Costa del Sol News - 7th September 2006

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Week 7th September - 13th September 2006

FATAL STATISTICS

Costa traffic deaths buck national trend

By Oliver McIntyre

THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA DEFIES THE NATIONAL TREND OF IMPROVED ROAD SAFETY FOLLOWING THE INTRODUCTION OF THE NEW 12-POINT DRIVER’S LICENCE IN JULY.
Nationwide, the number of road fatalities for July and August was 515, down an impressive 20 per cent. But in Málaga, 22 road deaths marked a surprising increase over the 15 deaths in July and August of last year.
Ironically, the increase in the number of fatalities came as the overall number of traffic accidents in the province fell.
In terms of fatalities, the first month of the new points-based licence scheme was worse in Málaga, with 14 traffic deaths – double the figure of July 2005. August figures were less severe; eight deaths, the same as last year.
Officials have offered no explanation of the Málaga anomaly.

267,000 POINTS LOST
Interior Minister Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba last week announced that in the first two months of the points system licence, a total of 77,112 fines were issued nationwide, representing a loss of 267,000 points. In Málaga, drivers have lost 1,436 points.
Despite many predictions that speeding would be the biggest point-costing offence, it is in fourth place, behind seat-belt, alcohol and mobile-phone infractions.

SEATBELTS FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
Meanwhile, Spain’s Council of Ministers last week passed a traffic-safety bill that requires pregnant women to wear seatbelts. Until now expectant mothers were exempt from the seatbelt law.
The newly approved legislation also requires the use of helmets by ‘quad’ motorbike riders and passengers.
Children under 12 and less than 135 centimetres tall who are riding in the front seat must use safety seats. If they are 135 centimetres or taller they may use the regular seatbelt.
In the rear seat, those under 135 centimetres tall must use a safety seat, except in taxis travelling in town. Previously, anyone over three years old was allowed to use the regular seatbelt in the back seat, with no additional safety devices.
On school buses and other buses with a nine-passenger capacity or greater, the driver and all children over three and under 135 centimetres tall must wear seatbelts if the vehicle is equipped with them. Current legislation does not require their installation.


Estepona pensioner will not lose her jome

Developer promises he won’t allow 29,000-euro charge to force her to sell

By David Eade

A BRITISH PENSIONER IN ESTEPONA WHO FEARED SHE MAY HAVE TO SELL HER HOME AFTER BEING HIT WITH A HUGE INFRASTRUCTURE BILL IS RESTING EASIER AFTER ASSURANCES FROM THE DEVELOPER THAT HE WILL NOT ALLOW THAT TO HAPPEN.
In a Costa del Sol News article last week concerning protests at the Estepona Golf urbanisation over infrastructure charges to homeowners, pensioner Elizabeth Brookes stated that she had been charged 29,000 euros and faced losing her home. Now Rory Leader, who owns the Estepona Golf course and is the largest landowner in the urbanisation, has told CDSN that he will personally ensure Mrs Brookes receives help and “under no circumstances would she be forced to sell her home.” After the article appeared he telephoned her to reassure her. “She said that she was fully aware of this throughout, but was still concerned!” he said.
The residents involved in the protests have referred to Mr Leader as the major developer but he explained: “If I am, it’s only by virtue of the fact that when treating the urbanization of Estepona Golf as an entity, the entire number of square metres occupied by the golf course is included. Interestingly, there is no doubt that I would definitely have been the major developer if we hadn’t had to trade all the development land which we used to own surrounding the golf course in the early 90s to resolve a £2,400,000 debt for – guess what? – infrastructure. The majority of future developers here are companies which bought the parcels of development land we lost in 1991 to the infrastructure company, Abengoa. If we hadn’t surrendered, or traded it against the infrastructure debt, we would have lost the golf course.”
Mr Leader said he had now taken on board the community’s concerns regarding charges applied to frontline golf villas compared to others located behind them in the second line. “As the disparity of charges between frontline and second-line appears to be a major concern, I suggested to Mr Alec McGuire, who is one of the concerned residents, that the community’s architect has a meeting to discuss this specifically with the Junta de Compensacion’s architect. If for whatever reason, there is proven to be no validity behind this structure of charges, we will do our best to change it.

JUNTA REPRESENTATIO
Two community association presidents and a number of representatives say they are now entitled to a place on the Junta de Compensacion. Mr Leader stated: “They are welcome to apply, but their application does not automatically presume entrance, any more than it would if I applied to join the board of Marks & Spencer. Again, for the sake of clarity, if they would like to apply to Sr. Don Manuel Quijano, the administrator for the Junta de Compensacion, I will have their applications voted on in the next meeting.”


