Costa del Sol News - 25th January 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week 25th January - 31st January 2007

 

AIR TAX CHAOS

Increased levy may stop passengers from flying

By James Parkes

DIFFERENT HANDLING OF A TAX RISE FOR ALL AIRLINES OPERATING IN THE UK COULD LEAVE HUNDREDS OF COSTA PASSENGERS ON THE GROUND.
From February 1, the Air Passenger Duty (APD) charged by the British tax office increases from £5 to £10 on domestic and short-haul European flights and from £20 to £40 on long-haul flights out of the UK.
The problem faces those passengers who have already booked and paid for their flights to the UK and were not charged the increase at the time.
Each company is setting its own rules. British Airways has decided to foot the bill and cover the cost for those who have already paid.
Ryanair has taken the opposite stance and has sent an email to its customers warning them of the tax rise and that if the extra £5 is not paid they will not be able to fly with the company.
Airline easyJet is also asking customers to pay in advance and a special link has been placed on its website, although some customers have contacted Costa del Sol News saying it does not function correctly.
Monarch passengers are informed via its website that passengers who booked flights after 15.00 on December 6 will have already been charged the APD increase. Those who booked before will gradually be contacted by email to indicate how they must pay. If for any reason the company cannot contact the passenger, he or she will be required to make the payment at the Monarch desk at the airport.

PASSENGERS SHOULD CHECK IN ADVANCE
All passengers travelling to the UK are urged to consult their chosen airline webpage for information on how to pay the increased APD.An airline official said “I hope the that the tax office realises that come February, due to this situation, airline staff will have to go up and down check-in queues collecting money”.


Alhaurín mayor and councillor arrested

Both men were held overnight and then released on bail

By Oliver McIntyre

THE MAYOR OF ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE, JUAN MARTÍN SERÓN (PARTIDO POPULAR), WAS ARRESTED LAST WEEK ALONG WITH HIS COUNCILLOR FOR TOWN PLANNING, GREGORIO GUERRA GIL, ON BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION CHARGES RELATED TO LOCAL TOWN PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT.
The two men were detained Thursday afternoon in Marbella shortly after leaving a PP meeting held in the Costa town and attended by the party’s top brass, including its national and regional presidents, Mariano Rajoy and Javier Arenas.
National Police sources indicated that the arrests were not related to the notorious Malaya corruption case at Marbella town hall, but that the activities for which the two men were arrested could be similar in nature to some of those being investigated in that case.
It is understood that the Alhaurín case revolves around alleged bribery payments in exchange for favours such as land-classification changes or increases in allowable building. The investigation began a couple of months ago, reportedly based on complaints filed by a developer who claimed to have been hit up for a payoff.
Following the arrests, the police searched the mayor’s home in the La Paca urbanisation and a second home he owns in the town, as well as the home of Gregorio Guerra. They closed down the town hall for five hours while conducting a detailed search of the mayor’s office and the Town Planning Department. Both the mayor and the councillor were held in jail overnight before being released by the judge on 100,000 euros bail each.

POLITICAL ACCUSATIONS
The mayor and other party members sharply questioned the timing and location of the arrests, coinciding with the high-profile PP gathering in Marbella. Upon being released on bail, the mayor made highly controversial statements about “the banana republic of Zapatero,” referring to the Socialist (PSOE) prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. “ETA terrorists are left on the streets, but humble mayors are sent to prison,” he said.


