Costa del Sol News - 26th October 2006

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Week 26th October - 1st November 2006

 

RESIDENTS FIGHT LAND GRAB

Regional government plans expropriations for rural trail

By David Eade

LANDOWNERS IN ESTEPONA ARE FIGHTING AN ATTEMPT BY THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT TO EXPROPRIATE THEIR PROPERTY, WITHOUT COMPENSATION, AS PART OF A PROJECT TO RESTORE A TRADITIONAL LIVESTOCK CORRIDOR.
The Junta de Andalucía has started to mark out the land that it claims belongs to the ‘Via Pecuaria’ (VP) route that links the Costa del Sol with Ronda and runs along Camino de Ubrique and Camino de Igualeja.
As reported in last week’s Costa del Sol News, Lorraine Wynne, who stands to lose a large part of her home on Camino de Ubrique, refused to give regional-government workers access to her land. She said they were very polite and noted down all her comments but that they will be coming back with legal documents and the necessary back-up to enter and put their green VP posts on her land.
Now the protest has been joined by property owners on Camino de Igualeja, who held a demonstration last week as regional-government workers started measuring up their zone.
Darryl Williams, who lives on the road with his wife Sue stated, “The Vias Pecaurias actually split on the corner by Lorraine’s house and the original Via Pecuaria de Igualeja runs east up the track along the boundary of her house before turning north and crossing the ‘autopista’.
However, because the actual route of the Via Pecuaria de Igualeja has been cut by the autopista and there is no bridge over the autopista in the correct place, the regional government has moved the goalposts.”

OWNERSHIP DISPUTE
Mr Williams’s neighbour James Machin is also affected by the land grab. He told CDSN, “The Junta de Andalucía has decided that the Camino de Igualeja, which is currently a road and track with a width of between three and five metres, will become the Via Pecuaria -Vereda de Igualeja, with a mandatory width of 20.89 metres.
“The regional government says that the land on either side of the existing Camino de Igualeja belongs to them regardless of the fact that this has never been registered at the state land registry and it is not shown on the deeds of any of the affected properties.”
The residents are furious because in many cases it is not just their land that is involved but also their homes, which they say have been legally built with all the required planning permissions granted by Estepona town hall. Further, they pay annual taxes on the properties. Many of the homes have been built for over thirty years and at least one is over a hundred years old.

SEEKING EU SUPPORT
The affected property owners have submitted a petition to the European Parliament complaining that the expropriations are an abuse of their property rights and the European Commission is currently conducting an investigation into the matter, they say.Jose Antonio Romero Boldt, the lawyer acting on behalf of a group of the landowners said, “What is the point of a lawyer carrying out a search at the land registry on behalf of someone buying a property if the government can come along at a later date and add their name to the deeds of the property when there is no indication of any claim on the land shown on the deeds at the time of the search? Lawyers are only able to check the details supplied by the government at the land registry and at the ‘catastro’.”


Beware of Shadow's killer

By David Eade

SHADOW, A GENTLE AND ELDERLY DOG HAS BEEN HAMMERED TO DEATH IN A CRUEL AND SAVAGE ATTACK BY AN UNKNOWN ASSAILANT
The tragedy took place during the night of Monday October 9 in the garden of San Martín del Tesorillo’s vet, Joaquin Sanchez, who is well known to many British residents in the Jimena and Sotogrande areas.
Shadow was owned by retired couple, Iris and Alex Quelch, who live in Jimena. Iris told the Costa del Sol News that she had returned to the UK on a brief trip and left Shadow with Joaquin to save her husband, who is in his mid-80s, from having to walk him.
Both Iris and Joaquin have reported the matter to the police and the slaying was recently featured on the popular primetime ‘Gente’ programme on Spanish national station TV1. Iris said: “Shadow was eleven and a half years old, and a very gentle dog, who loved everyone he came in contact with. My husband and I had him from a puppy when we found him in a street in Torre del Mar badly beaten. He loved to go to Joaquin’s where he played with the other dogs and was part of the family. The person who did this terrible act must dislike and disregard the lives of animals and - who knows if he has done this thing before?
Indeed, one must ask, if a person can kill a friendly dog with a hammer in the middle of the night what might that person do to a fellow human?”

