News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week December 11th to December 17th 2003.
SPANISH PROPERTY PRICES PEAK
Banks forecast market stabilisation in 2004
By James Parkes
THE NEW YEAR WILL BRING A STABILISATION IN PROPERTY PRICES THAT WILL SEE MODERATE INCREASES IN 2004, PROVING THAT DEMAND IS STILL STRONG DESPITE REPORTS THAT SPAIN IS ON THE VERGE OF A HOUSING MARKET CRISIS.
A report issued by the BBVA bank forecasts a 17 per cent rise in property prices by the end of this year and a stabilisation of prices in 2004, when increases will be up by 10 per cent. The report coincides with figures released recently by surveyors TINSA, showing that property prices at the end of this year will have increased in line with 2002 - an average 14.5 per cent increase in new property prices and an 18.6 per cent in second hand property for the whole of Spain.
BUBBLE ALERT FADES
The increasing demand for property despite the considerable rise in prices has dampened warnings made by experts and official entities that the Spanish market is suffering a 'property bubble', which they claim will see prices plummet and leave the industry in crisis.
A recent report shows that property prices in Spain increased by a staggering 284 per cent between 1987 and 2002 and by 91 per cent between 1997 and 2002, figures that The Economist magazine claims make the country ripe for suffering a crash in property prices. However, the report released by BBVA says the market will continue to enjoy a bountiful year with increases of between 6.5 and 10 per cent.
The rise in property prices in Spain is also levelling the market with other European countries, as prices are now at around 85 per cent of the EU average.
The strength and stability of the euro, which has reached its peak exchange rate against the US dollar at US$1.21 to the euro, is also seen as a key factor that has contributed to the increase in property prices. The pound is following the pattern and financial experts say the two currencies have become refuges for investors.
Demand is still high and promoters have estimated around five million buyers, mainly from Northern and Central European countries, will be seeking a permanent or a holiday home in sunny Spain over the next decade.
Experts also point out the housing market along the Costas follows a completely different set of rules to other markets, meaning that although prices may stabilise or drop slightly in general, the Costa figures could continue to increase above average in the next few years.
MARBELLA APPEALS FOR GOVERNMENT HELP TO FIGHT ORGA
Town Hall reacts to the shooting of a police officer by two British gunmen
BY David Eade
FOLLOWING THE SHOOTING LAST WEEK OF A LOCAL POLICE OFFICER IN THE NAGÜELES ZONE OF MARBELLA THE MUNICIPALITY'S DEPUTY MAYOR AND COUNCILLOR FOR SECURITY, CARLOS FERNÁNDEZ, HAS APPEALED TO THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IN MADRID FOR HELP TO ERADICATE ORGANISED CRIME.
Sr Fernández has asked the Government's sub-delegate in Málaga Province, Carlos Rubio, to convene an urgent meeting of the local security committee to analyse the situation created by the recent shooting of a 36-year-old local police officer in Marbella.
The deputy mayor stated that the recent shooting was not an isolated incident and that Marbella was seeing a strong increase in such crime. He said it was necessary for there to be a major presence of National Police and Guardia Civil officers in the jet set resort. Sr Fernández also criticised the Spanish legal system claiming it was very cheap to be a delinquent and very cheap to 'kill and adjust accounts'.
Sr Fernández's concerns have also been echoed by Carlos Bautista, regional government's provincial delegate for tourism. He said that the weight of security on the Costa del Sol should not fall on the local police. He joined the call for more National Police and Guardia Civil to be allocated to the tourist zone insisting that 'the Costa del Sol has to be a secure destination'.
HUNT FOR BRITONS
National police searching for the two gunmen, believed to be British, who shot the local police officer in an incident that occurred last week, have found the weapons involved in the shooting. They discovered a pistol and a revolver with a silencer inside a rubbish container near the Clínica Buchinguer. They also found nearby the burnt out Opel Astra used by the duo.
In another linked operation 200 officers from the Costa del Sol Drugs and Organised Crime squad poured into the Monte Biarritz, Diana and Golf Park urbanisations in Estepona. They acted after two police officers manning a control to search for the two gunmen were run down by a car that they had ordered to stop. No arrests were made but police believe the gunmen may be hiding out in the zone.
