Costa del Sol News - 29th April 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive In association with

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


Spain's first 7-star hotel to be built in AlmuÑÉcar

The Bahía Fenicia will be sited near Marina del Este and is expected to open in 2013

By Dave Jamieson

THE PROJECT to build Spain's first seven-star hotel is now underway. The Bahía Fenicia will be sited near Marina del Este and is expected to be open in 2013.

The promoters of the hotel submitted their application and designs for a building licence to Almuñécar council last week and gave a public presentation of their plans on Monday. They say 250 jobs will be created during the construction phase while around 600 staff will be required when the hotel opens.

The 230 million-euro project is to be built on a 13,000 square-metre site on the border of Málaga and Granada provinces, in the area known as Peñón del Lobo. The developers are Banyan Tree Holdings, part of the Banyan Tree Hotels and Resorts group which began in Thailand and now operates in 23 countries including China, Indonesia, and the Arab Emirates. The Bahía Fenicia will be only its second hotel in Europe following the opening of the Banyan Tree Alqueva in Portugal.

The complex will include the hotel's 200 luxury bedrooms, plus 50 private apartments of up to 500 square metres, each with a private pool, whose occupants will be able to request the services of a professional chef to come in and prepare meals. It will be surrounded by gardens and 32,500 square metres of residential housing

Spanish law presently only recognises a top hotel rating of five-star superior luxury. However, Almuñécar Town hall says the promoter has requested a status of seven stars for the Bahía Fenicia.

When the project was first announced in November, Nerja's local business association welcomed the news that a group of foreign developers had chosen the protected Maro - Cerro Gordo area for the project. It said it was the best news for Nerja since the discovery of the Caves or the filming of Verano Azul in the town.


Tension over growth of Chinese shops

Spanish business owners say Asian prices and work conditions undercut local competitors

By David Eade

SPANISH business owners are becoming increasingly uneasy over the proliferation of Chinese-owned shops on the Costa del Sol. Something that is also happening nationwide, particularly in Madrid and Barcelona.

The highly decorated Chinese restaurant facades became a familiar feature in the 1980s but now they have been joined by a network of supermarkets, cheap stores and wholesale outlets on industrial estates. They are family run, have the minimum of investment and sell their goods at low prices.

In Málaga province the number of Chinese owned shops has risen from 2,277 in 2005 to 4,591. At the same time the number of Chinese residents has grown from 575 to around 1,800 largely to staff these businesses.

The president of Federación del Comercio in Málaga, Enrique Gil, has observed the Chinese are buying business outlets including cafes, keeping the same appearance, offering the same products and services but vastly undercutting the Spanish businesses trading alongside them. The federation complains the Chinese businesses do not apply the same employment agreements or working hours and therefore do not compete on an equal footing.

Chinese businesses are also beginning to move away from the distinctive Asian decoration, setting up clothing stores that imitate majorWestern fashion stores but whose products are of inferior quality and far cheaper.

All the products sold are low priced and manufactured in Asia but imitate Italian designer bags and shoes along with French and Spanish fashion items and sell for around 30 euros.


CHARM OFFENSIVE

Spain bids to win back British property buyers

By Dave Jones

SPAIN'S public works minister José Blanco travels to London on May 4 to convince Britons that it is safe to buy property in Spain - but the charm offensive has already drawn sharp criticism.

His trip, in the company of housing minister Beatriz Corredor, is part of a European-wide tour to offer ‘guarantees' over property sales.

Sr Blanco said: "We want the property market to return to normal; we don't

want to go back to the excesses of the past, but to get over the current depression in this sector."

The charm offensive comes as expat illegal home owners raised fears last week that there may be up to one million illegal properties in Spain. They took their message to Brussels to highlight their desperate situation (CDSN last week).

Sr Blanco said that during next month's tour - which also takes in France,

Germany, Holland, Sweden and later Russia - he will outline the "judicial

security of our town planning laws".

However in November last year Sr Blanco recognised that there was a problem with legal security for buyers. At the time he stated: "Looking towards the international market, we will take measures to reinforce legal security for those who buy houses in our country.

"One of these measures will be that when proceedings are started against an illegal property, the buyer should not be prejudiced."

He continued: "With these measures, and with others which we are studying, we want to reduce the risk for those buying a property in our country."

Despite this, CDSN understands that no new measures have been introduced since November 2010 to reinforce legal security for property buyers.


