News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week September 30th to October 6th 2004.
DRINK DRIVERS FACE PRISON
Prison sentences of up to six months come into force on Friday
BY EVE GALLAGHER
DRIVERS IN SPAIN FOUND TO BE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL OR DRUGS FACE BEING SENT TO PRISON UNDER NEW LEGISLATION WHICH COMES INTO FORCE TOMORROW, OCTOBER 1.
According to the reform of the Penal Code, which was approved by Congress last November, prison sentences for the offence of driving under the effects of alcohol can range from three to six months. The offender may be given the alternative of doing community work which could then vary between 31to 90 days. In any case the driving licence would be confiscated for any time between one and four years, invalidating all other permits the offender may possess at the time.
Speeding or dangerous driving will also be penalised with prison sentences that will range from six months to two years with driving licences being removed for up to six years.
MÁLAGA'S WORRYING FIGURES
This reform of the Penal Code, which will be applicable as from tomorrow, hopes to bring about a drastic cut in current figures for offenders in Málaga. As many as 354 drivers gave a positive reading in breathalyzers during July. At the same time, 2,132 people were fined in Málaga during July and August for speeding and dangerous driving. These alarming figures are being targeted by the reform which aims to reduce the incidence of drink drivers on the roads, especially at weekends where in Málaga as many as 39 per cent of the young people out at night confess to driving and drinking.
Driving a vehicle without compulsory insurance will now not be considered as a penal offence but rather an administrative infraction and as such will be liable to fines from 600 to 3000 euros.
Block on coastal development
BY DAVID EADE
THE MINISTRY OF PUBLIC WORKS OF REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS ACTED TO STOP CONTINUAL DEVELOPMENT ON THE COSTA.
In November the autonomous region authority will announce what zones of the western Costa del Sol will be for urbanisation and what is protected in line with the Sub-regional plan that is in the final phase of being completed.
According to Vincente Granados, the director general of land ordinance at the Ministry of Public Works, the temporary block on the further development of land affects many building and urbanisation projects that have already been agreed between constructors and various town halls. He added that the intention of the regional government was to create reserves of land for infrastructure and for public use.
FREEZING CONSTRUCTION IN FUENGIROLA
The immediate effect of the regional government's action will be to freeze all construction developments between Fuengirola and Manilva that do not meet the requirements of the Sub-regional Plan. Another plan is also being drawn up for the Antequera as well as Málaga and Axarquía coastal areas.
A commission has been established that will include representatives of the ministry of public works, tourism and the environment. It will oversee all planning policy with regards to granting building licences by giving due regard to scenic areas, natural resources, local heritage and the coastline. Other land will be reserved for roads, leisure, maritime and interior parks all under an overall plan for sustainable development.
JAIL THREAT FOR MARBELLA BUSINESSMAN
For the first time the Málaga prosecutor is seeking a five-year-jail sentence against a Marbella businessman identified as Ramón M.P. He is accused of cutting down 30 hectares of forestland at Cortijo de San Cristóbal within the boundaries of Marbella. It was on the same site that former Mayor Jesús Gil announced the construction of 3,000 dwellings in 2002. The case against the businessman has been brought by the environment department of the regional government. The prosecutor will claim that the site has seen wide scale levelling and clearing as well the construction of roads during a period when the owner has been ordered to cease work.
Tony King to be tried by tribunal
By Oliver McIntyre and David Eade
Tony Alexander King will be tried by a professional tribunal and not by jury for the murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín, according to the provincial court's ruling last week, in which it denied King's appeal against a Coín court decision for the trial by tribunal. King's lawyer argued in his appeal that the case should be tried by jury because there is not sufficient evidence to show the crime involved a sexual attack and the charges of sexual aggression are what puts the case outside the jurisdiction of a jury. But the provincial court upheld the Coín court's ruling, finding 'more than sufficient data and rational indication of criminality' to support the Coín court's filing of sexual aggression and unlawful detention charges, in addition to the murder charge. Those are the three charges King will face in front of a tribunal of three provincial court judges.
In the meantime Tony King will be appearing in court in Motril on October 8 in relation to the disappearance of María Teresa Fernandez on August 18 2002. The lawyer representing the family of the girl has asked the Motril court to contact its counterpart in Fuengirola to help determine whether the testimony of King and Robert Graham link King to the disappearance of the Motril girl.
Of special interest is a letter sent by King to his ex-wife, Cecilia Pantoja, in that he declares that he paid Graham to help him move the bodies of both Rocío Wanninkhof and María Teresa Fernández. King is currently being held at Albolote prison in Granada.
