Costa del Sol News - 22nd April 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

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


Residential construction grinds to near halt

Planned house-starts drop by 76 per cent in first quarter

By Oliver McIntyre

WHILE the last two years saw residential construction in Málaga province dropped to levels not seen since the 1960s, the start of 2011 has seen it grind to a nearly complete halt.

Planned house-starts were down 76 per cent in the first quarter of 2011 compared to the same period last year, with just 221 new starts approved by the Official College of Architects.  During the boom years, some individual towns registered as many as 500 in a single quarter.

In 53 of Málaga's 101 municipalities, not a single project was approved in the first three months of this year. 

If the first quarter figures are extrapolated to the rest of the year, the province could see fewer than 900 new house-starts approved in all of 2011 - compared to nearly 55,000 in 2003, during the heat of the construction and property boom. 

Málaga city saw the greatest number of projects approved during the first quarter, at 43, followed by Torremolinos (30) and Marbella (21).  Other previously hot construction towns posted none or nearly none, such as Manilva (zero); Casares, Fuengirola, Rincón de la Victoria (one each); and Torrox, Estepona, Nerja and Benalmádena (between 2 and 10 each). 


3,200 euros up for grabs in Mijas art and photo contests

Anyone, any age can have a go, even kids, and competition is fierce

By Oliver McIntyre

ARTISTS and shutterbugs have a date in Mijas Pueblo on June 5, when the town will host its 13th annual Pinta en Mijas open-air painting competition as well as its third annual Enfoca en Mijas photography marathon. The two contests have a combined cash prize purse of 3,200 euros.

The Pinta en Mijas contest - in which artists have a single day to create a painting of the outdoor scene of their choice in the town - is broken into five categories: adults; children up to age eight; children aged nine to 11; children aged 12 to 14; and painting students at the town's Universidad Popular.

The adult category has a top prize of 800 euros, plus two 300-euro runner-up prizes, while each of the children's categories have five 50-euro prizes.

The Universidad Popular category has a prize of 150 euros plus free tuition for the painting course next school year. Last year more than 100 painters entered the contest.

The photography competition has just a single category, open to all, with three top prizes of 300 euros. Other prizes include a 200-euro gift certificate for a local photo gallery, and a netbook computer awarded for the best photograph among contestants aged 14 to 30. At last year's edition 138 photographers competed, submitting a total of 1,134 photographs.

Sign-ups for the painting contest are at the Casa Museo or by email (cultura@mijas.es), from May 9 to June 5, while registration for the photography marathon is at the Casa Museo from May 3 to June 3.


BATTLING IN BRUSSELS

Brits take illegal homes issue to EU Petitions Committee

By Richard Torné

A GROUP fighting to legalise homes in Andalucía took the issue of Spain's illegal property crisis to the heart of Brussels last week.

A petition prepared by the expat pressure group AUAN and Helen Prior, whose house in Almería was demolished by the authorities more than three years ago, was presented to the EU Petitions Committee.

AUAN president Maura Hillen and Mrs Prior made impassioned speeches to highlight the plight of thousands of homeowners who bought properties in good faith but were facing the demolition of their homes or living without proper documents and basic services.

Helen and her husband Len currently live in their converted garage while fighting for compensation through the courts.

Ms Hillen said the regional government's own figures placed the number of illegal homes at some 300,000 in Andalucía, while claiming that as many as one million people were affected throughout the rest of the country.


Parking reprieve for Nerja residents

Last-minute town hall decision will allow locals to park free at Los Huertos

By Dave Jamieson

NERJA residents were last week given an 11th-hour reprieve from having to pay for parking on the Los Huertos site.  Leaving a vehicle on the large, privately owned town-centre area, which can accommodate 1,000 vehicles, has been free of charge until now.  On Thursday, the day before fees were due to be introduced, the town hall announced that anyone registered as a resident can still park free of charge, at least for the time being. 