Robbery victim dies of heart attack while chasing

By Dave Jamieson

A 76-year-old Swedish man collapsed and died in a Nerja street last Thursday while chasing after a thief who stole his wallet. The incident was witnessed by his wife and prompted a massive police operation in the area.
The man had just withdrawn money from a cash point in Calle Diputación when he was approached by a man whom his wife assumed was an acquaintance. After a few moments, however, the stranger snatched the victim’s wallet, which contained a large amount of cash, and fled down Calle Castilla Pérez towards the beach. The elderly man took off in pursuit of the attacker, abandoning his walking stick in the chase, but within 50 metres collapsed outside the doorway of a café. Medics were unable to revive him and he died at the scene, victim of a heart attack.
The Guardia Civil and local police rapidly cordoned off the town centre, which was inundated with uniformed officers searching for the thief. Traffic checkpoints were established at both the east and west entrances to the town, but without success. The man being sought was described as bald and in his 30s, well-dressed and wearing glasses. The victim and his wife are understood to be well known in Nerja, where they reside for most of the winter, returning to Sweden during the summer to visit family.


Lord Kilmarnock in Ronda golf row

By David Eade

Reports have emerged in the British press regarding the involvement of Lord Kilmarnock, stepfather of novelist Martin Amis, in the conflict surrounding a planned golf development in Ronda, where Kilmarnock lives with the British author’s mother, Hilary Bardwell. The couple and others are reportedly being sued for £15 million over the tactics they have used to oppose the Los Merinos golf and residential project. The plans for the development consist of two golf courses, three hotels and 800 homes on the edge of the Sierra de las Nieves national park. While the project has the backing of Ronda town hall, it has met staunch opposition from local residents, ecologist groups and Cuevas del Becerro town hall, which fear its impact on the surrounding countryside and local aquifers. The regional government and the Andalucía water authority have also voiced concerns over the development.
Now, say Lord Kilmarnock and the others named in the suit – fellow Briton David Milnes and German Petra Wiegmink – the developers claim that some investors have pulled out because of an opposition campaign involving “slander, coercion, intimidation and threats.” The case is due to be heard in the courts this month. Lord Kilmarnock and his co-defendants have the backing of Spain’s Los Verdes party, which claims the opponents to the golf project were subject to “Mafia-style harassment stemming from the alliance between politicians and developers.”An earlier lawsuit claiming that protesters falsified signatures on a petition against the golf project was thrown out by the Ronda court just after Christmas and environmental activists are planning to counter-sue.


German couple shot to death in Chilches home

By NEWS Staff Reporter

On Monday night the National Police discovered the dead bodies of a German couple who were shot to death inside their house in the Panorama urbanisation in Chilches.
According to initial reports, the man, U.H., 70, was shot four times, in the chest and back. His wife, R.S., 54, had three gunshot wounds and signs of having received a blow to the head. Both were gagged and had their hands and feet tied.
The police found the bodies after receiving a call reporting that blood had been spotted at the entrance to the detached house at number 26 in the Panorama urbanisation. The exact motive of the crime remains unclear. The house appeared ransacked but there were numerous items of value that had not been taken. The woman’s grey Toyota Rav 4 was missing and is believed to have been driven off by the culprit or culprits. The couple had their house, which they had owned for five years, up for sale and some sources indicated they may have recently sold it and received a payment, which could possibly have been the target if the motive of the crime was robbery. However, police have not confirmed this and say all possible angles of investigation remain open. Neither of the victims had any prior police record.


British - Spanish custody case crosses borders

British father lives on Costa but Spanish mum taking child to UK

By David Eade

THE PROVINCIAL COURT IN MÁLAGA HAS UPHELD A RULING BY A FUENGIROLA COURT TO ALLOW A DIVORCED SPANISH WOMAN TO TAKE HER YOUNG DAUGHTER WITH HER TO LIVE IN BRITAIN, AGAINST THE WISHES OF THE GIRL’S FATHER.
In an ironic twist of fate, the father of the child is himself British, but he lives on the Costa del Sol and opposed the move.
However, the court has backed the Spanish woman, stating that it is more beneficial for the youngster be with her mother. The provincial court stated that under the Spanish constitution the mother has a fundamental right to choose where to live.
The father had argued that the move to the UK would harm his relationship with his daughter and that he couldn’t comply with the allowed fixed visits because of the travelling involved. The court stated that the established legal guideline is to put the interests of the child first. It found that the child’s best interests were served by the being with her mother, even if that involved a move to the UK. In its ruling, the court highlighted that the child is British, has family in that country, lived there for over a year and speaks perfect English.