Family of dead Belgian seeks witnesses

NEWS Staff Reporter

A second autopsy on the body of Lieven de Wilde, the Belgian man who died in Marbella on February 6 after being roughly detained by local police officers, has shown the cause of death to be suffocation caused by the pressure of the victim’s face against the ground while police were pinning him down. The finding of the second autopsy, requested by the family and performed by Luis Frontela, head of the University Legal Medicine Institute in Sevilla, is in contrast to that of the original autopsy, which suggested the death was due to a cocaine-induced attack. The second autopsy suggests the death was caused as a direct result of the police’s actions.
The victim’s family has also called on two witnesses of the incident to come forward and testify. The two men, apparently Spanish, were filmed on a video taken at the time and subsequently shown on the national TV channel Telecinco.
The Marbella court investigating the Belgian’s death has denied the family’s request to search for the men, a decision now under appeal by the family. Sources close to the case have stated that both men are perfectly identifiable by the police and could have valuable information as to what happened. They are seen on the film close to the police and the victim and the family believes they can shed light on how he died. Four local police officers whose actions are being investigated in relation to the Belgian’s death are currently free without having had to pay bail.


Home alone lad in dramatic fourth floor rescue

Neighbour comes to aid of child hanging from window

By Dave Jamieson

A 20-YEAR-OLD WAS THE HERO OF THE HOUR LAST WEEK AS HE HELD A FOUR-YEAR-OLD BOY TO PREVENT HIM PLUNGING FOUR STOREYS TO THE GROUND.
The child, who had been left in the home on his own, was eventually rescued after being found hanging by his fingertips from the window of his family’s fourth-floor apartment.
The drama began in Calle Hespérides in the city’s Guadalmar district when neighbours heard cries for help and looked out to see the youngster clinging onto the outside of the apartment block where he lived. While the emergency services made their way to the scene, David Plaza Guerrero, who rents a flat on the floor below, was able to climb out of a window and support the child. He spent 10 or 15 minutes with the scared boy until the fire service’s extendable ladder was able to reach them and bring the child to safety. David said later that during the ordeal, he promised they would have breakfast together later, because the lad kept telling him he was hungry.
The rescue had to be made from the exterior of the building as the front door had been locked by the boy’s mother, who had left him alone in the apartment. A number of local police officers suffered slight injuries as they tried to break the door down.
Once he had been rescued, the boy was given a medical check-up but did not require hospitalisation and was put in the charge of local police officers until his mother returned. She is reported to be a young South American woman who said she had been visiting her husband at the Hotel Puente Real in Torremolinos, where he works. Officers said it appeared that the child had been locked in the apartment while the mother was out, and had managed to climb onto a table which was next to the fully-open window.

CASE INVESTIGATED
The National Police’s Mother and Child unit, EMUME, which has been investigating the incident, said that three months ago neighbours complained when the woman left the child playing alone in the block’s community swimming pool. The circumstances of last week’s incident have been passed to the public prosecutor who will decide if there are any charges to be answered by the child’s parents while the provincial social welfare department will consider the custody of the boy. The provincial delegate for equality and social welfare, Amparo Bilbao, is due to meet the parents this week.


Fuengirola police arrest British fugitive

By David Eade

The National Police in Fuengirola have arrested a 41-year-old Briton who they say was named by the British authorities as the leader of a drug-trafficking organisation. The man, a resident of Coín, is being held at the disposition of the Spanish High Court after being picked up by the police’s fugitive squad working with the organised crime and drugs unit.Spanish authorities say the Briton comes from the Trafford area of Manchester and the UK police have been searching for him since May 29, 2002. He is alleged to have run a drug-trafficking gang based in Bolton. In a police operation against the outfit, 119 kilos of heroin, a kilo of cocaine, 96 kilos of amphetamines and 13.5 kilos of marihuana were confiscated and seventeen people arrested.

SHOT BRITON DIDN’T SEE ATTACKERS
Meanwhile, a British man who was hospitalised last week after being found on waste ground at the Altamira urbanisation in Marbella with a gunshot wound to his stomach has told authorities that he did not see his attackers because it was dark. He told officers that the assailants attempted to accost him and shot him after he resisted. He made the statement to the violent crime squad at the Marbella police HQ after being released from hospital. Police say their investigation is still open and while they are treating the shooting as an attempted robbery, they have not ruled out the possibility that it was some sort of ‘settling of accounts’.


