News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week February 12th to February 18th 2004.
REAL ESTATE FRAUD ALERT
Local town halls warn expats of property sales scams
By Oliver Mcintyre and Dave Jamieson
OFFICIALS FROM INLAND TOWNS IN AREAS LIKE THE AXARQUÍA AND THE GUADALHORCE VALLEY ARE WARNING PROSPECTIVE PROPERTY BUYERS, ESPECIALLY EXPAT FOREIGNERS, TO BE AWARE OF POSSIBLE REAL ESTATE SCAMS AND UNDERHAND SALES TECHNIQUES.
The shady sales practices run the gamut from misrepresentation of zoning details to downright criminal fraud: ‘Residential’ properties with undisclosed cattle-grazing rights of way, plots sold as ‘suitable for luxury urbanisation’ despite really being zoned for a single residence, Internet photos representing a property other than the one that is actually for sale, already-owned properties or not-for-sale municipal land being ‘sold’ to new buyers by an unauthorised third party are some of the more common examples cited by the town halls.
Some towns have put up signs in multiple languages urging potential buyers to consult the town hall prior to purchasing any property. They are also setting up special information offices offering service in English, German, and French. While foreign buyers are still considered vulnerable targets of such real estate scams, they are now much better informed, say the Faecosol foreign-residents’ association.
Meanwhile, authorities are reporting good results from stiffer laws regarding illegal construction in rural areas of the Axarquía. Illegal building has fallen by between 50 and 90 per cent since last year’s introduction of the new Land Law, which hits developers with substantially increased fines.
Previously, the discovery of a property built without the legal licences led to a charge of 10 to 20 per cent extra on the rate payable to the local town hall. A house of 100 square metres, for example, could be ‘legalised’ at an additional cost to its builder of just 3,000 euros, and such practice was extensive. Now, however, the penalty has been increased to between 75 and 125 per cent, which could lead to the same house costing its builder as much as 42,000 euros extra.
RURAL PROPERTY SHORTAGE
Estate agents are reporting a shortage of legal rural properties and are asking their town halls for a solution. The planning councillor at Torrox, María Estrella Tomé, said that the way forward was to revise current policies and adapt to the new legislation, although that would take at least two years.
NEW CREDIT CARD SCAM
Telephone tricksters warning
By Danny Collins
TELEPHONE CONMEN HAVE COME UP WITH A NEW RUSE TO RAID CREDIT CARDHOLDERS’ ACCOUNTS – BY POSING AS FRAUD INVESTIGATORS FROM CARD ISSUERS SUCH AS VISA AND MASTERCARD.
The unsuspecting victims are approached by telephone, with the ‘investigator’ questioning them over an ‘unusual spending pattern’ on their credit card. When the cardholder denies the purchase, they are told a refund will be made and are then asked for their card’s three-digit security number to confirm it is still in their possession. Subsequently the card account is milked over the next few days.
Asked about the scam, a Visa spokesman said: “A genuine inquiry concerning unusual spending patterns, for example an uncharacteristic and expensive purchase, would never be made by telephone and we certainly wouldn’t ask for card details. But apart from that, these conmen seem plausible on the telephone. They know your address and they’ll even give you a false name, badge number and telephone number to contact them should you have further questions.
“Usually, they’ll also name a ‘suspect company’ that has registered the purchase and claim to be investigating the proprietor. Never reveal your card details to a stranger, whoever they may claim to be. Instead, hang up immediately and contact your card issuing company. If you have inadvertently given your card’s security number, we will cancel it immediately and issue a new card.”
BABY SURVIVES FALL FROM FOURTH-FLOOR APARTMENT
By Oliver McIntyre
The quick reaction and basic first-aid knowledge of bystanders may have saved the life of a two-year-old girl who fell from a fourth-floor apartment in Torremolinos last Friday. According to police reports, at the time of the accident the young Chinese girl and her 10-year-old brother were home alone while their parents were at work.
