News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week June 12th to June 18th 2003.
CRACKDOWN ON ILLEGAL RENTALS
New law beefs up enforcement on under-the-radar tourism activities
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA LAST WEEK APPROVED A NEW LAW AIMED AT CRACKING DOWN ON UNREGISTERED TOURIST ACCOMMODATIONS AND UNLICENSED AGENTS.
The regional government's new law is intended to improve the application and enforcement of existing regulations, identify and track down 'clandestine tourism services', and provide information and advice regarding people's rights and obligations under the law.
According to the Junta, the most common illegal tourism activity is under-the-radar renting of rural accommodations (casas rurales) that are not properly registered as such. There are also a significant number of cases involving 'agents' who seek accommodations for others without being affiliated with a company licensed to do so, or who rent out apartments not officially approved as holiday rentals. One area of focus for inspectors will be Internet-based operations, which will be reviewed to ensure they meet all the legal requirements for carrying out the service they provide.
The regional government's newly approved law doubles the number of inspectors dedicated to enforcing tourism-industry regulations, from 20 to 40 agents. It also allows for the delegation of some of the inspection activities to local town halls. According to Antonio Ortega, head of the Junta's Sports and Tourism Department, the purpose of the new law is to "protect the rights of legal companies and of consumers," not to threaten or intimidate legitimate tourism-related businesses and services. He says tourism-industry business groups and labour unions support the law's added enforcement muscle. Indeed, some hotel-industry businesses were the chief proponents of the new law, having complained in the past about unfair competition from illegal, unregistered and unregulated tourist accommodations.
INVESTIGATION INTO BENAHAVÍS VOTING
Controversy holds up town and even provincial governments
By David Eade
MARBELLA MAY BE THE COSTA TOWN MOST IDENTIFIED WITH POLITICAL CONTROVERSY, BUT IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE RECENT MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS, IT IS A SMALL 'PUEBLO' IN THE HILLS ABOVE THE COSTA GLAM-TOWN THAT IS CAUSING THE BIG STIR.
Following the May 25 elections, residents of most municipalities now either know who will be governing for the next four years or are observing the various political parties haggle to form viable coalitions. However, in the case of Benahavís, the central election authority has been called upon to validate the votes.
The election authority is being forced to act after the PSOE party in Benahavís made claims of alleged manipulation of the voting census and postal votes. The party intends to take the case before the courts. The resulting delay will hold up not only the creation of Benahavís' new municipal government, but also the final composition of the provincial Diputación de Málaga governing body, which will be in limbo until the Benahavís vote is verified or overturned.
Amongst the claims made by PSOE is that the postal votes were manipulated, which it says is reflected in various irregularities including the fact that some of the envelopes were written in the same handwriting or typed by the same machine. Similar allegations were made by PSOE after the 1999 elections.
In Benahavís, with its small electorate, a minor manipulation of the vote has the potential to significantly influence election outcomes. In the May election, the Partido Popular won 468 votes and six seats, the PSOE party 339 with four seats, and the PA 134 votes and one seat.
KIDS FOIL THEFT OF CHARITY CASH IN NERJA
By Dave Jamieson
A group of Nerja children have become local heroes after alerting police to a petty theft. In a small plaza in the centre of the town, they identified their suspect - a man attempting to break open a charity collection can with a pair of scissors. The young crime-busters jumped on their bikes and rode to the nearby police station to report what they'd seen. Officers immediately investigated and arrested a 23-year-old Argentinean man.
The theft, from a fast food outlet in Calle Carretas, has greatly angered local residents because the collection can was raising money for the family of a 20-year-old Nerja man suffering from leukaemia and presently being treated in Málaga's Carlos Haya Hospital. Until his illness, Antonio Muñoz Padial was the sole breadwinner in his household, and the collection was part of a well-publicised local campaign to support his mother and brothers.
The arrested man is believed to already be wanted by courts in Málaga and Fuengirola for other crimes. And the amount he stood to gain by opening the collection can? Seventy-two euros and 83 cents.