Burriana beach for sale on Ebay

Controversy as entrepreneurs sell ‘souvenir sand’ from holiday beaches

By Dave Jamieson

ANYONE UNABLE TO SPEND A HOLIDAY ON NERJA’S BURRIANA BEACH COULD NOW BUY SOME OF ITS SAND TO ENJOY IN THE COMFORT OF THEIR OWN HOME INSTEAD.
The town has been named as one of several beach-holiday destinations worldwide which have lost sand to collectors who then try to sell it on the Internet auction site eBay.
The news has raised concerns amongst ecologists, particularly in Italy, where the island of Elba has been similarly raided. An Italian group, Legambiente, has denounced the “theft” of the sand which, it says, has appeared for sale on eBay’s German-language website. The anonymous but enterprising seller posted an advert on the site with photos of sachets filled with Elba sand available for 1.99 euros each.
There was also reported to be sand from other Italian and Spanish beaches, as well as from sites in Colorado and Thailand, up for auction. Although these offers seemed to have disappeared from eBay’s German site by last weekend, the company’s English-language site was offering “authentic soft white sand from the beach of Puerto Pollenca, Majorca” from a British vendor in Kent, as well as sand from a number of American beaches.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERN
Umberto Mazzantini of Legambiente said this new craze for collectors was putting natural resources in danger, adding that illegal trading in sand was aimed at a market made up of both tourists and those interested in minerals. “This seems like a harmless way of remembering a beach resort,” he said, “but grain by grain and stone by stone it is doing serious damage to our coasts.”Nerja’s councillor responsible for beaches, José Miguel Garcia, expressed surprise that Burriana sand was for sale and claimed the story was simply anecdotal. He added that it was not possible to avoid people taking a small bag away with them as a souvenir of their holiday.


La Línea hospital threatened

Junta has funding ready but plot provided by Town Hall is too small

By David Eade

DESPITE SIGNS BEING ERECTED IN LA LÍNEA SAYING THAT LAND HAS BEEN CEDED BY THE TOWN HALL FOR THE NEW HOSPITAL, LOCAL OFFICIALS HAVE NOW ADMITTED THEY CANNOT MEET THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S HEALTH SERVICE.
The health service required 47,626 square metres and local people believed that this amount of land had been duly set aside and allocated for the hospital. However, councillor Gabriel Gonzálvez has now conceded that only 44,626 square metres were transferred to the regional government and no more land is available at the site.
Although the announce-ment was initially greeted with protests and dismay in La Línea, the mayor, Juan Carlos Juárez, now argues that the 44,626 square metres should be sufficient to build the hospital. Councillor Gonzálvez has stated that the missing 3,000 square metres only corresponds to six per cent of the total and that the existing 94 per cent is adequate land for the medical centre. He said the hospital would need modifications but pointed to the case of Cádiz city, where the land set aside in the Zona Franca as a replacement for the Puerta de Mar hospital was just 33,000 square metres.The spokesperson for the Plataforma Cívica en Defensa del Hospital, Juan José Uceda, has expressed his surprise at the Town Hall’s announcement, describing it as “shameful” and a “disgrace.” He said the situation was not fair to the public and indicated that calls for the mayor’s resignation could follow.

SAN ROQUE INSTEAD?
Manuel Chaves, the president of the regional government, is closely following events in La Línea, as the regional authority has already set aside the funding for the medical centre in its accounts. The future of the hospital project is now unclear and it is possible that San Roque could be considered as an alternative location, as in recent months it has offered land for the new hospital. The La Línea medical centre is to serve not just the local community but also San Roque, Castellar and Jimena, and San Roque would be more central for all users.


Inland property agents investigated

NEWS Staff Reporter

Estate agents selling illegal properties in the Guadalhorce valley are under investigation. The Guardia Civil is reported to be examining around a dozen businesses which are thought to be selling houses built on land classified as non-developable.
The majority of cases are said to be in the immediate inland area, although others have been noted on the coast, as well as in Antequera and the Axarquía. Seprona, the environmental arm of the Guardia Civil, says there have been many examples over the years of property sales which appear to be wholly legal, as they come accompanied by paperwork including the title deeds. However, if the building has been illegally constructed, these documents are worthless, say officials.
In other cases, owners attempt to demonstrate that their property has stood for at least 20 years, in which case its situation would be considered ‘normalised’ and the house could remain. However, Seprona has access to a Junta de Andalucía archive of high-definition aerial photography – so detailed that even the number plate of a car can be read – which it is using to review the suspect homes’ history.More than 2,000 such cases are reported to have been referred to Seprona in the last three years.