WARNING TO OTHER PET OWNERS
Alex is suffering very badly from the loss of Shadow and Iris says, “Our only consolation is that Shadow died and is buried in the place he dearly loved”. She is now placing posters throughout the area warning other dog owners about the hammer killer. If you have any information on the killing of Shadow please contact the Jimena local police on 956 640 064.


Patient seeks doctor-assisted suicide

Woman has suffered progressive muscular dystrophy for 30 years

By Oliver McIntyre

A 51-YEAR-OLD WOMAN WHO SUFFERS PROGRESSIVE MUSCULAR DYSTROPHY AND HAS BEEN CONNECTED TO A RESPIRATOR MACHINE FOR THE LAST NINE YEARS HAS PUBLICLY REQUESTED MEDICAL ASSISTANCE TO END HER LIFE.
Inmaculada Echevarría held a press conference last week from her hospital bed at the San Rafael hospital in Granada and handed out an open letter to the press.
“All I ask for is euthanasia,” said Sra Echevarría. “I accept my illness but not the use of artificial means to uselessly prolong my life,” she said, referring to the respirator that was inserted via tracheotomy against her wishes.
Sra Echevarría said she was aware that current laws prohibit euthanasia but asked that her wishes be respected. She has been ill for 30 years and since she was 29 has had it clear in her mind that when she could not survive unassisted she wanted to be allowed to die.
She has requested doctor-assisted suicide because simply disconnecting her from the respirator would result in a “cruel and anguishing” death, she said. “I ask that I be given help to die freely and without pain.”
Regional government officials said the decision was out of their jurisdiction and that Sra Echevarría would have to take her case to the courts.

LIVING WILL REGISTRY
For the time being, her lawyer has requested her inscription on the regional government’s ‘living will’ or no-extraordinary-measures registry, which allows people to sign a legally-binding document stating the type of life-saving or life-sustaining treatments or interventions they want undertaken in the event of extreme, irreversible illness or injury. At most, her inscription would allow her to be removed from the respirator, not to receive active assistance in ending her life. But her lawyer said even this could set important precedent, as medical staff would need to decide whether to administer anaesthesia to relieve her of the pain that her disconnection from the machine would cause.


Wire thieves leave victims powerless

NEWS Staff Reporter

The high price of copper has made electricity cables a hot item for thieves on the Costa, according to authorities. Many towns have seen thefts of power lines, both in areas under construction and in existing residential or industrial zones, in some cases leaving urbanisations temporarily without electricity.
Benalmádena has been especially hard hit in recent weeks, with the theft of some 12 kilometres of cable from the public electricity network in the Retamar zone. Its replacement will cost an estimated 72,000 euros.
Mijas has also reported cases. Late last month Guardia Civil officers found two stolen vehicles containing a combined ton and a half of copper wire. Earlier this year, Alhaurín de la Torre was hit by a string of robberies that left municipal workers having to replace two kilometres of power lines and at Málaga airport entire spools of copper cable have been known to disappear from the construction area.
Officials say that copper cable poses a lucrative target to thieves, who can get around 4.50 euros a kilo for it as scrap. The cables are burned down to separate the copper from the plastic coating, at which point the source of the material is nearly impossible to trace.Cable theft is not a crime unique to the Costa or to Spain in general. Soaring prices of metals have made such robberies a problem for authorities – and for companies and consumers – in many countries around the world. In June of this year, the BBC reported that in the previous five months more than £300,000 worth of metals – mostly copper and aluminium – had been stolen in 160 robberies in Surrey alone.