TRAVEL NOT A HARDSHIP
Furthermore, the court considered that the travel requirements for the father would not be an undue hardship, as many Britons travel frequently between Spain and their home country and there are abundant flights to numerous UK airports.


Global warming threatens Málaga coastline

By Dave Jamieson

A new study suggests that the province of Málaga’s shoreline will move ten metres inland by 2050.
A professor of oceanographic engineering at the University of Cantabria says that global warming is threatening to trigger irreversible disasters along the coastline.
Speaking last week at a seminar on how climate change will affect Andalucía’s coasts, Íñigo Losada painted a picture based on meteorological statistics from the last 50 years. He estimated that long periods of drought will give way to torrential rains causing the level of the Mediterranean to rise 10 centimetres, with consequent problems in ports and other infrastructures close to the shore. As well as economic considerations, there would be danger to native animal life in the affected areas. If warming continues at its present rate, the annual rise in the sea level will increase from its present 2.5 millimetres to around 15 millimetres.
Other experts pointed to changes observed in flora and fauna across the region as indications that change is underway. They say that pine trees on the Sierra Nevada have been seen at altitudes where previously they were unknown while conifers in Almería have modified their growth. The plagues of jellyfish along the Málaga coast in recent summers are also linked to the effect. A speaker from the Hospital La Fe in Valencia said that lack of rainfall causes an “important” rise in human allergic reactions as plants start to flower earlier. By 2050, rainfall across the province is expected to be 20 per cent less than at present while the average temperature will rise by three degrees. The Junta de Andalucía has prepared a plan which includes strategies to tackle global warming with the objective of reducing the emission of carbon and other gases which cause heat retention. The document is likely to be approved by the regional government in the first half of this year.


Alhaurín to create community copper sheme

Officers to patrol neighbourhoods daily in pilot programme

By Oliver McIntyre

ALHAURÍN DE LA TORRE TOWN HALL IS TO LAUNCH A COMMUNITY COPPER SCHEME TO CARRY OUT NEIGHBOURHOOD POLICING IN THE TOWN’S PRINCIPAL RESIDENTIAL AREAS.
The pilot programme will start in February, with two pairs of officers assigned specifically to patrolling the town’s eight principal neighbourhoods: Zapata, El Peñón, Molina, Romeral, Santa Amalia, Mestanza, Torrealquería and La Alquería.
“The goal of this initiative is for anyone with a problem to be able to directly approach the officers in their neighbourhood, without having to make a trip to the police station at the town hall,” said Remedios Carrillo, the councillor responsible for the local police. With their constant presence, the officers will get to know the neighbourhoods better and will become more familiar to the people who live there, she said. “These close-at-hand police are highly valued by residents, who put more confidence in officers who are there protecting the security of their neighbourhood on a daily basis.”

PROGRAMME MAY BE EXTENDED
The officers will patrol during the morning and afternoon shifts, carrying out regular policing duties but also spending more time patrolling their areas on foot. In the case of an emergency, they can be called to help the general police force, which will also continue its periodic patrolling in the neighbourhoods. If the pilot phase goes well, the community copper programme may later be extended to the town’s urbanisations.


Mijas launches anti-anorexia campaign

NEWS Staff Reporter

Mijas town council has launched a campaign to educate not only young people, but also the adults around them, about the dangers of eating disorders in adolescents.
The number of anorexia and bulimia cases “continues to grow in developed countries, and [the disorders] increasingly occur at younger ages, even at nine and 10 years old,” said a town hall spokesman.
Its current campaign, following on a similar one last year, includes a series of activities and materials aimed at the town’s 550 third-year secondary school students, as well as their parents and teachers. Another part of the campaign, carried out in coordination with the Andalucía Health Service, will be targeted at general practitioners, paediatricians and nursing staff at local health centres, with the goal of promoting early detection. The campaign will be brought to the wider community by way of local media, say town hall officials.The programme aimed at students, to be carried out between now and the end of May, consists of three workshops featuring discussion, games, practical exercises and audiovisual materials. The first will teach the teens to recognise the way advertisements push a distorted aesthetic ideal that can be damaging to young people’s health. It will also provide them some basic information about healthy nutrition. The second workshop will explore the physical and psychological changes that occur during adolescence, and the third will focus on self-esteem, demystifying body image and the serious dangers of eating disorders.