British Ambassador visits Cádiz
The British Ambassador to Spain, Stephen Wright, has made his first official visit to the Diputación de Cádiz. He was greeted at the Palacio Provincial by the Vice President of the Diputación, Alonso Rojas, who is also the Mayor of Los Barrios. At the palace he signed the 'Book of Honour'.
The British diplomat expressed his satisfaction at being able to get to know the local provincial government 'now that so many citizens of the United Kingdom reside in the province of Cádiz and choose it as a tourist destination'. He also expressed the desire that the relations between Britain and the province should be broadened in the future.
For his part Alonso Rojas assured the ambassador of the good neighbourly relations that exist between the Campo de Gibraltar region and Gibraltar, "a process that is developing" he said.
Petrol tanker and cruise ship collide in the bay of Algeciras
BY DAVID EADE
DENSE FOG CAUSED TWO VESSELS TO COLLIDE IN THE BAY OF ALGECIRAS AT 12.43 ON SUNDAY.
On its way out was the cruise ship 'Van Gogh' with its 500 passengers sailing from Gibraltar to the Moroccan port of Tangiers. Coming in to the bay heading for the Cepsa oil refinery terminal at San Roque was the tanker 'Spetses' en route from the Egyptian port of Sibi-Kerir with 139,000 tonnes of crude oil on board.
The collision occurred in the waters just outside the port of Algeciras. The Spanish coastguard had alerted both vessels just moments before that they were in danger of hitting each other. In the event the prow of the cruise ship hit the centre of the side of the tanker causing damage to both vessels. Nobody was hurt in the collision.
The 'Spetses' is a double-hulled tanker and flies the Greek flag. All the damage was above the water line and there was no leakage of its cargo. The vessel docked in Algeciras where it was inspected by the Harbour Master who confirmed the tanker's hull had not been breached. The cruise ship 'Van Gogh' returned to Gibraltar to have its damage examined by experts.
FEARS OF FUTURE ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER
The spokesman for Verdemar-Ecologistas en Acción in the Campo de Gibraltar area, Antonio Muñoz, told the media of his fear that an accident of this type could produce a future environmental disaster in this zone of the Straits of Gibraltar with its heavy maritime traffic. His fears were backed up the environmental group Greenpeace. A statement said the accident was a "consequence of an excessive number of tankers" in the area. The ecologists pointed out that each year 20 million tonnes of petroleum products move in and out of the bay adding: "The Bay of Algeciras has been converted in to the petrol station of the Mediterranean."
The tanker 'Prestige' that sunk off the Galician coast at Finisterre caused one of the worst environmental disasters ever seen in Spain. The 'Prestige' only had 77,000 tonnes of fuel oil on board compared with the 139,000 tonnes on the 'Spetses'. Unlike the 'Prestige' the 'Spetses' was a double-hulled vessel and on this occasion its hull was not breached. However residents in the Campo de Gibraltar zone are very concerned about the dangers presented by the regular presence of these giant tankers in the waters of the bay.
Major blow for Nerja golf plans
Developer pulls out of project
BY DAVE JAMIESON
MED GROUP, THE DEVELOPER, HAS PULLED OUT OF THE PROJECT IN ANOTHER BLOW TO NERJA'S ATTEMPTS TO BUILD AN 18-HOLE GOLF COURSE.
The town's Mayor, José Alberto Armijo, has announced that Med Group has withdrawn because of the lack of backing shown by the Junta de Andalucía. He said that, in the two years since Med Group won the 15 million euro contract, they had maintained contacts with various departments of the regional government in order to gain support for the project's viability but had now "thrown in the towel".
He added that environmental considerations had been the principle stumbling block, with the Junta's environment department objecting to the siting of three holes of the golf course within the boundaries of the Tejeda, Alhama y Almijara Sierras Natural Park.
18 YEARS OF PROBLEMS
Moves to build a golf course in Nerja have been continuing for almost 18 years, and have been dogged by problems. In early 2002, the Junta de Andalucía cleared what was thought to be the final hurdle by rescinding mining rights which had been awarded for the earmarked land, and in the late summer of that year, Nerja Town Hall invited submissions from interested developers. When applications from the four companies interested were opened, the figure offered by Med Group Development S.L. was found to be the highest, at 15.1 million euros. At the time, José Alberto Armijo, expressed his satisfaction with the auction, describing it as the culmination of a process which began in 1987, and adding that the income to the town would finance several local projects.