Cuevas del Becerro strikes in protest over golf

By David Eade

THE RESIDENTS OF CUEVAS DEL BECERRO ARE STRIKING TODAY (THURSDAY OCTOBER 26) IN PROTEST AT TWO GOLF COURSES THAT ARE BEING BUILT NEAR THE MUNICIPALITY’S BOUNDARY.
It is feared that the major residential development for around 10,000 people that will be housed on the golf courses will deplete the area’s water supply. The strike has been called by the local town hall and is supported by the IU and PSOE parties, local residents groups as well as environmentalists in Silvema and Ecologistas en Acción.
The decision to call the strike was taken at a recent meeting in Cuevas del Becerro to highlight local opposition to the golf developments. The Merinos Norte project, which is planned for land within the Ronda municipal boundaries, was passed by the council in February of this year. Ronda town hall has been strong in its support of the golf scheme stating that it will bring badly needed jobs to the area as well as boosting the town’s tourism offerings.
However the regional government has led the opposition by asking the courts to halt the golf project, which is planned for an area of high ecological value. In addition both the Andalucía water authority and the Málaga provincial government have voiced their opposition because they believe it will cause damage to the current and future water supplies of the surrounding area.The Merinos Norte development is on land that lies close to the Biosphere Reserve area. Apart from the two 18-hole golf courses there are also plans for 800 homes, a luxury hotel, an equestrian centre plus tennis and paddle tennis courts.


Local controversy over Torrox paseo work

By Dave Jamieson

A major ten-month project, now underway in Torrox at a cost of more than 1.5 million euros, is causing public controversy. The Los Llanos Paseo Marítimo is being restructured by the Costas department but residents at the Laguna Beach urbanisation have raised objections to work being planned in what has been regarded as a green zone. The community, which numbers around 1,500 home owners, garage owners and businesses, has contacted Costas and Torrox town hall in an attempt to find a negotiated settlement acceptable to everyone.
The project will see the construction of an 800-metre long beach walkway, 5.5 metres wide, with 60 benches, 45 rubbish bins, eight showers and 70 lights. There will be ten sets of steps and 11 ramps for access from the promenade to the beach.The problem has arisen because residents believed that part of the land to be used was a green zone, although it appears that it has, unknown to many, been town hall property for some time. However, Costas chief, Juan Carlos Fernández, has been quoted as stating that the opposition of local people would in no way impede the project’s completion as planned.


Foreign-language volunteers honoured

By Oliver McIntyre

THE VOLUNTEERS WHO RUN THE EXTENSIVE FOREIGN-LANGUAGE BOOK SECTION AT BENALMÁDENA’S ARROYO DE LA MIEL LIBRARY ARE TO RECEIVE THE TOWN HALL’S MEDAL OF MERIT AND HONOUR.
The dozen or so volunteers – including residents from Britain, France, Canada, Argentina, Poland, Germany, Finland, Holland and the United States – will be presented with their medals at a ceremony on December 6 at the Casa de Cultura in Arroyo de la Miel.
“The volunteers have been running the programme for many years and we want to acknowledge their work with this medal,” said the town’s mayor, Enrique Bolín. “We hope it is as much a pleasure to them as it is to us.”
The councillor responsible for the town’s libraries, Natalia Brudke, said the volunteers had earned the distinction. “The tremendous service they have performed for the town hall makes them very deserving of this medal,” she said.
The library’s foreign-language book section was launched in 1987 at the suggestion of an elderly American resident. A small, 30-word advert asking for volunteers and donations was posted in the classifieds section of an English-language publication, and the response was immediate. Not only did volunteers show up, but books began rolling in, “sometimes by the truckload,” said Councillor Brodke. They had to be stored temporarily in boxes until they could all be sorted and catalogued.
Today the collection includes nearly 21,000 titles in a variety of languages. Most of the books – 16,500 – are in English, but there are also significant numbers in Finnish, German, French and other languages. The foreign-language section’s longest-serving volunteer, and long-time coordinator, is Betty Watt, who, now in her nineties, still shows up for her daily shift at the library. In 1998 she was awarded a town hall Medal of Merit and in 2000 was named Librarian of the Year.


