Costa del Sol News - 8th November 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 8th November - 14th November 2007

FIRST MUSHROOM FEST

By David Eade
SAN ROQUE held its first Jornada Micológica, or Mushroom Fest last weekend at Finca La Alcaidesa. Around 80 people took part in the event during which they were introduced to the world of mushrooms and fungi and were instructed on which were edible or poisonous. The day ended with a tasting of the edible mushrooms they had gathered that were cooked especially for the occasion.


TRAIN'S ON TIME

AVE project from Málaga to Madrid on schedule

By Dave Jamieson

The government insists that high-speed trains will begin running from M álaga to Madrid on schedule despite problems encountered in a tunnel last week.

An incident on Tuesday of last week caused the evacuation of workers from one of the twin tunnels in the Valle de Abdalajís, 55 kilometres north of Málaga and just south of Bobadilla. None of the seven workers at the scene in the eastern tunnel were injured. The body which administers railway infra-structure, Adif, later explained that work had been underway to waterproof the inside of the tunnel when an excess amount of concrete was injected. This caused a build up of pressure which produced a slight dis-placement of one of the plates. It was described by Adif as nothing serious. Development Minister, Magdalena Álvarez, said the AVE’s target start date of December 23 had not changed.

The two tunnels in the Valle de Abdalajís are 7.4 kilometres long and their construction has cost over 300 million euros. Throughout the building project, they have been subject to water leaks and around 42 million euros has been spent on sealing them. Work was suspended for several days while safety checks were made along the tunnel’s length, and on Friday the construction company, Sacyr, was told to speed up work on the unaffected western tunnel. This is seen as a precautionary measure in case the eastern tunnel is not ready by December 23, in which case north and south bound trains could temporarily share the same tunnel.

On Monday of this week, Esperanza Oña, spokesperson for the PP in Andalucía, was refused entrance to inspect the tunnel. Sra Oña was told by engineers that it was too dangerous, a decision which she described as a “humiliation,” an “insult” and a “conspiracy” against her party. Sra Oña said she had twice written to the government advising of her visit and could not understand why the necessary security measures had not been put in place, since part of her work as a parliamentarian is to know first-hand the progress of the construction work. Magdalena Álvarez condemned Sra Oña’s attempted inspection as “politically irresponsible” and accused her of putting obstacles in the way of progress.The PP have been critical of the AVE project to Málaga, previously claiming that train drivers will only received ten days of training instead of the normal five months of theory and practice, because of a shortage of staff. The party alleges there will be only 21 drivers on the route against the establishment figure of 48. Even the PP’s leader, Mariano Rajoy, believes the line will be opened using just one of the twin tunnels, which he said workers at the site refer to as, ‘the AVE’s drive-through car wash.’


Police mount checkpoints at Benalmádena marina

During the first three weekends 49 drivers have tested positive for drink driving

By Oliver McIntyre

IN AN EFFORT
to stiffen up security at Benalmádena’s Puerto Marina, a major nightlife hotspot, the local police force has launched vehicle checkpoints at the entry to the marina on weekend nights. The measure is in response to “a multitude of requests” by local residents who complain that the marina has been “somewhat uncontrolled by the town hall in the last few years,” said the mayor, Javier Carnero (PSOE).

The councillor responsible for the marina, José Luis Moleón (MpB), met with marina business owners last week to explain the security crackdown. The first three weekends of the new control checkpoints “have shown very good results,” he said, and the programme will be continued with the goal of attracting “a better clientele” to the marina.

During the first three weekends the police carried out alcohol tests on 242 drivers, of whom 49 tested positive, 17 of them at more than double the legal blood-alcohol limit of 0.25mg. At the checkpoint officers also search for weapons or drugs.

Further security measures coming
Further security measures will take effect in the near future, including greater police presence in marina streets known to be problematic for public drinking, as well as at Playa Salud, the popular ‘botellón’ outdoor drinking party spot.