As the Costa del Sol News went to press the shot local police officer was still in a very serious condition at the Costa del Sol Hospital in Marbella. Married with two sons, the officer was on a breathing support machine and under sedation but was said to be making a slow improvement.
AVE TO BURROW INTO MÁLAGA?
City Mayor presses for tracks below ground
By Dave Jamieson
"The new high-speed railway into Málaga will arrive underground, or it will not arrive at all." The City's Mayor, Francisco de la Torre, has underlined with these words that he will not accept an overland route for the last stretch of track into the city centre, following comments from the Minister for Development, Francisco Álvarez-Cascos. Sr de la Torre's forthright statement came during the Minister's visit to the province last week when he appeared to sow new doubts about whether the service, due to open in 2007, would run above or below ground through the city's outskirts. Even now, two and half years after construction began, the Government and the City have not reached full accord on the project, although the Minister set out to reassure critics by saying the opening date was not linked to finding an urban solution within Málaga.
However, Mayor de la Torre said later the same day that he was committed to having the line running underground for 2.6 kilometres, from the ring road to the city centre station. Cost estimates put an overland route at a little more than 50 million euros, whereas building a tunnel system would cost around 132 million euros.
Sr De la Torre's preferred option would lead to construction commencing late next year and taking two to three years to complete, but that could happen only once a tripartite agreement has been reached between the financing parties - the Junta, who will pay 20 per cent, with the balance shared between Málaga Town Hall and central government in Madrid.
GRAHAM STANDS BY HYPNOSIS-INDUCED STATEMENTS
By Oliver McIntyre
Robert Graham, the British man accused by alleged double murderer Tony Alexander King of having carried out one of the two murders King previously confessed to, testified last week in front of the judge in the case. In his testimony, Graham largely confirmed previous statements he had made, denying he killed Rocío Wanninkhof and implicating Dolores Vázquez, who was previously tried and found guilty of the murder but later released when her trial was annulled by the higher courts.
Graham stood behind his previous hypnosis-induced statements to the Guardia Civil, in which he claimed King had told him a woman nicknamed 'Dori' or 'Loli' (nicknames for Dolores) had paid King to kill Rocío Wanninkhof or get rid of her body. He said he does not have conscious memory of this now, but stands by the comments he made under hypnosis.
After testifying before the judge, Graham left to go back to Egypt, where he is currently living. He left his lawyer's contact information for any future requests from the court.
WORK UNDERWAY ON NEW CERCANÍAS TRACK
Mayors and Development Minister gather to lay the first tie
By Oliver McIntyre
Work officially got underway last week on the doubling of the Cercanías train tracks along certain stretches of the line between Fuengirola and Campamento Benítez. Torremolinos Mayor Pedro Fernández Montes and Development Minister Francisco Álvarez Cascos laid the ceremonial first tie of the new track, which in this phase of the project will create a double line along a total of 8.3 kilometres of the route. The work is expected to take a little over two years to complete.
Ultimately, according to Sr Cascos, the doubling of the track, which is to continue later along the stretch between Campamento Benítez and Málaga centre, will increase the frequency of trains from one every half hour to one every 12 minutes. He said that by 2010, the year the entire project is to be completed, annual ridership on the line is expected to reach 16.5 million, up from 8.3 million riders last year.
TRAIN DELAYS FINISHED
In addition to Sr Cascos and Mayor Fernández Montes, last week's opening ceremony for the project was attended by Benalmádena Mayor Enrique Bolín, Fuengirola Mayor Esperanza Oña, and representatives from the railroad company Renfe, Málaga Town Hall, and the Partido Popular. Renfe's president, Miguel Corsini, took the opportunity to announce that service on the line was to return to normal on Friday of last week following nearly two months of delayed train schedules caused by lightning damage to the Los Prados power substation.
