News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week August 7th to August 13th 2003.
RESIDENTS WIN NOISE BATTLE
Vélez Town Hall to pay damages after landmark ruling
By Dave Jamieson
THE WAR AGAINST NOISE ON THE COSTA APPEARS TO BE BEARING FRUIT, WITH THE FIRST RULING AGAINST A LOCAL TOWN HALL AND THE END OF A 13-YEAR STRUGGLE BY RESIDENTS OF TORRE DEL MAR.
Andalucía's Upper Justice Tribunal in Málaga has ordered Vélez-Málaga Town Hall to pay 12,020 euros in damages to each of the 19 people who had complained about noise from an area of late-night bars known as El Copo. The Town Hall is further obliged to implement noise controls in the area within a month.
The court based last week's ruling on articles 15 and 18 of Spain's constitution, which define respect for life and the inviolability of the home, saying that the municipality's failure to apply regional laws breached the fundamental rights of the residents. The victors in the case are the residents of Edificio Ipanema, who have been complaining about excessive noise from nearby bars since 1990. Their solicitor gave evidence that the residents regularly experienced noise levels of 120 decibels, while the permitted maximum is 30 decibels. According to a study by the European Commission, such levels are equivalent to those produced by a jet aircraft, while the World Health Organisation says that prolonged exposure to excessive noise has health implications and can lead to problems including difficulties in oral comprehension, sleep deprivation, neurosis and hypertension. While in its defence Vélez Town Hall made reference to the many sanctions it had made against the bars that produced high noise levels, a spokesman for the ruling socialist group, Antonio Moreno Ferrer, said the ruling will be respected. He added that a rigorous inspection of all commercial premises in the area will be made and those not complying with legal requirements will be closed. El Copo is a popular late-night haunt in Torre del Mar and, according to residents, weekend and summer nights have been 'unbearable', particularly over the last three years. Many have installed double-glazing at considerable cost to combat the noise from bars that have inadequate sound-proofing, but to little effect.
The court's ruling was welcomed locally with a mixture of incredulity and happiness, and the residents' association has received congratulatory calls from others across the country calling the ruling 'historical'. They are now waiting for the Town Hall to comply with the ruling, and also for the outcome of a second case currently before the courts alleging that Vélez-Málaga's mayor, Antonio Souviron, did not take appropriate action on receipt of the residents' complaints.
MARBELLA IN POLITICAL MELTDOWN
Town councillors attempting to oust Mayor Julián Muñoz
By David Eade
Turmoil once again struck Marbella politics last week, as members of the Town Council banded together in an attempt to oust Mayor Julián Muñoz, including members of his own GIL party. In the May elections the GIL party in Marbella, with Julián Muñoz at its head, won its third overall majority, with 15 seats compared to the combined 12 seats of the opposition parties. The municipality seemed set for four more years of the GIL roller-coaster until last week's political explosion.
Mayor Julián Muñoz, already under fire because of his very public affair with the famous singer Isabel Pantoja, may have hammered the final nail in his political coffin when he decided to abandon responsibility of town planning and hand the job over to former mayor Juan Antonio Roca. Last Friday eight councillors of the GIL party resigned and, in the company of the five PSOE and three PA councillors, laid a 'no confidence' motion against Mayor Muñoz. Behind the scenes was GIL-party founder and former mayor Jesús Gil. Sr Gil was alarmed at the threat to the property market in Marbella, where already thousands of buildings face possible demolition, as the regional government has failed to approve the municipality's town planning ordinance. The 'no confidence' vote is planned for August 13.
However, there are more twists yet to this tale. The national PSOE party, which is already embroiled in a political scandal in Madrid, decided not to back the motion and expelled its five Marbella councillors. Shortly afterwards, two of the PSOE councillors, Silvestre Puertas and Diego Lara, withdrew their support for the motion.
The fiasco hit a high point during a very public verbal brawl on Sunday night on Spanish national television, on Telecinco's 'Salsa Rosa' show. Mayor Julián Muñoz and former mayor Jesús Gil traded insults and allegations of wrong-doing, including bribery and corruption. As CDSN went to press, the minister of Public Works had summoned both men before him to explain their outrageous comments. In addition, the Málaga prosecutor has requested a transcript of the show and is ordering an investigation into the allegations made by both men.
BANDERAS HOME THREATENED
As the Marbella political scene was in uproar, the Andalucía Supreme Court annulled 15 property licences issued by the GIL administration between 1991 and 2003. The most notable of these is the beachside home of film stars Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. Situated on the luxury Las Monteros urbanisation, the house has invaded the coastal strip and now faces a demolition order.
NERJA BATTLING WITH REGIONAL GOVERNMENT
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja Town Hall is fighting a running battle on two fronts with the Junta de Andalucía. The outbreak of hostilities concerns natural parks in the area following last week's meeting between the town's mayor and the regional government's director of protected land.
