the station at quarter till and quarter past the hour.

EXTENDED HOURS ON C-2
On the C-2 line, the new schedule essentially extends the hours of operation while maintaining the same number of daily trains (11 in each direction). The first trains of the morning depart earlier (5.40 from Málaga and 6.20 from Álora) and the last trains of the evening depart later (22.00 from Málaga and 22.45 from Álora). The departure time of other trains throughout the day have changed as well, with a corresponding change in the times the trains stop at each station along the route.

 

Ronda to limit output of telephone masts

By David Eade

Last summer Ronda Town Hall announced that it would revise its municipal by-laws to regulate the installation of mobile telephone and other radio-communication antennas. Now the administration, in collaboration with the action group ‘Antenas lejos ya’, is to introduce new regulations that would limit the power of the telephone antennas in the municipality.
The regulations will be included in Ronda’s new urban ordinance. Under the new rules, any telecommunications equipment, installations or publicity deemed to have a negative effect on the urban landscape will be banned. This will also apply to historic zones, archaeological sites and gardens that are declared of cultural interest or protected natural spaces.
Radio communication installations will not be allowed near medical centres, residences for the elderly, educational institutions or day nurseries. The Town Hall will also reserve the right to take action to limit the impact of such installations in zones that it considers necessary.

Antonio Sánchez, spokesperson of ‘Antenas lejos ya’, stated that in sensitive zones such as those near colleges the potency of the electromagnetic emissions must not exceed 0.1 microwatts per square centimetre. This is well below the output in other urban zones where the permitted level would be 10 microwatts per square centimetre.

 

Site found for new La Línea hospital

Andalucia Health Service gives the go ahead

BY DAVID EADE

THE MAYOR OF LA LÍNEA, JUAN CARLOS JUÁREZ, AND THE COUNCILLOR FOR HEALTH AND THE CONSUMER, ROSARIO GARCÍA, HAVE EXPRESSED THEIR SATISFACTION ON FINALLY RECEIVING NOTIFICATION FROM THE ANDALUCÍA HEALTH SERVICE (SAS) ON THE ACCEPTANCE OF THE SITE OFFERED FOR THE NEW HOSPITAL.
The SAS has agreed to build the hospital on lands offered by the Town Hall on the northern ring road. A statement from the authority confirmed that the site known as ´Gabriel Miró’ is considered to be suitable for sanitary use. The health authority needs a 50,000 square metre site for the new hospital and the land at Las Pedreras meets its requirements but will require an amendment to the town planning ordinance (PGOU).

OLD HOSPITAL DEFENDED
Meanwhile the Cádiz province health delegation has come to the defence of the existing La Línea Hospital that has been under fire for its lack of staffing and facilities as well as allegations of negligence.
The delegation was responding to recent claims made by the CCOO union. Officials made it clear that they did not believe the medical centre was in a state of collapse and also denied that it discriminated against the La Línea Hospital by favouring the Algeciras Punta Europa Hospital.

Provincial officials hit out at the union for generating alarm at the state of the local health service and also for inciting a conflict between Algeciras and La Línea when no discrimination exists between the two medical facilities. It also stated that it was instituting a ‘Plan of High Frequency’ to increase the number of users of the La Línea Hospital’s emergency department.

 

Rural homes in Periana called illegal

By Oliver McIntyre

The Axarquía environmental group GENA – Ecologistas en Acción last week filed an official complaint with the Junta de Andalucía’s Public Works and Urban Planning Department regarding 13 single-family homes being built on rural land in Periana not zoned for residential use. “GENA believes these homes are being built on non-developable land and as such are in violation of current land laws,” said the group.

The complaint refers specifically to 7 houses located on either side of the road from Periana to Aldea Moya and six others between Aldea Moya and the Periana-Riogordo road, all in various stages of construction. GENA also identifies an additional site where a piece of land is being cleared and levelled, presumably for the construction of another home.
According to GENA, Periana, like other Axarquía towns, is suffering from real estate speculation and rising land prices that serve as a “stimulus for the abandonment of agricultural activities, even in a town like Periana that still has the potential to maintain major agricultural production linked to olive oil.”

GENA has called on Public Works to open an investigation to clarify the legality of the 13 houses in question and enforce environmental and land laws as appropriate.