LONDON POURS COLD WATER ON GIBRALTAR SETTLEMENT
Britain's Minister for Europe speaks bluntly to Spanish press
By David Eade
IN A WEEKEND INTERVIEW WITH SPAIN'S TOP DAILY NEWSPAPERS, 'EL PAIS' AND 'EL MUNDO', BRITAIN'S MINISTER FOR EUROPE, DENIS MACSHANE, ADMITTED THAT THE CHANCE OF AN ACCORD ON GIBRALTAR THAT WOULD BE ACCEPTABLE TO GIBRALTARIANS IS "SIMPLY ZERO."
Mr MacShane's statement was the first declaration from London since Spain's Premier, José María Aznar, wrote to his British counterpart, Tony Blair, on May 19. In his letter, Mr Aznar called for a re-establishment of the talks on Gibraltar that have been interrupted for over a year. Mr MacShane told the Spanish newspapers that Gibraltar's historical relationship with Britain is on par with that of Spain and its North African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla. While he accepted that Gibraltar was not part of United Kingdom's territory, he said that the people feel very British, in the same way that the people of Ceuta and Melilla feel 100 per cent Spanish.
Then, seemingly ruling out any immediate accord on Gibraltar, Mr MacShane stated that it is very improbable that the people of Gibraltar would agree to any change in their status until "after the passing of a lengthy period of very calm relations with Spain."
The comments by the British minister have not gone down well in Madrid. Mr MacShane's Spanish counterpart, secretary of state for European Affairs Ramón de Miguel, described his declaration as "not opportune."
However, Sr De Miguel told the EFE press agency that Mr MacShane's words were isolated and did not represent the state of negotiations between the British and Spanish governments. Whilst admitting there are difficulties, he insisted that both governments are seeking a solution to the "Gibraltar problem."
Meanwhile, the comments of Denis MacShane were greeted with joy by the Government of Gibraltar and all opposition parties. The Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, told the media "this is a good day."
NEW NERJA HEALTH CENTRE GOES AHEAD
By David Jamieson
Nerja's town council has approved the plans for the municipality's new health centre. The project, financed equally by the Town Hall and regional government, has a budget of 2.75 million euros for the construction of the new centre by the roundabout at the top of the Burriana Beach access road.
According to local Health and Environment councillor Rafael Rivas, contracts for the work will be issued by Nerja Town Hall, but the project will be supervised by the regional Health Service. He said that, when complete, the centre will belong to the town, which will cede its use to the Health Service. The centre will serve a population of 28,000 in Nerja and Frigiliana, with 15 doctors, 4 paediatricians and 14 nurses.
In a separate development, the Town Hall has also announced the approval of an environmental programme for the banks of the Seco and Chillar rivers, to be financed 75 per cent by the Confederación Hidrográfica del Sur. The 4.365-million-euro project will benefit farmers in the area, as well as residents who use the riverside tracks for access.
MÁLAGA AIRPORT EXPANSION UNDERWAY
Land expropriations include 37 'fincas'
By Dave Jamieson
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT HAS PUT IN MOTION THE PROGRAMME TO EXPAND MÁLAGA AIRPORT. IN THE FIRST PHASE, NOW GOING AHEAD, 36.71 HECTARES OF LAND WILL BE ACQUIRED, INCLUDING 37 FINCAS - 31 OF WHICH ARE STILL OCCUPIED.
The airport authority will be implementing plans shortly to relocate car-hire companies and other concessions, which are presently on land that is also required for the project. The proposal is to move these to a single area where all vehicle collection and delivery will take place, and where other airport-related businesses will also be located. In addition, the Ministry of Development has confirmed the route of the new southern access road, which will consist of an elevated stretch of motorway running from the roundabout at the Parador de Golf Hotel into the airport area.
This phase of land acquisition does not include areas that will be required for the airport's second runway, although it is understood that progress on that project will get underway soon.
SEVENTEEN MILLION PASSENGERS
The Málaga airport modernisation plan, known as the 'Plan Director del Aeropuerto', aims to meet the expected increase in airport traffic to 17 million passengers by the year 2015. The new control tower is already in use, and next year construction will begin on a new terminal that will double the airport's present capacity. That project is to include the integration of the local railway line, with an underground station built within the airport complex.
BID TO END MARBELLA BY-PASS CHAOS
By David Eade
After furious complaints from motorists and frequent traffic tailbacks of up to five kilometres, a new road work regime is to be implemented on the Marbella by-pass. Ausol, the company that operates the Málaga-to-Guadiaro toll motorway, has in recent weeks being carrying out road works on the Marbella by-pass to widen it to three lanes. The objective is to ease traffic flow on this heavily used stretch of road where the toll motorway and N-340 meet. However, the interim result has been traffic chaos.