Bartolomé Florido, who works at a driving school located in Plaza Goya, where the baby fell, was the first to respond. “She was unconscious, wasn’t breathing and was bleeding from her mouth,” he told reporters later. He stuck his fingers in the young girl’s mouth to ensure her tongue was not blocking her airway and to scoop away the blood. Seconds later, she began to breathe. An ambulance crew soon arrived to continue treatment and rush the little girl to Málaga’s Hospital Materno Infantil, where at the time Costa del Sol News went to press she was recovering from multiple injuries, including a broken pelvis and femur. Her prognosis was improving and hospital sources indicated that, saving unforeseen complications, her life did not appear to be in danger.
LAS PEDRIZAS ROAD GETS GO AHEAD
By Dave Jamieson
As expected, approval has been given to Málaga’s new Las Pedrizas motorway as a toll road. Following the green light given last week to the city’s new ring road (Costa del Sol News, last week), confirmation came at the weekend that relief road for the congested N-331 Antequera link would also go ahead.
It is expected that the two new autovías will be built at the same time. The Las Pedrizas autovía will leave the new ring road at the Puerto de la Torre junction and travel 24.5 kilometres north east, passing to the north of Casabermeja, and joining the existing N-331 at Puerto de las Pedrizas.
The route has been approved by the Ministry of the Environment which has imposed a series of construction conditions to minimise major impact on the countryside and reduce acoustic contamination. Private investors will meet the cost of construction, estimated at 377 million euros, and the road is expected to open in late 2007 or early 2008. No indication has been given of how much it will cost to use the road.
WOMAN THROWN THROUGH FIFTH-FLOOR WINDOW
Rising domestic-violence death toll in Spain causes alarm and outrage
By David Eade and Dave Jamieson
IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE YET ANOTHER IN A STRING OF DOMESTIC-ABUSE CASES IN SPAIN IN RECENT WEEKS, A 36-YEAR-OLD MÁLAGA WOMAN WAS RUSHED TO CARLOS HAYA HOSPITAL AFTER FALLING 15 METRES FROM HER FIFTH-FLOOR APARTMENT DURING AN ARGUMENT WITH HER PARTNER LAST WEEKEND.
Neighbours reported that the couple were known locally for habitual arguments and noise during the night, and had been the subject of many reports to the police. After Saturday's incident, police arrested her 50-year-old partner, who is suspected of having thrown her through the apartment window.
During 2003, more than 1,200 denuncias were recorded in the province of Málaga following incidents of domestic violence, more than twice the total for the previous year. Saturday's incident was the most serious recorded in the city so far this year, and the seriously injured victim was reported to be struggling for her life.
Meanwhile, five recent cases of domestic violence in which two people died have caused outrage and consternation across the country and led to public demands that civil organisations and politicians tackle the growing problem with renewed energy and urgency.
The Women's Institute has confirmed that in 2003 a total of 68 women died as a direct cause of domestic violence, a 30 per cent increase over the previous year. In addition, last year 13 men were killed as the result of domestic violence. Andalucía was the region that recorded the greatest number of abuse-related deaths, with 15.
THREE NEW CASES
Even as the national uproar was taking place, the Guardia Civil in the Campo de Gibraltar announced that they had arrested three men on domestic violence charges. In Los Barrios, a 36-year-old man was held after he threatened to kill his wife with a shotgun. In Tarifa, a 35-year-old Moroccan woman reported her 50-year-old French-born husband to the Guardia Civil after he attacked her. She had already requested a protection order against him in 2001. In San Pablo de Buceite in Jimena, a 21-year-old man was arrested for physically and mentally abusing his wife over a number of years. His 19-year-old partner said she had not come forward earlier because he had threatened to harm their two-year-old son if she reported him.
ÁLORA MAN ARRESTED FOR ABUSING HIS PARENTS
By Oliver McIntyre
Guardia Civil officers arrested a 25-year-old Álora man last week for allegedly threatening his parents and attempting to set fire to their home with them inside it. The man, Francisco M.R., has a previous police record including two charges for abuse against his parents and two charges of resisting arrest, according to the Guardia Civil.