Fire brigade's rescue ladder lorry fails MOT

Estepona firefighters have paid out of their own pockets to keep other vehicles on the road

By David Eade

ESTEPONA fire brigade cannot use its rescue ladder because the vehicle has failed its ITV test (MOT) and there is no money to repair it.

The situation was first publicised by the CSI-CSIF union but the problem has since been confirmed by the fire service.

This is just the latest case of vital equipment not being available to fire crews because of the financial crisis at the town hall.

The council says it cannot pay for the ladder vehicle to be repaired because it simply does not have the cash. Apparently it has been laid up for several weeks.

According to the fire brigade all the other vehicles at the station are now operational although in February there was only one fire engine available as the others had broken down or failed their ITVs.

It was then revealed that fire fighters had been paying out of their own pockets to keep other vehicles on the road. It was estimated they had spent over 700 euros, money that should have been funded by the town hall.


Two Irishmen arrested in shooting of Briton

One was caught in Uruguay after police issued an international arrest warrant

By Oliver McIntyre

Police have arrested two Irishmen in connection with the shooting of a British man outside his Benalmádena home in late January.

Following two and a half months of investigation, police last week arrested J.G.D., 53, in Fuengirola.  Days later, R.M.M., 45, was arrested in Montevideo, Uruguay, on an international arrest warrant.

Both men face attempted murder charges for the January 27 attack, which left the middle-aged Briton seriously injured and requiring emergency surgery.

The shooting took place around 9.30pm just outside the door of the victim's home in Calle Londres in the Torremar Park urbanisation.  It is understood two men knocked on the door and when the man came out, one of them opened fire. The Briton reportedly suffered two gunshot wounds to the abdomen, one in the leg and one to the buttocks.


Electric companies' billing system ‘illegal'

Facua says ‘estimated' billing means customers are charged for energy they didn't use

By Oliver McIntyre

SPAIN'S electric companies are billing customers for energy not actually used, according to consumer watchdog Facua, which has filed formal complaints against the companies with consumer authorities.

The problem stems from the system put into place at the end of the 2008 when the government obligated the companies to begin billing on a monthly rather than bimonthly basis. 

The companies continue to read meters just once every two months, so during off-months the bill reflects estimated consumption, based on the customer's use during the same period the previous year.  The difference between the estimated and real consumption is then discounted from (or added to) the following bill, when the meter reading is performed.

But Facua says that under Spain's consumer laws, charging for a service or product that has not been provided is "abusive" and therefore "prohibited and punishable."

The group announced last week that it has filed ‘denuncias' with the consumer authorities in 16 of Spain's 17 regions against Endesa, Iberdrola, Gas natural Fenosa, E.On and Hidrocantábrica after the region of Madrid last month imposed a fine of 3.87 million euros on three of the electric companies for this practice. 

While the current clash involves overbilling during the estimated-consumption months, it was just the opposite problem - underbilling - that caused massive complaints when the monthly system first went into place. Because the companies were low-balling their estimates in order to avoid overbilling, customers would receive an artificially low bill one month, and then get hit with an extra-large one the next month when the meter reading was taken.


Biggest ever ETA bomb cache discovered

In separate incident, ETA murderer released early due to legal loophole

By Dave Jamieson

THE LARGEST cache of explosives and bomb-making material yet uncovered in Spain was found Legoretta, 35 kilometres south-west of San Sebastian, last week.  The following day, a convicted ETA murderer was released early, thanks to a legal loophole. 

The discovery of explosive materials last Wednesday followed the arrest the previous day of two brothers, aged 36 and 40, who are believed to have formed part of the logistics operation of ETA for some years.  At their property, security forces seized 850 kilos of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer ETA often uses to make explosives, 13.5 litres of penthrite which is used to increase the potency of bombs, three detonators, 100 litres of fuel, plus other bomb-manufacturing material and documents relating to the Basque terror group.  The following day, hundreds of kilos of explosives were found in an outbuilding.  The finds constitute the largest ETA store found since the discovery of 2,500 kilos of dynamite in France 10 years ago.

The detained brothers, who stood as candidates in the 1999 regional elections, are suspected of forming part of the logistics apparatus of an ETA cell.  Their arrests came three days after two of ETA's most-wanted terrorists were detained in France following a shootout with police in which one officer was wounded.  A Guardia Civil officer arrested last Thursday is suspected of assisting the ETA cell for which the two brothers allegedly worked.