Teachers protest over student attack on Mijas head

The incident is the most recent of several cases of school violence in Málaga province this year

By Oliver McIntyre

TEACHERS
in schools across Málaga province staged a 15-minute work stoppage last week as a demonstration of support for a Mijas school headmaster who was allegedly attacked by a 13-year-old student. The demonstration took place on Wednesday morning after details emerged about the attack, which occurred the previous Thursday – ironically, the same day that some 500 teachers in the province staged a protest in Málaga over recent cases of violence against school faculty members.

In the Mijas case, the headmaster of the Torre Almenara secondary school was allegedly shoved by the student in the presence of the student’s mother, who had been called in to discuss disciplinary issues. The headmaster was telling the mother how the boy, who is currently repeating his first year of secondary school, had reacted flippantly when the headmaster told him to get back to class after catching him out in the halls. As the headmaster was talking with the mother, the boy allegedly began shouting insults at him, shoved him several times and made motions as if he was going to punch him, though he did not throw any actual punches.

Culprit suspended
The boy was suspended from school pending further review of the incident and the headmaster filed a complaint with the Guardia Civil, though he says he wants the situation to be handled within the school community.The Mijas incident was the most recent of several cases of violence against teachers or headmasters in Málaga province this school year. On October 5 the headmaster a secondary school in Campanillas was beaten up by the older brother of a student who had been expelled, and there have been at least two other cases of teachers being attacked by students’ family members.


Torremolinos display water more expensive than wine

Bling comes from 800 metres down in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee

By Dave Jamieson

THE MOST
expensive water in the world has been on show in Torremolinos. A 380 ml bottle of “Bling H2O” will set you back 50 euros.

The luxury drink was on display during last weekend’s Wine Fair and its distributors said that, while the majority of sales apparently go to collectors, it was already popular among the elite of the social world, including Paris Hilton and Mariah Carey. Consumers are advised to ensure that the water is served at temperature of between five and ten degrees.

The idea came from a Hollywood writer and producer, Kevin G. Boyd, who noticed that one could tell a lot about a person by the bottled water they carried. So, he created water in a bottle which made a “defining statement” about style and targeted it at the expanding super-luxury market. The company says, “It’s couture water that makes an announcement like a Rolls Royce … ”

Swarovski crystal containers
“Bling”, which is said to have an exceptional purity, comes from 800 metres down in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee and its frosted glass container is hand decorated with Swarovski crystals. However for the more modest wallet, the same company produces other exclusive waters, described as “super premium”, for a mere six to ten euros per bottle.

136 bodegas from the Spanish regions and other countries participated in this year’s Wine Fair at the Palacio de Congresos in Torremolinos, with 31 bodegas from 20 regions represented in the list of prize winners. The seventh annual event ended on Tuesday.


British architects vie for Costa super-project

Málaga tourism groups would like an emblematic structure that would be recognised internationally

By Oliver McIntyre

FAMOUS
British architects including Norman Foster and Richard Rogers are among the firms and consultants vying for the contract to develop a project whose ambitious aim is no less than to “revitalise the Costa del Sol and re-launch it as a worldwide tourist destination.”

In all 10 teams – most of them made up by one or more consultant firms plus an architect – have submitted bids for the contract put out to tender by the Junta de Andalucía’s Tourism, Commerce and Sport Department with a budget of 3.3 million euros.

The contract is for the early development of the project, providing technical assistance and other consulting on the studies that will result in an action plan involving numerous important tourism zones on the Costa del Sol. Tourism industry groups in Málaga province have suggested that the plan could include the construction of some sort of monumental, emblematic structure that would be recognised internationally as a symbol of the Costa – in other word’s, a local alternative to, say, an Eifel Tower, a Bilbao Guggenheim or a Golden Gate Bridge. Richard Rogers, whose famous works include the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, the Lloyd’s building and the Millenium Dome in London, and more recently Terminal 4 at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, was awarded the 2007 Pritzker Prize, architecture’s highest honour. Norman Foster, who was awarded the Pritzker in 1999, and has an enormous portfolio including such famous works as the Gherkin Building in London, the Hearst Tower in New York City, and the restoration of the Reichstag in Berlin.