Town hall spokesman José Miguel García said that this would be the situation until the car park operator and the town council come an agreement on the price of season tickets.  A complex tariff was on display at the car park last week as the barriers and cash machine were being installed at the entrance, but, at present, drivers who can produce documentation to show they are residents will not be charged for parking.

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition socialist party says charging for use of the car park is "illegal" and has condemned the fact the local people will have to pay "like other visitors."  Ángel Ramírez described events as a "failed commitment" of Mayor José Albert Armijo, and questioned the speed at which an operating licence for the car park was issued, while a project with which he is closely involved, the new Nerja Museum, has been waiting for two years.  Sr Ramírez described it as a "fraud, scandal and deception," claiming that local people will eventually have to start paying.  He promised that if the PSOE wins locally on May 22 and he becomes Nerja's mayor, the area will revert to being a green zone for residents and visitors.

Meanwhile, tourists must now pay to park at Los Huertos.  The tariff varies between 1.5 and three cents a minute, depending on the time of day and the season of the year, with a maximum daily charge of between 10.80 and 18.80 euros.  Monthly season tickets are available at 35 euros for parking between 7.30am and 3.30pm, and at 30 euros for overnight parking from 8pm to 8am.  There is also a season ticket which allows parking at any time for 60 euros a month.

Meanwhile, Nerja town hall announced on Thursday the creation of 650 new free car parking spaces in the town centre.  Around 400 will be at the site where Nerja's new health centre will eventually be built and where parking bays have been marked out.  The other 250 will be in one-way streets in the El Chaparil area where spaces will be generated by adopting nose-in parking, instead of leaving vehicles parallel to the pavement.

NERJA residents were last week given an 11th-hour reprieve from having to pay for parking on the Los Huertos site.  Leaving a vehicle on the large, privately owned town-centre area, which can accommodate 1,000 vehicles, has been free of charge until now.  On Thursday, the day before fees were due to be introduced, the town hall announced that anyone registered as a resident can still park free of charge, at least for the time being. 

Town hall spokesman José Miguel García said that this would be the situation until the car park operator and the town council come an agreement on the price of season tickets.  A complex tariff was on display at the car park last week as the barriers and cash machine were being installed at the entrance, but, at present, drivers who can produce documentation to show they are residents will not be charged for parking.

Meanwhile, the leader of the opposition socialist party says charging for use of the car park is "illegal" and has condemned the fact the local people will have to pay "like other visitors."  Ángel Ramírez described events as a "failed commitment" of Mayor José Albert Armijo, and questioned the speed at which an operating licence for the car park was issued, while a project with which he is closely involved, the new Nerja Museum, has been waiting for two years.  Sr Ramírez described it as a "fraud, scandal and deception," claiming that local people will eventually have to start paying.  He promised that if the PSOE wins locally on May 22 and he becomes Nerja's mayor, the area will revert to being a green zone for residents and visitors.


The Astapa case: four years and waiting

Defence teams of those implicated are angry at the case's delay in going to trial

By David Eade

INVESTIGATIONS and justice take their time in Spain but after four years, the defence teams of those implicated in the Astapa corruption case in Estepona are understandably angry that their clients have yet to stand trial.

David Valadez, the current socialist mayor of Estepona denounced his predecessor back in January 2007. On March 29 of that year that the court decided to open an investigation into town planning and political corruption and Astapa was born.

Astapa joined Ballena Blanca and Malaya as the macro corruption cases centred on the Costa del Sol. The case's complexity has led to the lengthy court and police investigation coupled with the lack of resources within the justice system infrastructure.

Last May the anticorruption prosecutor protested that 150 boxes of seized documents from houses and offices in June 2008 were still not available in digital form.

Neither was the case helped by the judicial authority deciding to post the original judge, Jesús Torres, to another court leaving the inquiry without a judge for some months. The judge only has two people assigned to Astapa and there are around 80 implicated.

Judicial sources are also unhappy that the current judge has imposed a constant veil of secrecy over the police investigations.