More schools open longer


By Oliver McIntyre

As children throughout the region prepare to head back to school following their summer holidays, 24 primary schools in the province of Málaga have been added to the Junta de Andalucía’s extended-hours programme, aimed at meeting the needs of working parents. With the new additions, the province now has 267 extended-hour schools, nearly double the number that existed in 2003 and up from just 76 schools in 2002, the year the programme was launched. First introduced in Málaga city, the scheme now extends to 37 towns throughout the province.
Financed by the Junta de Andalucía, the programme allows parents at participating schools to enrol their children in before- and after-school activities for a small fee. The price – 12 euros a month, which will likely be raised to 13 euros a month this year – can be defrayed by subsidies of 25 to 50 per cent, which the Junta says are currently received by 95 per cent of families signed up for the programme. Parents can enrol their children at any time during the year by filling out a form provided by their school. Participating schools open their doors at 07.30 and close at 22.00.The schools added this year are San Juan and the new, still unnamed primary school in Alhaurín de la Torre; Pablo Ruiz Picasso in Alhaurín el Grande; La Vera Cruz in Antequera; the new primary in Arroyo de la Miel; Cupiana and Colmenarejo in Campanillas; El Sexmo in Estación de Cártama; Virgen Candelaria in Colmenar; Doctor Gálvez Moll, Cerro Coronado, Manuel Altolaguirre, Moreno Villa, Los Prados and the new primary in Málaga; the new primary in the San Luis zone of Sabanillas; Los Llanos in Ojén; the new primary in the El Chaparral zone of Mijas Costa; Fuente del Badén in Nerja; the new primary in Rincón de la Victoria; Enrique Ramos in Algarrobo Costa; Juan Paniagua in Almayate Alto; and the new primary in Torremolinos. In addition, the San Juan and Reina Sofía schools in Antequera, and Victor de la Serna in Estepona, while not part of the full extended-hours programme, are providing a before-school classroom for children whose parents need to drop them off early.


Spain is number-two tourism destination


Costa is one of main attractions, but ‘sun-and-beach’ trips are declining

By David Eade

SPAIN CONTINUES TO OCCUPY THE SECOND POSITION IN WORLD TOURISM, BOTH IN THE NUMBER OF VISITORS RECEIVED (AFTER FRANCE) AND IN VOLUME OF SALES (AFTER THE US), ACCORDING TO A RECENT SURVEY COVERING THE YEARS 2000-2005.
Travel and tourism now make up 12 per cent of GDP, according to Spain’s own national statistics and is of enormous importance to the nation’s economy, says the report it.
Of major importance to the industry, says the report, was last year’s significant increase in the number of German visitors to Spain. This was only the second increase of tourists from Germany in six years and brought the number almost back to 2001 levels. It was due to a slight increase in confidence in the German economy coupled with a sustained effort by the Spanish to bring back German tourists, said the report. There was also continued growth in the number of visitors from the UK and especially France.

COSTA LOSING APPEAL?
The researchers found that in 2005 there was a significant reduction in the “sun and beach” holidays that make up the majority of visits to Spain. This, they believe, is due to the increasing sophistication and varied demands of modern tourism, the availability of this type of holiday in cheaper locations, and a changing holiday pattern of the European tourist. The report states that new tourists seeking a different type of experience are the impetus behind the growth in rural and cultural tourism. Data shows that the days of tourists having just one holiday per year lasting two to four weeks are changing rapidly and being replaced by more frequent short breaks that tend to be themed.Research and Markets believes the modern tourist in Spain is not looking just for a typical package holiday at the cheapest price but rather an experience that includes all sorts of additional activities. This, they say, can be seen in the significant increases in alternative holidays such as city breaks and rural or activity breaks. These tourists are more self-sufficient when booking their holidays, increasingly using the Internet, comparing prices, expecting quality and taking advantage of last minute deals, and are altogether more sophisticated and demanding.