First, the Junta is refusing to consider Nerja's request to reopen access roads to the beaches of the Maro-Cerro Gordo (CDSN, July 31 - Aug. 6), and has described as "impeccable" last year's decision by its Environment delegate, Ignacio Trillo, to close them. The Junta has also insisted that it has exclusive jurisdiction over the matter. Mayor José Alberto Armijo has described the situation as "unjust, arbitrary and discriminatory" and wants a legal ruling on access to the park's beaches. The ecological association Gabinete de Estudios de la Naturaleza de la Axarquía (GENA) has expressed its support for the Junta's stance.
Meanwhile, the provincial Environment Department has begun running a free transport service to the beaches. A four-wheel-drive, nine-seater vehicle is being used to take up to 200 bathers a day from legal parking spaces to the beaches, which the Junta says fulfils its promise to provide a service for visitors who do not want to or cannot walk to the beaches. The service operates from Thursday to Sunday, from 11:00 to 18:00.
Nerja's second problem concerns the natural park of the Sierras de Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara, and the town's plans to build a new golf course. The Junta received a request from the Town Hall to modify the boundaries of the park to accommodate the new facility, but is refusing to do so. Mayor Armijo confirmed that he has received a letter indicating that the Junta "would not lose a square centimetre of protected land." The decision has effectively paralysed the project to construct the 18-hole golf course, which Nerja regards as one of its most important projects for developing tourism potential.
AXARQUÍA ELECTRICITY CUT LEAVES 400,000 POWERLESS
Cut comes days after Sevillana-Endesa guaranteed power supplies
By Dave Jamieson
THE ENTIRE AXARQUÍA WAS PLUNGED INTO DARKNESS LAST THURSDAY NIGHT WITH THE FIRST MAJOR POWER CUT OF THE SUMMER.
In a bit of uncomfortable timing for the electric company Sevillana-Endesa, the cut followed quickly on the heels of the company's assurances that there would be no interruptions to the public electricity supply this season.
Two breaks over a huge area affected an estimated 400,000 people after a failure at a substation at Loja in Granada, where current at 132,000 volts is transformed to 20,000 volts for distribution. The first break, at 21:35, took power out for 50 minutes. After the second cut at 22:40, power was only gradually restored over the following hour across an area covering eastern Málaga and extending along the Granada coastline into western Almería, and as far north as Dos Hermanas in Sevilla Province. Emergency services ground to a halt, although no serious incidents were reported.
The commercial director of Sevillana, José Antonio Ruiz Guerra, explained that the supply works on a ring system, which allows current to be originated at various points to protect against the effects of a breakdown. On this occasion, however, he said the demand for power was so high that a cut was necessary so as "not to unbalance the lines." Antonio Souvirón, mayor of the Axarquía's capital, Vélez-Málaga, recalled that the area suffered a similar cut last year and demanded explanations from Sevillana, whom he accused of a lack of foresight.
The breakdown came soon after Sr Guerra gave assurances that the province of Málaga was entering the peak summer season without danger of power cuts. Local consumers were concerned a fortnight ago when the entire island of Mallorca lost its supply for several hours, but Sr Guerra said then that the situation in Málaga was different. While the area has similar problems to Mallorca, with a huge influx of visitors and massive increase in the use of air-conditioning, unlike the island it is connected to the mainland's network of power supplies. He said that while Mallorca had no back-up, the coast could augment its resources from elsewhere in Spain, and Málaga also has its own 35 per cent reserve margin.
SECOND CUT IN TWO WEEKS
Last Friday's was the second cut in two weeks for 1,000 Nerja residents who previously suffered a four-hour break, for which the Town Hall is insisting Sevillana make adequate recompense. In Torrox, where the Town Hall last summer denounced Sevillana following repeated cuts, Development councillor José Manuel Espejo said that the supplier will be receiving a letter of complaint.
FATE OF MIJAS QUARRIES IN THE AIR
By Oliver McIntyre
The fate, as well as the dust, of Mijas' two quarries - Los Arenales and El Puerto - has been hanging in the air for some time. In 1998 the Town Hall refused to renew the quarries' extraction licenses and stipulated that only restoration work could continue at the sites. Residents of the areas near the quarries filed a lawsuit in February 2002, indicating that illegal extraction work continued at the facilities.
In May of that year, the Fuengirola judge hearing the case requested a variety of reports from multiple entities, including the Town Hall, the Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department, the national tax agency, and the central Government's sub-delegation for Málaga. The judge repeated the requests that October and then again in May 2003. To date, the judge is still waiting and the case is on hold.
Residents, who are affected by the dust and noise from the quarries, allege that the companies operating them, Dolomitas and Compañía General de Cantera, are still exploiting the sites, not performing only restoration work. According to the president of the Micoba Neighbourhood Association, Juan Vicente, the residents "continue waiting while the quarries maintain nearly 24-hour-a-day activity, despite the fact that they aren't allowed to."