GERMANS CALL FOR IMPROVED EASTERN AID
By Dave Jamieson
German residents on the eastern Costa del Sol have claimed they are not receiving proper attention from local authorities. The German consulate in Málaga says around 100,000 of its nationals live on the coast and few speak Spanish, with consequent problems of communication with officialdom. German speakers in Torre del Mar have been angered by the closure of the town's Foreigners' Department last June, and say that none of the 460 complaints lodged with Vélez-Málaga Town Hall, which administers the town, has led to a reconsideration of the decision. They say that from its opening in October 2001 the office's sole employee had answered 2,800 queries from local foreign residents.
Elsewhere, support is patchy. In Nerja, where the Town Hall maintains the only fully established foreign residents' office east of Málaga, two employees, Jackie Gómez and Emma Hall, who is also a town councillor, speak Spanish, English, French and some German. The most frequent questions raised by clients are regarding residence permits, registration with the Town Hall, driving licences and the ITV test, social security payments, voting in Spanish elections and real estate buying. In Torrox, which has a large German population, the tourist information office is reported to have assumed the role of help desk for foreign residents, resulting in long queues and overwork for its staff of three. German residents are now calling for all town halls to urgently address their provisions for non-Spanish speakers along the coast.
COSTA SOAKED BY TORRENTIAL DOWNPOURS
Rain and flooding cause at least one death and contribute to more
By Oliver McIntyre
Torrential rains hammered the Costa late last week and over the weekend, wreaking havoc on roads and directly causing at least one death. A Comares man was swept into the Arroyo de la Morena in Riogordo when he tried to cross the swollen stream in his four-by-four, and was not found until days later, when the search-and-rescue team finally turned up his dead body seven kilometres downstream.
In a less tragic but very inconveniencing development, the deluge shut down car travel to the Málaga airport on Sunday, as giant pools of water flooded over the stretch of the old N-340 road that provides the only access to the airport entrance road.
In the Guadalhorce Valley, some residents had to be rescued from their homes by emergency workers in Zodiac boats. Numerous roads flooded in towns all along the Costa, and in many cases even light flooding on the motorway caused traffic hazards as cars hydroplaned across the surface of shallow puddles. In one such case, a violent crash on the motorway in Marbella resulted in a car splitting in two and bursting into flames, though the driver escaped with just minor injuries.
Many beaches were inundated with debris that was swept down the raging streams and rivers, carried out to sea, and ultimately washed up on shore. A CDSN survey of a stretch of beach between Torremolinos and the capital quickly tallied multiple tons of cane and reeds, hundreds of lemons and oranges (presumably washed down from the Guadalhorce Valley), an endless variety of rubbish and debris, and even a dead baby goat.
DEADLY DRIVING WEEKEND
All over Spain, stormy weather in many regions contributed to a high death toll on the nation's highways over the long Constitution Day weekend, during which a total of 64 people died in 45 fatal accidents. One particularly deadly crash in Álora killed four people and another in Antequera killed three.
LA CONCEPCIÓN RESERVOIR LOSES MILLIONS OF LITRES
By David Eade
Even as the Costa del Sol is deluged by heavy rains, Málaga's socialist MP Miguel Angel Heredia has protested at the millions of litres of water being lost by the La Concepcíon reservoir on the Río Verde. The reservoir, with a capacity of 56 hectometres of water, has had to open its sluice gates, as it is full to the brim.
Sr Heredia said that funds for the enlargement of La Concepción were approved on June 25, 1997, but six years on the Ministry of the Environment has yet to start work. He stated it is intolerable that the dam be releasing millions of litres of water into the sea every time there is a major rainfall.
The MP noted that a budget of 44.6 million pesetas was allocated in 1997 and increased to 66.9 million pesetas the following year. The project has also passed all the required formalities but "we are in December 2003 and there is no end in sight for this project," said Sr Heredia.
CÁDIZ HAS PLENTY
Meanwhile, reservoirs in the province of Cádiz are now at 90 per cent of capacity. The reserves at the Guadiaro reservoir have risen by 24.5 cubic hectometres in 37 days and the overall levels are 25 per cent higher than in November 2002. In the entire province, water reserves stand at 1,300 cubic hectometres, about 1,000 cubic hectometres of it held in the Guadalete valley. The current reserves would meet the domestic and agricultural needs of the entire province for the next five years.