In last week's incident the man's mother reported to the Guardia Civil that her son had verbally attacker her and her husband and then set fire to a mattress in one of the bedrooms of their home. Officers arrested the son and took the mother to the local health centre to be treated for burns on her hands.
The next morning a judge issued a restraining order on the son, ordering him to stay away from his parents and their home. Officers escorted him to the home to remove his personal effects before setting him free pending trial.
The following day, local police officers on a periodic patrol of the parents' home to ensure the court mandate was obeyed caught the man attempting to enter the premises and arrested him again. He now faces charges of abuse, arson, violent threats and disobeying court orders.
NERJA’S MARINA PLANS STAY AFLOAT
A re-categorisation of the land may soon be underway
By Dave Jamieson
THE PROSPECT OF NERJA BUILDING A MARINA HAS BEEN GIVEN A BOOST BY THE TOWN HALL.
Councillors plan to tell the Junta de Andalucía that interest in the project remains high, that private investors continue to support the scheme and that the re-categorisation of the land selected for the development is a strong possibility.
The town’s Mayor, José Alberto Armijo, has proposed that an approach to the regional government be made via the public body which administers ports in Andalucía, the EPPA, expressing the Town Hall’s interest in creating the leisure zone next to El Playazo beach, at the town’s western limit, bordering Torrox. His ruling Partido Popular councillors are supported in the move by the Partido Andalucista, while both socialist groups are understood to be abstaining.
A NECESSARY INVESTMENT
Sr Armijo’s move is being seen as a response to the shortage of marinas on the eastern Costa del Sol, but local residents are being assured that any development will respect the requirements of the municipality’s coastline. It is thought that a marina at Nerja would provide 460 moorings for leisure craft and generate a substantial boost to the tourist economy.
SCHENGEN STATUS SUSPENDED FOR TARIFA PORT
By David Eade
The president of Spain’s ports, José Llorca, has stated that Tarifa would have its status as a Schengen port suspended for the peak travel months of July and August.
Sr Llorca explained that Tarifa did not yet have a sufficient esplanade nor the adequate infrastructure to allow it to be used for this year’s mass migration of Moroccans working in Northern Europe who return home to holiday as part of ‘Operación Paso del Estrecho’ (OPE). All ferry movements of non-EU residents would be restricted, as in past years, to the port of Algeciras.
Sr Llorca said it was irresponsible for the public authorities not to have ensured that travellers using the port could do so in comfort with the proper facilities. He added that they must prepare for the future and that in a short period of time Tarifa could play a major role in the annual OPE.
The decision by Llorca to suspend Tarifa’s Schengen status, which it only received on September 1, was condemned by the Socialist Deputy in the national Congress Salvador de La Encina. At a press conference attended by the mayor of Tarifa, Miguel Manella, and the regional government parliamentarian, José Luis Blanco, he blamed the central government in Madrid for poor planning.
ANGRY RESIDENTS THREATEN TO BLOCK N-340
Princesa Kristina owners upset by continuous passing of construction lorries
By David Eade
THE FURIOUS RESIDENTS OF THE PRINCESA KRISTINA URBANIZATION IN THE SABINILLAS ZONE OF MANILVA HAVE ASKED THE GOVERNMENT’S SUB-DELEGATE IN MÁLAGA, CARLOS RUBIO, AND THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT FOR PERMISSION TO BLOCK THE N-340 AS PART OF THEIR PROTEST AGAINST THE NUISANCE CAUSED BY CONSTRUCTION LORRIES.
The residents are demanding an immediate solution to the problems they have suffered for more than seven months. Their streets and access road have been badly damaged by the heavy lorries and cement trucks that pass through on their way to a construction site on another nearby urbanization.