Five-star for Torremolinos


By Dave Jamieson

Land around Torremolinos’ Conference Centre, or Palacio de Congresos, is to be developed with a commercial centre and five-star hotel. The Town Council has given the go-ahead for the firm Iel España to press ahead with its project, which officials say will create around 3,000 new jobs. The Socialist (PSOE) group at the Town Hall voted against the proposal, however, favouring instead plans for the construction of low-cost housing on the site.
The town’s mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, said it would be “the best commercial centre in Spain,” without precedent in the area, and would present a spectacular entrance to Torremolinos for traffic entering from the motorway. He also assured councillors that the project, which he described as “pioneering,” was already included in the town’s local development plan (PGOU). If the developers fail to achieve a five-star rating for the hotel, a clause in the contract will require them to pay the Town Hall three million euros, plus interest, for each missing star.A small number of residential properties are to be included in the project, with the local plusvalía tax generated by them to be split between the Town Hall and the developer.


Greenpeace spotlights 30,000 illegal homes


Town halls will attempt to legalise them in new PGOUs, says report

By David Eade

IN ITS REPORT ‘DESTRUCCIÓN A TODA COSTA 2006’, THE ENVIRONMENTAL PRESSURE GROUP GREENPEACE HAS PAINTED A VERY WORRYING PICTURE FOR THE PROVINCE OF CÁDIZ, IDENTIFYING SOME 30,000 ILLEGAL DWELLINGS, THE VAST MAJORITY OF THEM ON THE COAST.
Chiclana is said to have 10,000 of the illegal homes and Sanlúcar 5,000, with another 3,000 in El Puerto de Santa María. Greenpeace says all these town halls are placing their faith in the revision of the existing local development plans (PGOUs) that will legalise more than 100,000 homes that have been built over a 15-year period.Greenpeace has highlighted the case of Pinar de Coig in El Puerto de Santa María, where the local administration under Hernán Díaz allowed the construction of homes in a protected pine forest classified as a public park. In addition, the report cites a high number of irregularities in Sanlúcar, where there has been a doubling of the permissible urban area and golf courses, which the Town Hall argues will be legalised later.

TAKING ACTION
In San Fernando, Greenpeace has made an official complaint over the ‘plan parcial’ of La Casería de Ossío and in Chiclana has called for the cancellation of the PGOU, which contemplates 40,000 new homes, the legalisation of 10,000 currently deemed illegal, and the development of Pinar del Hierro.


Compensation for Iberia strike victims


Passengers affected by Barcelona airport shutdown to receive 250 euros

By Dave Jamieson

AIR PASSENGERS WHO WERE CAUGHT UP IN THE CHAOS WHICH FOLLOWED AN UNOFFICIAL STRIKE BY IBERIA WORKERS AT BARCELONA AIRPORT ARE TO RECEIVE A FIXED SUM IN COMPENSATION. The airports operator Aena last week came to an agreement with the Council of Ministers in Madrid to pay the sum of 250 euros to anyone whose flight was affected at El Prat airport in the wake of events on July 28.
Several hundred flights were cancelled nationwide and others seriously delayed with an estimated 100,000 travellers affected when 2,500 employees of the airline stopped work, effectively blockading the airport. Iberia’s check-in staff vanished from the departures terminals, while 200 of its employees swarmed onto the runways, preventing aircraft from landing or taking off for most of the day. The action was prompted by the failure of Aena to renew Iberia’s contract for ground handling, prompting fears of hundreds of job losses.
Many of those stranded at Barcelona complained they had no idea when their flights would depart and Red Cross staff distributed 7,000 sandwiches and 52,800 bottles of water to the thousands who had to spend the night at the airport. The 12-hour strike caused disruption to the schedules for several days afterwards, while a four-hour meeting between Iberia and workers’ representatives the next week produced an agreement that there would be no more industrial action, provided that Iberia safeguards 1,300 of the current 2,000 jobs under threat.

COMPENSATION DEAL
On August 10, the Minister for Development, Magdalena Álvarez, promised that the rights of the affected passengers would be respected and that some form of compensation would be made available, which led directly to the deal announced last week. It applies to those who had a ticket and confirmed reservation on commercial flights due to depart from Barcelona airport in the 24-hour period starting at 06.30 on July 28. As well as a flat compensation rate, the agreement between Aena and the Government will provide for 180 euros per passenger in respect of lost or damaged luggage, provided the relevant paperwork has been completed. Aena has promised to make a document available which sets out in detail the requirements, which will also appear on its website along with the number of a 24-hour help line: 900 100 405. Enquiries and claims can also be made at the information desk of any Spanish airport, but all applications must be submitted within a month of publication of the agreement in the official State Bulletin. Up to the end of last week, the Ministry of Development had received 20,623 complaints about the events of July 28.


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