Antequera reveals its past with new archaeological

Evidence reveals that the town has its origins in the ninth century BC

By Dave Jamieson

NEW
archaeological evidence has shown that Antequera has its origins in the ninth century BC and that it has been inhabited continuously for the last 3,000 years. Recent excavations in the area of the Alcazaba have also unearthed Phoenician remains.

The discoveries were made during work to prepare the Moorish fortification for visits from tourists as part of a project between June and September. It was financed by an association of medium size inland towns of which Antequera town hall is president. This was the first time that such investigations had been carried out inside the Alcazaba and a great deal of scientific data on human occupation of the area has been obtained.

The town’s Archaeological Office said last week that a complete history of the area is now more or less confirmed and has been broken down into five distinct periods. The first covers the ninth and eighth centuries BC, while the second was a period of abandonment from the seventh to the fifth centuries. In the Roman period, the site housed a water tank to provide a supply to the town. The third period covers medieval time when the Alcazaba was built and the fourth, more modern period, in the 16th and 17th centuries saw considerable development in the area. The final period brings the time line to the present day.The remains from the Phoenician period around 1,000 BC have supported the theory that commercial trade increased notably during these years. Ceramic production became important in the region and much of it was exported to towns along the coast of Málaga.


Spa splendour returns to Carratraca

The original Hostal del Principe now forms part of the new luxury hotel

By Oliver McIntyre

THE ONCE
internationally famous thermal baths of Carratraca have returned to glory with last week’s opening of the new five-star Villa Padierna Thermas de Carratraca hotel and spa – the Guadalhorce Valley’s first five-star accommodation. The inauguration comes after four years of work and an 18 million-euro investment by R&A Capital to turn the historic ‘balneario’ complex into a luxury facility. It is the second hotel in the Villa Padierna chain, managed by Ritz-Carlton.

Carratraca’s natural sulphuric springs are said to have been used for curative soaking from as far back as the Roman era, and in the 19th century they attracted the interest of Spain’s King Fernando VII, who ordered the construction of the Hostal del Príncipe, which was completed in 1855. Though he did not live to see its completion, it went on to attract a wide array of spa-seeking tourists, many of them among the rich and famous of the day including the likes of Lord Byron, Rilke and Alexandre Dumas. The refurbished historic building now serves as the main building of the 43-room hotel and spa complex.

Minimum one week stay recommended
Billed as a health spa as opposed to a holiday hotel, the Thermas de Carratraca recommends that guests stay at least a week, during which they receive a special diet and an array of spa and beauty treatments. Smoking is not allowed. Room rates start at 120 for a single and 200 for a double, and there are a variety of room-and-treatment packages available. Britons, along with Spaniards and Germans, are among the principal target clientele, say the hotel’s owners.


MÁlaga set for a week of fantasy in film festival

A special tribute will be made to the actress Tippi Hedren

By Dave Jamieson

AN EIGHT-DAY
festival of fantasy and science fiction films opens in Málaga tonight. This is the 17th annual International “Cine Fantástico” week which began in 1990 as a project organised by the University of Málaga. It promotes cinematography and encourages young film makers in Andalucía. Over the years, 329 films have been shown during the festivals with tributes to many of the great names of the genre.

This year, dozens of movies will be screened including a number of cinema classics. A special tribute will be made to the actress Tippi Hedren at the Festival’s Gala Inauguration with two of her most known films, “The Birds” and “Marnie”, being shown during the week. Alongside new productions and a number of short films, box office successes being screened include ET, Soylent Green, The Rocky Horror Picture Show and Close Encounters.

In addition to the movies, a concert of soundtrack music will be given by the Provincial Symphony Orchestra of Málaga in the Teatro Cervantes tomorrow night, while three conferences on UFOs will be held next week at the university. The Festival’s official jury will also be deciding on a range of awards and the full programme for a very busy week can be found at www.fantastico.uma.es.