Spain and Gibraltar in spat over ID cards

Around 250 people denied entry to the Rock

By David Eade

SPANISH AND BRITISH DIPLOMATS WERE LOCKED IN TALKS IN MADRID AT THE END OF LAST WEEK TO TRY AND CLEAR UP THE SPAT THAT HAS BROKEN OUT OVER GIBRALTARIAN AND SPANISH IDENTITY CARDS.
Madrid was reacting to a brief protest by the Gibraltar government when it refused to allow Spaniards entry to the Rock if they only had their identity cards and not full passports with them.
This was in response to the case nearly two weeks ago at Barajas airport in Madrid. An Iberia desk officer was reluctant to accept a Gibraltar identity card that showed the Gibraltarian owner as a British Overseas Territories Citizen. The Spanish Interior Ministry was consulted and immigration officials claimed there were conflicting records on the acceptability of these documents.
As a tit-for-tat Gibraltar immigration officials at the frontier were told to suspend acceptance of Spanish ID cards until the matter was cleared up. Around 250 people and 50 cars were denied entry to the Rock but these restrictions were lifted when Spanish authorities said they had instructions from Madrid to allow entry into Spain of Gibraltar identity cards, as previously has been the case.

SPAIN KEEN TO PLAY DOWN INCIDENT
Gibraltar ID cards, which carry a reference to the authority of the UK, should be accepted at all EU frontiers, as has been the case for several years. Spain was keen to play down the incidents given the improving relations between itself and Gibraltar. Indeed Gaspar Zarrias, the Andalucía government’s spokesperson, insisted on highlighting the improved relations between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar in recent months rather than escalating the ID card dispute.


High-flying auction to raise cash for charity

By Oliver McIntyre

Anyone with a bidding spirit now has a chance to get a great deal on a trip to the Big Apple while at the same time supporting a good cause. The American Club of the Costa del Sol is auctioning off two round-trip tickets from Madrid to New York, with all proceeds to be donated to the Spanish branch of the charity Age Concern.
The tickets, donated by Air Plus airline, have a face value of around 450 euros each, according to the American Club’s Gillian Tarry. They were originally auctioned off at the club’s Thanksgiving dinner, but the winning bidder was unable to use them because of a scheduling conflict. The tickets will now go to the person who submits the highest bid by January 31. The flights must be taken before March 25, 2007.The American Club, which was founded some 32 years ago and has five chapters along the coast from Sotogrande/Estepona to Nerja/Almuñecar, is operated as non-profit organisation, with any surplus funds going to charity, Mrs Tarry told Costa del Sol News. “Each chapter has its own favourite charity,” she said. “The club donates thousands of euros to them every year.” Further details regarding the airline-ticket auction are available on the club’s website (www.americanclubcostadelsol.com) and bids can be submitted by telephone or email to Gillian Tarry (95 293 62 34 or thetarrys@yahoo.co.uk).


Greens demand cancellation of Vélez bullfight

Event is to celebrate the construction of a new permanent bullring.