EMERGENCY WARD CLOSES DUE TO LACK OF BEDS
NEWS Staff Reporter
The emergency service at La Línea's SAS hospital ground to a halt last week due to lack of beds at the medical centre. At one point a dozen people were laying on mattresses in the corridors as hospital staff battled to overcome the space problems.
The secretary general of the UGT labour union, Manuel Serrano, said that the situation at the hospital is indefensible and is getting worse. He blamed the closure of half of the surgical floor and half of another ward for provoking the lack of beds in the hospital.
A spokesman for a civic group in support of the hospital, Juan José Uceda, said that 23 beds are out of use because the wards are being redecorated. He added that emergency service staff now fear the arrival of ambulances with more sick people on board.
Meanwhile, two children, aged two and three, are in hospital in La Línea and in Cádiz suffering from meningitis type B. Both attended a nursery school in Calle Teatro in La Línea. A spokesperson for the provincial Health delegation said both children are responding well to treatment. No other cases amongst children at the nursery school were reported, and the health authority appealed for calm amongst the people of the town.
FORMER GIL CANDIDATE LINKED TO MAFIA SUSPECT
By David Eade
POLICE HAVE LINKED A MARBELLA GIL-PARTY CANDIDATE TO A CASE INVOLVING THE THEFT OF TWO 16TH-CENTURY TAPESTRIES BY A MAN BELIEVED TO HAVE MAFIA CONNECTIONS.
The Guardia Civil detained a 58-year-old Italian man of Argentinean descent, F.A.M.B., who is alleged to have Mafia ties and who is accused of stealing the two ancient Flemish tapestries. Police believe the suspect received some assistance from Sr S., who was on the GIL party's candidate list for the May 25 municipal elections.
It is alleged that Sr S. used his contacts with the local police force in Marbella to supply security information to the alleged gangster. The Guardia Civil says he made frequent telephone calls to the Italian man to pass sensitive information to him regarding police investigations.
Sr S. was released by the Guardia Civil after questioning, whilst investigations continue. Although he admits knowing the Italian suspect, he denies any wrongdoing. He stated that he was selling a Benalmádena discothèque he owns and that the suspect had been in contact with him because he was interested in purchasing it.
F.A.M.B. was arrested in Torremolinos after trying to sell the tapestries at an antiques fair in Madrid. They were stolen in Barcelona in 2001 by a person who passed himself off as a French count.
NAVY VOLUNTEERS FIX ENGLISH CEMETERY MONUMENT
NEWS Staff Reporter
HMS Liverpool, a Type-42 destroyer of the British Royal Navy, paid short visit to Málaga from July 31 to August 4 on its way back to the United Kingdom following a successful seven-month deployment to the Gulf and the Far East.
During their stay in Málaga, a group of volunteers from the ship's company gave up part of their shore leave to spend the morning of Sunday, August 3, sweltering in the heat to restore a monument at the English Cemetery that had recently been toppled over by vandals.
According to the British consul in Málaga, Bruce McIntyre, the monument in question commemorates Captain Karl Kretchmann of the German sail training ship Gneisenau, which foundered off Málaga harbour in December 1900. Says Consul McIntyre: "It was most appropriate, therefore, that the British Royal Navy should have provided the manpower, know-how and equipment to restore the monument to its original position."
The Navy volunteers were led by WO Tom Healy, PO(Sea) Graeme Edwards and CPO(MEA) Paddy Kernaghan.
KILLING THE GOOSE THAT LAYS THE GOLDEN EGGS
Greenpeace denounces condition of coasts
By Oliver McIntyre
THE ENVIRONMENTAL ORGANISATION GREENPEACE LAST WEEK ISSUED A REPORT CALLED 'DESTRUCCIÓN A TODA COSTA 2003', IN WHICH IT DENOUNCED THE CONDITION OF THE SPANISH COASTS, AND SPECIFIED 158 'BLACK SPOTS' IN THE REGION OF ANDALUCÍA, THE MAJORITY ALONG THE COSTA DEL SOL.
The report cites environmental impacts of human activities and development, noting that, in the province of Málaga, just 25 per cent of the coastline is undeveloped. Pointing out that tourism is one of the country's main economic engines, the report indicates that the negative impacts on the beaches and coastal areas pose "a serious threat to the goose that lays the golden egg."
According to the Greenpeace report, the beaches of Guadalmar and Casares, as well as the stretch of coast between Torrequebrada (Benalmádena) and Carvajal (Fuengirola), are severely overdeveloped. The report also singles out buildings in the El Peñoncillo area of Torrox, saying they "do not respect the public domain." The environmental group notes that the density in some areas of the Costa "reaches levels difficult to imagine, such as in the case of Fuengirola, with 4,404 people per square kilometre - more than Japan."
Greenpeace blames the problems of the country's coasts largely on the central Government's Environment Ministry, and particularly on the modifications to the 1988 'Ley de Costas' law that were passed last year. The modifications, according to the group, "set back by 30 years" the coastal environmental policies, allowing construction just 20 metres from the shore, and putting development interests ahead of the protection of the coasts.