SEA-LIFE SAYS DON'T FREE NEMO
NEWS Staff Reporter
With the Spanish debut of the popular animated film 'Finding Nemo' ('Buscando a Nemo' in Spanish), Sea-Life Benalmádena has issued a call for parents to make sure their children don't follow the wrong messages from the movie. According the aquarium, after the film's US release hundreds of American youngsters decided to buy clown fish and try to mimic the movie magic that allowed Nemo to be flushed down the toilet and find his way back to his ocean home.
"In the hypothetical case that they were to make it out to the sea, our little fishes would never find their way to tropical waters," which is the only natural environment where they can survive, ensures Sea-Life.
The aquarium even recommends against running out to buy a Nemo look-alike to keep at home as a pet, pointing out that tropical fish are the most difficult to maintain in captivity. For those who insist, Sea-Life's Web site (www.sealife.es) now includes some tips on what it takes to properly set up a tropical tank.
NEW VÉLEZ LEISURE AREA OPENS
But ecologists voice criticisms
By Dave Jamieson
Bad weather failed to stop the official opening of the new María Zambrano park in Vélez-Málaga last week. Hundreds turned out for the inauguration by the President of regional government, Manuel Chaves, although heavy overnight rain led to the suspension of some activities plan for local children. Accompanied by the Vélez Mayor, Francisco Souvirón, Sr Chaves walked round the 1.8 million euro leisure area, taking in the new facilities, including play areas and three petanque courts, designed by José Seguí. The park covers 60,000 square metres and increases green zones in the municipality to a total of 45 hectares. The Junta met about half the cost, with the remainder split between Vélez Town Hall and the provincial government. The new facility is named after the noted philosopher who was born in Vélez in 1904.
However, local ecologists have expressed some criticisms of the park. GENA, the Axarquía group, say that none of their recommendations have been acted upon, in particular their suggestion for a grove of white poplar trees which are indigenous to the region. Instead, they say, a grassed area has been created, using plants not suited to the climate, and which will require frequent irrigation and attention. GENA is also critical of the lighting levels in the park - only 50 lights in an area of 1,100 square metres - and say a wonderful opportunity has been lost to create a botanical garden to house region species of plants and shrubs.
CATHEDRAL CONCERN AS RAINS ARRIVE
Málaga Cathedral in need of urgent roof repairs
BY Dave Jamieson
CONCERN IS GROWING FOR THE STATE OF MÁLAGA'S CATHEDRAL.
Last Friday's torrential rain dumped 80 litres of water per square metre on the capital in 12 hours, including more than 30 in a single hour, leading to the unusual sight of tubs and buckets being employed in the aisles to catch leaks, and some choir stalls being covered with plastic sheeting to avoid them becoming soaked.
The Dean, Francisco García Mota, confessed to being gravely concerned about the situation, saying it was urgent to find a definitive solution to the problem. During the night, the Dean and colleagues inspected the domes to discover how much water was accumulating in the building's domes, and saw it had flooded through many fissures. The Cathedral's administrators, he later said, had several times asked the regional government for protective coverings for its 15 domes.
TECHNICIANS ASSESS DAMAGE
Technicians from the cultural department of the Junta de Andalucía were on the scene during Friday to assess the damage which, according to the Dean, is as a result of work outstanding since the 18th century. The Cathedral's archives hold records of a project drawn up by the architect Ventura Rodríguez in 1764 to construct coverings for the building's roof.
Five years ago, the Junta was presented with the findings of a study into ways of modernising the roofs, but they reportedly said the façade could not be touched.
The Dean claims that restoration work on the Cathedral is being blocked or slowed by the Junta de Andalucía and he was waiting for them to free the way. Recently, 600,000 euros was spent on preventative work in the Cathedral, but the Dean said that the Chapter simply could not afford that sort of cash every two years. A major project is needed to cure the problem, the cost of which has been put at almost 1.3 million euros.