Med Group, which already had involvement in several other property and leisure developments, was understood to be planning a total investment of 150 million euros in the construction of an 18 hole golf course, 800 houses, and a four-star 125-bed hotel on the site.
Sr Armijo described the news of Med Group's withdrawal as a sad day for Nerja and that the Town Hall had, for many years, worked to make a golf course in the municipality a reality. Now, he said, he would open the debate on the future of the million square metres at Barranco de la Coladilla, 300,000 of which are within the natural park, earmarked for residential, sporting and hotel development, but there are fears that unless this matter can be resolved, a golf course for Nerja will remain permanently on the back burner.
Unless there is a change of power at either the Town Hall or the Junta - controlled by opposing political groups - it is unlikely that other developers will be interested in what seems like a lost cause.
New law to protect home buyers
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía last week unveiled the first draft of a new law aimed at protecting new-home buyers from receiving a finished product that differs in quality, characteristics or layout from what was promised by the developer at the time of purchase. Once shaped into its final version and passed into law, the 'Ley de la Calidad de la Vivienda' is expected to place tighter controls and heavier potential fines on real estate developers and promoters, and to provide consumers with greater recourse in suing in the event of non-fulfilment of contractual obligations.
The draft law requires that developers and promoters provide complete and detailed descriptions of the materials, construction characteristics and layout of apartments or houses prior to a buyer signing a purchase contract and making an initial payment. Any variance from the agreed specifications must be approved by the purchaser.
Under the new law, developers failing to adhere to their approved plans could face fines ranging from 6,000 euros to 150,000 euros. And unlike now, fines would be accumulative, meaning that in a 90-unit development there could be up to 90 individual fines for an unapproved change in construction characteristics that affected the entire building (for example, failure to use promised double-walls between units). Fines could affect developers, promoters, designers, contractors, sub-contractors and other individuals or entities involved in development projects.
Mijas Town Hall begins 'burro taxi' vet checks
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
MIJAS TOWN HALL ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK THAT THE TOWN'S 'BURRO TAXI' DONKEYS WERE RECEIVING THE FIRST OF THEIR TWICE-YEARLY FREE VETERINARY CHECK-UPS BASED ON AN AGREEMENT WITH THE DONKEY-PROTECTION GROUP EL REFUGIO DEL BURRITO.
The vets examined the donkeys' hooves and teeth, making repairs where necessary, checked their general health and revised their vaccination schedules, applying flu and tetanus shots as indicated, said the Town Hall. Each animal received an identification mark on one hoof in order to facilitate tracking and follow-up.
The Town Hall also announced that it is in the process of finalising a new municipal ordinance to regulate the 'burro taxi' services and to protect the donkeys' welfare. Among other things, it says the new regulations will give "special attention to the treatment of the animals, hygiene and working conditions." It also says that, in addition to the twice-yearly free vet check-ups, the agreement with El Refugio del Burrito will allow donkeys no longer able to be used as 'burro taxis' due to age or health problems to be retired to the organisation's farm in Fuente de Piedra.
SEPE NOT SATISFIED
The agreement with El Refugio came in October of last year, just days before a protest that had been organised by another equine-protection group, the Sociedad Española para la Protección de los Equinos (SEPE), which has been a vocal critic of what it calls abusive treatment of the Mijas donkeys. Despite last week's vet exams for the animals, SEPE remains unconvinced of the Town Hall's commitment to the welfare of the donkeys.
SEPE President Tony Bugg told CDSN that last October the Town Hall promised it would have the new municipal ordinances in place by January. "The ordinance still hasn't been brought in or signed by anyone," he said. "And if it does get signed, who's going to enforce it?" He allows that the veterinary check-ups are a positive step, but insists that two a year are insufficient for working animals. "They need constant vet checks - once a month or every two months at least," he said.
Fuengirola River footbridge gets go ahead
News Staff Reporter
The Ministry of the Environment has just announced a number of projects designed to improve the Spanish coastline. The criterion involves the improvement of the environment and scenic characteristics. Included amongst these schemes is a footbridge across the Fuengirola River, which will cost 1.5 million euros.
The contract has been awarded to Dragados and it is intended that the footbridge will complete the link from Fuengirola's paseo marítimo promenade to the heights of the Sohail castle.
The footbridge will have a total length of 83 metres and it has been designed to fit it with the local setting. It will have a lighting system incorporated in to the stainless steel railings and other lighting that will illuminate the bridges structure.