Four Spanish stewardesses released after Chad drop

Ten people remain in custody in the central African country

By Dave Jamieson

FOUR
of the seven Spanish citizens held in the central African country of Chad returned home on Sunday. They were among 17 people detained there two weeks ago on suspicion of child-kidnapping.

Tatiana Suárez, Sara López, Carolina Jean and Mercedes Calleja were all members of the cabin crew of a plane which flew to Chad to rescue 103 children whom they believed were orphans from the Darfur region of Sudan. Along with three other Spanish air crew and nine French citizens, they were detained on October 25 and charged as accomplices. Three of the French detained, all journalists, were also flown home on Sunday.

When they landed at Torrejón airport just before 9 pm, the Spanish airline staff were met by Prime Minister Zapatero who has been working closely with France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to resolve the situation since Spain does not enjoy diplomatic relations with Chad. The Foreign Ministry in Madrid had intended to fly a plane to Chad to collect the four stewardesses after it became known they were to be freed, but in the end France offered them seats on its Airbus A319 flight which went to collect its three journalists. President Sarkozy travelled on the flight and when it stopped off in Madrid before continuing to Paris, he said the two countries had worked “hand in hand”. He also added his thanks to Chad’s president Idriss Déby, for his “understanding and help”.

Chad says NGO had no authorisation
Ten people remain in custody in Chad, including the Spanish pilot, co-pilot and flight auxiliary who work for the charter company, Girjet, based in Barcelona, which was contracted by a French humanitarian organisation called Zoe’s Ark. Chad says they had no authorisation for their mission and consider that their actions amount to intended child abduction and fraud. Also still in detention in Chad are nine French citizens including six members of Zoe’s Ark and three more journalists. France has now launched an investigation into the work of Zoe’s Ark.


Britons top Chiclana's foreign residents list

Around 300 expats are taking steps to form an action group

By David Eade

BRITONS
are now the top foreign resident group in Chiclana. The population of foreigners in Chiclana has multiplied by fifteen-fold in the last four years. In 2003 there were just 223 foreign residents officially recorded on the municipal register, but that total has now jumped to 3,383.

As many foreigners have not enrolled on the ‘padrón’, the true figure could easily be double. The town hall says most of the foreign residents are British (1,116) followed by Germans (410) and Moroccans (250). There are now 70 nationalities living in the town compared with 19 in 2003.Around 300 people, most of whom live in El Marquesado and Pago del Humo districts, which have been plagued with problems over illegal properties, are keen on the idea of setting up a Foreign Residents’ action group and expats have been liaising with the councillor for foreign residents, Andrés Núñez, who has promised that the town hall will assist fully. The new association is to be included on the municipal website and it is hoped that the town hall will provide a suitable venue for the first meeting.


Manuel Chaves opens Benalmádena's public hospital

NEWS Staff Reporter

THE PRESIDENT of the Junta de Andalucia, Manuel Chaves, accompanied by the regional health councillor, María Jesús Montero, is to officially inaugurate Benalmadena’s new CHARE hospital today, Thursday, after the town council on Tuesday voted to hand over the hospital installations to the regional government’s health service.

The idea to create the CHARE hospital was that of the previous Bolín administration. It decided to take on the responsibility of the construction of the complex and work started in 2002.
A CHARE hospital is a cross between a fully fledged hospital and a health centre. It has a limited number of beds, just 50 and an operating theatre but is limited in the scope of the treatments its can provide. Nonetheless it has an emergency centre, 24 consulting rooms and parking for 643 vehicles.

While the council was responsible for the construction of the hospital, which cost over 18 million euros, its equipment and future management will be in the hands of the Andalucian health service. It has been suggested that it could open its doors to the public in a matter of weeks. The CHARE hospital is on the road that connects Arroyo de la Miel with Benalmádena Pueblo in Avenida Cibeles. It sits on a 35,000-square metre site and is adjacent to the Xanit private hospital.


The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleve

NEWS Staff Reporter

WITH
Remembrance Sunday falling this weekend, students of St George’s International School in Málaga have been made aware of the significance of the red poppy which appears on British coat and jacket lapels in early November. On Monday, they had a visit from a former soldier, Mario Reid, the District Parade Marshal of the Royal British Legion (RBL) Spain South, who explained its origins and where the money collected is spent.