 

Algeciras plans park for centenary celebrations

By David Eade

THE PORT TOWN OF ALGECIRAS WILL BE CELEBRATING TWO IMPORTANT CENTENARIES IN 2006.
The first centenary is of the Algeciras Conference that was held in January 1906. Representatives of the world's most powerful countries gathered together with delegates from the United States, Spain, the Low Countries, Portugal and Sweden to settle the question of Morocco. It was prompted by the increased German demands in that zone which had traditionally been seen as an area of French influence.

The second centenary saw the foundation in the same year of the port's board of works. One hundred years on whilst the conference is now a distant memory, the port has grown into the third largest in Spain and the country's major container port. It is therefore appropriate that one of the major projects to commemorate the two centenaries is the establishment of the 'Parque del Centenario' on the Punta de San Garcia in Algeciras Bay.

The park will be opened in 2006 but Algeciras Town Hall and the port authority are asking the public for their views on the creation of the 100,000 square metre green zone. It is intended that the park will be created with the minimum alterations to the natural state of the zone. It will include areas for walking, jogging, cycling and enjoying the panoramic views of the bay.

SUBMISSIONS WELCOME UNTIL MARCH
Conservation and the restoration of buildings already on the site that have an historic value is a major priority. At the same time there will be a strict ban on any residential use or developments. Those wishing to make submissions on the park project are asked to send them to the town hall or port authority by March 1. E-mails can be sent to the town hall at alcaldia02@ayto-algeciras.es and the port authority at apba@apba.es

 

Rincón main focus of beach restoration

By Oliver McIntyre

Rincón de la Victoria, which suffered heavy damage from flooding in the storms of late March last year, is to be the main focus of beach-restoration work to be carried out in the province of Málaga by the Environment Ministry’s Coastal Authority. The head of the Coastal Authority, Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada, announced last week that some 200,000 cubic metres of new sand will be distributed on the town’s beaches, making up two thirds of the total 300,000 cubic metres earmarked for the entire province.

Other work in Rincón will include the knocking down of walls, a redesigning of the Paseo Marítimo beachfront promenade and the improvement of drainage flow, all aimed at preventing future flooding problems. These improvements, along with the repositioning of infrastructure damaged by the floods, are budgeted at two million euros.
Besides Rincón, 11 other beaches in the province are targeted for sand replacement, focusing on the worst trouble spots, like Ferrara beach in Torrox and beaches in Marbella, Estepona and the city of Málaga, especially at La Caleta. In the case of La Caleta, which loses much of its sand every year, the Coastal Authority is considering the installation of a dyke to better protect the beach.

The sand-replacement work in Rincón is expected to begin this month, and the Coastal Authority’s goal is to have all the beach-restoration work in the province completed by Semana Santa, the traditional kick-off to the tourist season. The total budget for sand-replacement in the province is 10 million euros.

 

Projected costa airports opposed

Airports at Antequera and Jimena ‘unnecessary’ say environmentalists

BY OLIVER MCINTYRE AND DAVID EADE

FOLLOWING SHARP CRITICISM OF THE PROPOSED ANTEQUERA AIRPORT BY ORNITHOLOGISTS (CDSN, DEC. 13 – 19), ANOTHER ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP HAS STEPPED FORWARD TO DENOUNCE THE PLAN.
Ecologistas en Acción has submitted a report to the regional government’s Environment Department in which it outlines numerous objections to the proposed airport.
First, says the group, the airport is unnecessary, as the area is already served by three airports located between 30 minutes and a little over an hour away (Málaga, Granada and Sevilla). Next, it cites the impact the project would have on the fertile-lowland agricultural mecca that is the Vega de Antequera. The group points out that the zone is currently protected in municipal planning codes as non-developable and of Special Agricultural Interest, including a specific prohibition of airports or heliports. It says the proposed airport project would have an enormous impact on the Vega and its agricultural nature.

In addition, Ecologistas en Acción objects to the residential and commercial development that would come along with the airport, including nearly 3,000 homes, industrial zones, a 60-hectare golf course and a commercial centre. In all, the project would occupy 10 million square metres, nearly as much as the town of Antequera itself, says the group. Finally, the report cites the impact the airport would have on quality of life for the area’s residents. Concerns include noise pollution, the emission of carcinogenic gasses from aeroplanes, and the chemicals used for runway cleaning or golf course maintenance.

JIMENA AIRPORT COULD STILL TAKE OFF
Taking a look at the other projected airport for the area, planned for Jimena, the widely held view is that with an agreement on joint use of Gibraltar’s airport in the offing the proposed controversial plan for a private airport at Jimena de la Frontera will not get off the ground.