New Málaga ring road finally goes ahead

NEWS Staff Reporter

After a decade, the prospect of a second ring road around Málaga has ceased to be dream. On Friday, the official state bulletin published the formal approval for the first two stretches of the new motorway which is expected to alleviate the city’s chronic traffic chaos.
The Ministry of Development gave the green light to projects covering two of the four stretches which will be built to the north of the existing ring road, and will cover 21.3 kilometres from Alhaurín de la Torre in the west to El Limonero reservoir in the east with five intersections along the way. The announcement fulfils the promise of the development minister, Magdalena Álvarez, who said the first work would be put out to tender during October.
The first stretch to be offered will cover 6.1 kilometres from the A-7 motorway at the Torremolinos Conference Centre as far as Churriana. It will have three lanes in each direction and is regarded as the most technically complex part as it includes a 1.25-kilmetre tunnel. The work will require a public investment of 168.6 million euros and is expected to take two and a half years to build.
The other stretch will be the final 6.3 kilometres of road, travelling west to east, from Puerto de la Torre to La Virreina where it will meet a new toll motorway, Las Pedrizas, which will run north from the city, and also link to the existing ring road, the A-7 Ronda Oeste. Six viaducts and a bridge across Arroyo España are included. It has a budget of 102.6 million euros and also has a construction time of 30 months.Announcing the development, Magdalena Álvarez said that all four stretches of the new road would open in 2009 and that work should begin next spring. It will have sections of three and two carriageways in each direction, but these are to be built to enable easy expansion with the addition of an extra lane if demand justifies it. The total cost of the new ring road will be more than 500 million euros but, like the existing ring road which the Ministry says now carries 175,000 vehicles every day, it will not be a toll road.

 


New setback for Alhaurín quarries

Ban could lead to construction delays

By Oliver McIntyre

A MÁLAGA COURT RULED LAST WEEK THAT THE FOUR ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE QUARRIES THAT WERE BANNED FROM FURTHER EXTRACTION WORK A YEAR AGO MUST NOW ALSO REFRAIN FROM TREATING AND SELLING EXISTING STOCKPILED MATERIAL.
The four quarries had until now been allowed to work with the stockpiled material as part of an agreement reached at the beginning of this year to end the quarry-workers’ strike that followed the court-ordered closures. But a number of citizen and environmental groups filed an appeal against the agreement, leading to the court’s decision last week.
Representatives of the quarries say the new ruling will quickly affect the construction industry in the province and materials shortages will felt within 20 days to a month.
The quarries are currently awaiting final approval of the town’s quarry restoration plan, which includes a stipulation that they can treat and sell materials extracted as part of the restoration work itself, such as from the terracing of quarry walls in preparation for replanting. Alhaurín town hall says it has signed the plan but is awaiting final approval from the Junta de Andalucía. Officials at first said that was unlikely to occur in less than two months, but later said the plan could be approved and licences issued as early as mid to late November. Town hall sources say that of the four affected quarries – Retamero, Pinos de Alhaurín, El Troconal and Taralpe – all but the latter have been idle for several months, meaning the court order against working with stockpiled material only directly affects Taralpe.