Mario, a former Warrant Officer and Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant with the Royal Engineers, told them of the bloody fighting during World War I after which the poppy was the only flower which grew amongst the subsequent devastation. He explained how poppy sales in the U.K. raised £26 million (over 37 million euros) last year and how the money was used in a range of work, including welfare, care homes and visits to war cemeteries. The school’s students, a large percentage of whom are Spanish, learned of the RBL’s work and how it has spread to southern Spain with the arrival of British residents.Mario himself will be in London on Sunday, where, as a Falklands veteran, he will be participating in the annual service at the Cenotaph which starts with two minutes silence at 11 a.m. As he told his young audience, “We will remember them.”


Private property owners fined for damaging trees

NEWS Staff Reporter

By David Eade

CONSTRUCTION
companies are usually blamed for damaging and removing trees illegally. However statistics issued by Marbella town hall show that private property owners have received double the number of fines for harming or destroying trees.

The number of cases of tree damage rose by eight per cent in 2006 compared with the previous year. Of the fines issued by the town hall half were for the felling of trees illegally and a third for cutting off branches.

While private property owners head the list they are followed by homeowners’ associations, with constructors trailing in third place. Heavy fines face those who break the law and one resident was fined 4,609 euros for felling a tree of major importance.

Marbella has a green patrol that is responsible for the monitoring of illegal felling and causing damage to trees and its officers work closely with the local police and the environmental arm of the Guardia Civil, Seprona. The Patrulla Verde can be contacted at the Delegación Municipal de Medio Ambiente on 952 761 143 or via email at patrullaverde@marbella.es.Anyone, be it a constructor, community or private property owner must have a licence from the town hall before any work can be carried out on trees. The licence must be obtained in advance from the town hall.


Fuengirola's water-saving campaign gets great resu

By Suzan Davenport

TOWN COUNCILLOR
Ana Mula last week announced that 154,392 cubic metres of water has been saved since July thanks to various water-saving measures put in place by the town hall.

Backing up Sra Mula’s statement was the latest report from Fuengirola’s water company, Gestagua, which quotes a 1.6 per cent saving in July over the same month last year. Figures for August (4.12 per cent) and October (6.9 per cent) were even higher, with the largest saving, 7.33 per cent, coming in September.
Some of the measures that have helped to lower water consumption are straightforward, such as checking the town’s pipelines for leaks, using recycled water to wash down pavements and roads or reducing the times when beach showers can be used. Others though have been a little more ingenious, and include the replanting of parks and gardens with less thirsty indigenous plants, enforcing the use of cistern water-saving devices and the new, and soon to be obligatory, rainwater collectors in new buildings.All this together with a conscientious pipe and well cleaning campaign, and the installation or replacement of water meters has contributed to the reduction. Sra Mula summed up her plans for the future by saying: “We will continue with these policies to economise water consumption and raise public awareness about saving water.”


Ronda hospital offers new treatment for skin tumou

By David Eade

THE SERRANÍA
health district is employing a new technique for treating skin tumours at Ronda’s hospital. It is described as photodynamic therapy which can be used on pre-tumours and actual tumours. The treatment is non-evasive and avoids the need for surgery.

So far the technique has shown excellent results. The hospital’s dermatologist, José Juan Ocaña, has reported that many patients have achieved full remission in the programme.The system used at the Ronda hospital is described as safe, easy to apply, has a good tolerance level for the patients and is without any secondary effects. It can be administered to extensive areas of the skin or to multiple lesions. The treatment is available in the outpatients section of the dermatology department at the hospital and involves the use of light, a photo sensitive agent and oxygen. The patient receives between one and three sessions over a period that depends on the state of the lesions. In the past four months 25 patients have received the treatment, and says Ocaña, with “excellent results”. The treatment is only suitable for premalignant lesions or tumours in the initial stage but not for treating melanomas.