However, the Mayor of Jimena, Ildefonso Gómez, has stated that studies on the viability of the airport are still continuing. He said the possibility was being examined to ascertain whether the Jimena airport could work in conjunction with an enlarged service to the Rock’s existing facility. However he also conceded that the use of Gibraltar’s airport could provoke changes in the project.

Recently the ecologist group Agaden stated that it considered the plan to build an airport in Jimena “unnecessary” given that the British and Spanish governments were close to agreeing joint use of Gibraltar’s airport. The notion that the Campo de Gibraltar area would accommodate two airports is seen as unlikely by environmental and other protest groups.

 

Motril camper vans and caravans denounced

NEWS Staff Reporter

The opposition Partido Andalucista in Motril has denounced the Town Hall’s failure to act against the concentration of camper vans, caravans and other mobile-home vehicles at several sites in the municipality. According to PA spokesman Antonio Escámez, several weeks ago the Town Hall agreed to his proposal to create a new municipal traffic ordinance that would regulate the parking of such vehicles in the town. “But absolutely nothing is being done,” he complained last week.
The PA initially cited the “continual existence” of camper vehicles next to the Reyes de Bélgica residence and the golf course. While that problem continues unchanged, the group says, “there is now another ‘colony’ [of such vehicles] in Calahonda, in the open lot behind the El Ancla Hotel.”

Sr Escámez says it is the town’s Tourism, Commerce and Public Safety councillor’s responsibility to take on the problem, which he says creates a blight on the town’s image and is damaging to tourism. He says he has reiterated his offer to draft the new ordinance that would regulate the camper vehicles and “prevent Motril’s public spaces and beach parking from being converted into summer ‘fincas’ for these itinerant tourists.”

 

Bank withdraws cash-machine fee plan

By Oliver McIntyre

BANKING CONSUMER GROUPS REACTED SWIFTLY LAST WEEK TO NEWS THAT BANCO POPULAR WAS PLANNING TO INTRODUCE A 30-CENT FEE FOR CLIENTS WHO USE ITS CASH MACHINES OUTSIDE OF NORMAL BANK OPENING HOURS.
Just days after the proposed new fee became known and the consumer groups' outcry was widely reported in the press, the bank announced that it had scrapped the plan because "at the moment, the proper market circumstances for its application do not exist."
The unusual proposal to charge clients for using their own bank's ATMs came amidst an ongoing trend of banks increasing fees for using machines besides their own, even if they are part of the same network. Banesto, for example, has increased its maximum fee for such transactions by 100 per cent, from 30 cents to 60 cents.
Banco Popular had said the plan to introduce the new fee was not set in stone, but it had received permission to do so from Spain's central bank.

The banking consumer group Ausbanc called the plan "unjustified and intolerable," noting that "the use of automatic cash machines by the customer does not represent an additional cost for the banks." The use of ATMs even saves banks money on personnel costs, it said.
Ausbanc said that if the bank did introduce the fee, customers should respond with action rather than complaints, shopping around "for the best bidder" when choosing where to keep their money. It charged that banks are trying to maximise revenues from commissions to compensate for reduced earnings due to low interest rates. Meanwhile, another banking consumer group, Adicae, called for regulation of bank commissions to prevent these types of fee increases.

NETWORK CHARGES
Many banks currently charge for using their own machines when they are installed at locations other than a bank branch, such as at superstores or airports. Most charge for using machines that are not their own but are part of the same network (generally a maximum fee of between 50 cents and 60 cents). For using machines outside of the network, charges range from 2.5 per cent to 4.5 per cent of the amount withdrawn, with minimum charges ranging from around two euros to three euros.

Flu outbreak gathers momentum

NEWS Staff Reporter

The Consumer Price Index increased 3.2 per cent in 2004, according to year-end figures released last week by the National Institute of Statistics. The inflation rate was 0.6 points greater than in 2003, and 1.2 points over official government projections.
Although inflation throughout the region of Andalucía, at 3.1 per cent, was slightly below the national average, the province of Málaga came in above the average, at 3.4 per cent.

According to Secretary of State for the Economy David Vegara, the higher-than-expected inflation is not surprising in the face of the tremendous spike in oil prices experienced during the year. He said the inflation figures showed that Spain actually weathered fairly well the impact of the soaring crude prices, which have now begun to drop. Sr Vegara attributed 30 per cent of the increase in inflation to transport costs, 21 per cent to food and beverages and 14 per cent to housing.