Axarquía rally off as organiser blames town hall

By Dave Jamieson

A car rally in the Axarquía has been cancelled with the organisers placing the blame on a local councillor. The Rallye de la Axarquía Costa del Sol was scheduled for November 18 by the Federación Andaluza de Automovilismo (FAA) but a notice posted on their website, www.faa.net, has announced that the event has been called off “because the councillor for sport at Vélez-Málaga Town Hall has not fulfilled the agreed economic arrangements.”
The first meeting between the FAA and Vélez sport councillor, Claudio Morales, is reported to have taken place in March. Also present were representatives from various sports organisations in the area. The outcome was an agreement between Sr Morales and FAA governing member and president of racing team RS Sport, Rafael Arjona, that a sum of 40,000 euros was necessary to stage the rally. The councillor promised that half would come from Vélez town hall while the other interested parties agreed to finance the remainder.
The FAA developed plans which would have seen the event spread between four locations in Vélez, Torrox, El Borge and Arenas, with a vehicle display in the Parque de Andalucía. Preparations for ancillary requirements, including safety precautions, were also set in motion.
However, at a subsequent meeting in September, it is reported that, while the various participating groups came up with their half of the cash, the councillor could not fulfil his part of the deal. According to Rafael Arjona, Claudio Morales could not provide “even a third” of the promised amount. Sr Arjona is quoted as saying that if the councillor had said from the start that the money would not be forthcoming, the FAA would have sought another location for the rally. However, with only two months between the meeting and the date scheduled for the event, there was not enough time to reorganise it elsewhere. The FAA is due to meet Vélez-Málaga’s mayor, Antonio Souvirón, and the other participating groups, in an effort to reschedule the rally which had been expected to bring hundreds of people into the area with consequent benefits to the Axarquía’s economy.


New main plaza and garage for Torremolinos

NEWS Staff Reporter

After years of construction work and multiple delays, Torremolinos’s central Plaza de Andalucía and its new six-storey underground garage were officially inaugurated on Saturday. The ceremony was presided over by the town’s mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, and attended by hundreds of local residents.
The mayor called the newly remodelled 4,500-square-metre plaza an important new public space for the town centre and an “emblematic” element of the “new Torremolinos.” Paved in granite tiles and lined with trees and decorative street lamps, its central feature is a large polished-marble fountain.
The plaza’s new underground garage is one of the town hall’s most ambitious projects undertaken in recent years. Its six floors house 637 parking spaces are expected to greatly ease the chronic parking problems in the busy business and shopping zone. The garage, which is open 24 hours a day, includes two pedestrian exits to the plaza, one of them with a lift. Local officials also announced that the town hall has decided to extend for tax breaks it has been providing since 2003 to businesses located in the plaza, which were heavily affected by the five years of construction work. The businesses will pay no real-estate or business taxes and no rubbish-collection fees until 2012.


Illegal construction arrests

By David Eade

SEPRONA, THE ENVIRONMENTAL ARM OF THE GUARDIA CIVIL, HAS INTERVENED IN 155 CASES OF ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION IN THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR AREA AND ARRESTED OR SUMMONED 165 PEOPLE SINCE JANUARY.
At the same time the law enforcement agency has acted in all seven municipalities where 180 urbanisations or dwellings are deemed to have broken the law and also investigated 48 cases of illegal land division.
The Guardia Civil have carried out 90 per cent of their actions on illegal construction in the national parks of El Estrecho and Los Alcornocales. One of the most serious cases occurred in Los Alcornocales where Seprona officers took action against the construction of 20 illegal dwellings that were forming a small urban area.
Los Alcornocales was also the site in another significant case where various houses made out of wood were being erected along with the installation of electricity generators and bottled gas supply. This represented a high fire risk and could have had an impact on a nearby urban area.
The Guardia Civil have used helicopters as ‘spies in the sky’ to help uncover these illegal buildings and Seprona continues to be on the look out for cases of irregular development that encroach on and damage protected areas. Officers are also clamping down on the fraudulent use of water and electricity supplies, tax evasion and illegal dumping of toxic wastes.

NEW GUARDIA CIVIL ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION SQUADS

The Seprona activity in the Campo de Gibraltar was made public as the Guardia Civil announced it was setting up a new permanent task force to tackle illegal town planning, building, and real estate corruption. The new force of 200 agents will start work in Madrid, Málaga and Murcia with a total of 54 teams coming in to operation next year. The plans were announced by Joan Mesquida, general director of the Civil Guard and National Police. The Guardia Civil throughout Spain have been put on alert since last July to report any irregular building seen in their local areas. The force is set to draw up a complete list of all illegal buildings constructed in Spain over the past three years.