They have demanded that the local councillor of public works, José Benítez, should force the heavy vehicles to use another route to the building site. To back their demand they have twice cut access to the new urbanization by blocking their roads to through traffic. In addition they have complained about the state of their green zone where a swimming pool is located claiming that it has been converted into a road for the lorries to pass along.
PROTESTS FALL ON DEAF EARS
However as far as councillor José Benítez is concerned their protests seem to be falling on deaf ears. He said he was surprised by their latest actions and rejected their demands stating that the matter has become politicised citing the appearance of two socialist councillors at a recent press conference held by the local community.
He stated that the access to the new Princesa Kristina urbanization was ‘totally public and that because of that you cannot prohibit anybody passing’. Nonetheless he had recently reached an agreement with the construction company for them to use the access roads through the Hacienda Guadalupe urbanization and the residents were aware of this.
As to the green zone that the residents claim has become a access road for the lorries, Sr Benítez stated that the PGOU showed it was divided into zones for social, schooling, sporting and as a public green area. The Town Hall had already signed a contract with a constructor to build a park on the site.
BENALMÁDENA CREATES PUBLIC-TRANSPORT COMMISSION
By Oliver McIntyre
The Benalmádena Town Council last week approved the creation of a new commission to review and co-ordinate the implementation of the town’s public-transport plan. Members of the commission, called the Servicio de Transporte Público Urbano de Viajeros, include Transport councillor Sebastián Carretera, lead Partido Popular councillor Jesús Fortes, and several Town Hall technicians.
According to Manuel Crespo, the spokesman for Mayor Enrique Bolín’s governing team, the commission will ‘address all issues concerning public transportation in the town: taxis, trains, elevated light rail, fares, potential bus routes...’ By reviewing the Mayor’s recently presented comprehensive transportation plan, and working together with representatives of the town’s business community, taxi drivers, consumers and opposition political parties, the commission is expected to have a finalised plan ready by summer.
The opposition parties at the Town Hall voted against the creation of the commission, calling it a sham, set up to do little more than rubber-stamp the Mayor’s original plan in an attempt to give it more legitimacy. The opposition’s main concern with the transport plan is the proposed elevated monorail train, a long-controversial pet project of the Mayor’s.
DREDGED SAND FOR BEACH REPAIR TO RUN OUT IN THREE
By Oliver Mcintyre
THE STRATEGY OF DREDGING SAND FROM IN AND AROUND PORTS AND MARINAS, WHICH WAS USED TO GREAT SUCCESS LAST YEAR IN REGENERATING COSTA BEACHES FOLLOWING HEAVY LATE-WINTER STORMS, CAN NOT BE COUNTED ON AS A SOURCE OF SAND FOR MUCH MORE THAN ANOTHER THREE YEARS, ACCORDING TO COASTAL AUTHORITY OFFICIALS.
“Two more years, or three at most. After that, alternative sources will have to be found,” said Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada, head of the Coastal Authority’s Eastern Andalucía office.
This year, the agency expects the dredging to provide about half of the estimated 250,000 cubic metres of sand required for routine restoration of beaches in the province of Málaga. Last year’s heavy storm damage repair required a total of a million cubic metres of sand to be deposited on Costa beaches.
As in previous years, the sand for beaches on the Axarquía side of the province is to be harvested mainly from the area’s riverbeds and drainage ditches, especially targeting areas where the removal of material can help address flood trouble spots. Material will also be taken from the Nerja quarry. The dredged sand from ports and marinas will be used mostly on the western side of the Málaga.
2004 ACTION PLAN
The Coastal Authority has already submitted its 2004 action plan to the Environment Ministry for approval. The budget it submitted for this year’s sand replacement on Málaga beaches is about three million euros.
For the identification of future alternatives to the port and marina dredging, officials are counting, in part, on information from a large-scale coastal environmental and topographical study soon to be launched by the Junta de Andalucía. The 2.6-million-euro survey will look at the coastal land and seabed (as far as three kilometres out to sea) extending the length of the province’s shoreline. The study has a timeline of approximately two years.