Now the company has decided on a round-the-clock work schedule, both to lessen the congestion and to speed up the project. During the asphalting process, two lanes will remain open to traffic in both directions between 8.00 in the morning and 22.00 at night. Then during the lower-traffic hours between 22.00 and 8.00, just one lane will remain open.
The road works cover the stretch of the Marbella by-pass from the Parque Comercial La Cañada to the Puerto Banús tunnel. Over 45,000 vehicles use this road each day, but that figure rises substantially in the summer months. Four million euros is being spent on the road-widening project, which is due to be completed by June 30.
'BLUE FLAGS' FLY ON ANDALUCÍA BEACHES
But "black and blue" awards show disasters as well as triumphs
By Dave Jamieson
EACH YEAR, THE FOUNDATION FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION (FEE) AWARDS ITS COVETED 'BLUE FLAG' STATUS TO BEACHES AND MARINAS THAT MEET THE ORGANISATION'S CRITERIA FOR SAFETY, SERVICES, AND ENVIRONMENTAL CONDITIONS. LAST WEEK ANDALUCÍA RECEIVED 70 BLUE FLAGS FOR ITS BEACHES, SEVEN MORE THAN LAST YEAR.
Almuñécar is the only place in Granada flying blue flags on its beaches. Mayor Juan Luis González Montoro said that five beaches - Velilla, Puerta del Mar, San Cristóbal, La Herradura, and Marina del Este - have been listed this year, reflecting the Town Hall's on-going commitment to investing resources in its primary leisure areas.
Meanwhile, the neighbouring province of Almería received more blue flags than any other in Andalucía - a total of 24 for this summer, including four in the capital and five in Roquetas de Mar. On the eastern Costa del Sol, Nerja has two blue-flag beaches this summer. The town first received the accolade in 1999, and since then the blue flag has been awarded annually to either Burriana or La Torrecilla beach. This year, however, both beaches will be flying the symbol of safety and cleanliness. Rincón's Los Claros, La Cala del Moral and Rincón de la Victoria beaches each get a flag, while in the capital, a blue flag will fly on the El Palo - El Dedo beach.
On the western Costa, Marbella stands out with three blue flags, while Benalmádena, Estepona, Fuengirola and Mijas each received two. And in San Roque, Mayor Fernando Palma has declared his satisfaction that the blue flag, which is also given to marinas, has for the twelfth consecutive year been awarded to the Sotogrande marina.
NOT ALL GOOD
Despite all the blue-flag good news, a number of beaches on the eastern Costa were also criticised last week. The day after the blue flags were awarded, the organisation Ecologists in Action issued a list of 16 beaches in the province that, it says, should fly a black flag to indicate their sorry state. The identified beaches included Lagos Beach in Vélez-Málaga - which the group said shows frequent evidence of sewerage and in some years has been described by Junta de Andalucía as unfit for bathing - as well as Poniente Beach in Torre del Mar and El Paseo-Corredor in Rincón.
ENVIRONMENTAL VOLUNTEERS ANSWER THE CALL
By Oliver McIntyre
Over 50 people have responded to a call by Benalmádena Town Hall and the Aula del Mar for volunteers to take part in a new environmental programme. The selection process for the 30 available volunteer places will be carried out by June 21, when the marine-environment protection programme officially kicks off. The volunteers, who are asked to give a year long commitment, will be trained to assist with public awareness campaigns, studies of the beach and marine environments, and marine species protection and recovery projects.
At last week's presentation of the programme, professionals from the Centre for the Recovery of Threatened Marine Species (CREMA) demonstrated how a sea turtle, which was found on the shores of Marbella a few months ago and treated for hypothermia, gets an identification chip implanted prior to being re-released. The chip contains data that will assist scientists in identifying and treating the animal if it is found with health problems again in the future.
In the future, volunteers in the new programme will assist with similar CREMA animal-rescue projects, as well as the group's fish re-population programme. The fish recovery project has been underway for some months, and includes the participation of local school children, who help raise young fish to be released into the sea.