BY Dave Jamieson

THE GREEN PARTY IN VÉLEZ-MÁLAGA HAS REACTED ANGRILY TO THE ANNOUNCEMENT OF A BULL FIGHT IN THE TOWN NEXT MONTH.
The town hall last week released details of the event on February 10 at which the renowned bullfighter Manuel Díaz, known as El Cordóbes, will be the star turn.
While a temporary bull ring will be installed for this corrida, it is being organised to mark the deal struck by the town hall for the construction a permanent bull ring in the town. Construcciones Vera have been contracted to complete the work at a site on the town’s fairground within two years.
What has particularly upset the Greens is that, apart from the alleged ill-treatment of the animals involved, the event is being staged to benefit the Cofradía de Nuestra Señora de las Dolores, one of the religious guilds that stage the processions during Holy Week.
José Luis Gámez Martín, representing Vélez Green Party members, has now written to a number of prominent individuals and bodies asking for their help in having the event cancelled. In his letter to the Bishop of the Málaga diocese, Antonio Dorado Soto, Sr Gámez Martín writes that “the torture and death of six animals” is in contravention of the Catholic church’s catechism. He quotes this as stating that, “It is contrary to human dignity to cause pointless suffering to animals and to sacrifice their lives unnecessarily.” The Greens also call on Vélez-Málaga town hall not to support or collaborate in acts of violence or ill-treatment towards animals and to cancel the event which they describe as, “euphemistically presented as a benefit festival.”

PROTEST PLANNED
A number of environmental and animal protection groups are planning to join Green Party members in a protest demonstration outside the temporary bull ring on February 10, from 15.30.


Antequera acquires 19th century dolmen volume

By NEWS Staff Reporter

A 19th century travelogue published in London has been acquired by the body which manages the famous Dolmens near Antequera. A first edition of “Castile and Andalucía” - written in English by Lady Louisa Mary Anne Tenison and dated 1853 – has been purchased from an antiquarian book dealer in Madrid for 1,248 euros.
The particular interest in this book for Antequera is that it contains the first reference to the Menga, the largest of the Dolmen caves, which has a roof formed by massive stone slabs, the largest of which weighs 180 tons. Sr Bartolomé Ruiz of the Archaeological Board of the Antequera Dolmens said that the author arrived in Antequera in the spring of 1852 before making her way to what she refers to as a “druid temple” which she describes in detail. Searching the Menga, Lady Tenison reports finding a well. This corresponds with a discovery made during excavations in the last eighteen months by Professor Francisco Carrión who discovered a water well, 19,5 metres deep, inside the Menga. Lady Tenison described the well as being five feet wide and 43 deep. It is now thought to date from the Bronze age.However, her ladyship was not impressed with all aspects of her visit. She talks of “hair-raising creepy-crawlies” in her bedroom at night and considered the food to be worse. Her record of the journey is destined to be housed in a new library to be built at the ancient site.


Illegal properties under threat

By David Eade

A WOMAN HAS BEEN GIVEN A ONE-YEAR JAIL SENTENCE AND ORDERED TO DEMOLISH HER HOUSE, AFTER THE ANDALUCIAN HIGH COURT FOUND IN FAVOUR OF AN APPEAL BY THE PUBLIC PROSECUTOR.
The high court overturned a verdict by a lower court, which ruled the property could remain. This is the first time a demolition order has been issued on a property in Zahora and the sentence has sent shivers down the spines of the owners of other illegally built properties who fear they could find themselves in a similar situation.
The property was built in 1999 without a municipal licence on land zoned for agricultural purposes but not for building. Although the owner was aware that the house was illegal, in June last year a judge in Cádiz decided that the property should not be demolished because there are similar properties nearby. In addition the owner said that Barbate town hall and the Costa de la Luz Residents’ Association had proposed a change of use for the land under the new local development plan (PGOU). The judge said the house should not be knocked down as it was probably going to be made legal in the future.

NO APPEAL POSSIBLE
However the higher court has disagreed with that ruling saying that residential property should never have been built on land, which is not zoned for the purpose. It also stated that a possible future change to the PGOU is no justification for building a property illegally. In fact, no such amendment has been made to the PGOU in the six years since the house in Zahora was built. No appeal is possible against this latest court decision and the property will have to be knocked down in the forthcoming months.