Ireland and Spain lead annual Asturias Awards

By Dave Jamieson

IRELAND’S FIRST WOMAN PRESIDENT AND SPAIN’S BASKETBALL TEAM ARE AMONG THE WINNERS OF THIS YEAR’S PRESTIGIOUS PRINCE OF ASTURIAS AWARDS.
The announcements were made at a lavish ceremony in Oviedo on Friday night, presided over by Prince Felipe and his wife Princess Letizia, with Queen Sofia present in the audience.
The awards are made annually for outstanding contributions in eight areas ranging from the arts and science to sports and international cooperation. Each winner received 50,000 euros and a sculpture by Catalan artist Joan Miro. A total of 301 candidates were considered for this year’s awards.
Mary Robinson, Ireland’s first woman president and a former U.N. high commissioner for human rights, won the prize for Social Sciences. Accepting the award she said that the prosperity that Spain and Ireland enjoy is due to “the vitality of our democracies,” adding that, “during the last decades, we have moved toward societies based on tolerance.”
Spain’s national basketball team, presently world champions, received the Sport prize for their exemplary team spirit. They won over 29 other nominations in the category including French Open tennis champion Rafael Nadal, retiring eight-time Grand Slam event winner Andre Agassi, and the 2006 World Cup chief Franz Beckenbauer. The jury called the team’s 70-47 win over Greece in last month’s final, “the most brilliant chapter in the history of Spanish basketball.”Other winners at the colourful ceremony included the prolific American writer Paul Auster in the Literature category while the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was honoured with the International Cooperation award. Spanish film-maker Pedro Almodovar, nominated for an Oscar, took Arts and the work of children’s charity Unicef in Africa was recognised with the Concord prize. Juan Ignacio Cirac took Scientific and Technical Research for his work on quantum computing and the Communication and Humanities award was presented to the president of the National Geographic Society, John Fahey.


Real-estate price increases slow to below 10 %

By Oliver McIntyre

For the first time in five years, the upward march of real-estate prices in Spain has slowed to below 10 per cent a year, and some areas of the country have actually seen price drops over the last few months.
Government officials viewed the statistics as positive – a cooling of the market has long been considered necessary – but also acknowledged the risk of a ‘bubble-bursting’ effect if the recent downward trend seen in some areas spreads more widely throughout the country.
Housing ministry data for the third quarter of 2006 shows a year-on-year increase of 9.8 per cent in house prices. It is the first time the figure has dropped below double digits since the second quarter of 2001, when it was 9.4 per cent.
Some regions saw much greater price increases, such as Cantabria at 15.2 per cent, Aragón at 14.5 per cent and Galicia at 14.3 per cent. But in 12 provinces – including expat haven Alicante – third-quarter prices were slightly down from second-quarter figures.
The ministry’s director of housing policy, Rafael Pacheco, said the appearance of the quarter-on-quarter price drops was a bit concerning, but he viewed the overall trend of lowered appreciation as healthy and welcome. “We believe today’s figures are better than yesterday’s and tomorrow’s will be even better than today’s,” he said.
Citing the trend seen so far this year, with year-on-year price increases registering at 15 per cent in January, 12 per cent in April, 10.8 per cent in June and now 9.8 per cent, he predicted that in the medium-term the rate could drop to levels in line with inflation.
The slowing of price increases during the course of the year has occurred as interest rates have crept upward, a trend that is widely expected to continue in coming months. In Andalucía, the Housing Ministry’s third-quarter figures show a year-on-year price increase of 10.2 per cent to 1,643 euros per square metre for the region as a whole, while the province of Málaga saw an increase of 9.9 per cent to 2,201 euros per square metre.


 

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