News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week October 14th to October 20th 2004.
THE GREAT COSTA SMOKE-OUT
Campaign launched to ban smoking in public places
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
COINCIDING WITH THIS WEEK’S CELEBRATION OF THE TRADITIONAL EUROPEAN WEEK AGAINST CANCER, A COMPAIGN HAS BEEN LAUNCHED AGAINST SMOKE-FILLED BARS AND RESTAURANTS ON THE COSTA.
The Spanish Association Against Cancer (AECC), which has long worked to educate smokers about the health risks associated with the habit, is now expanding its focus to second-hand smoke.
In the province of Málaga, an army of volunteers is canvassing local bars and restaurants and providing information to owners about the dangers of second-hand smoke to workers and non-smoking clients. The AECC is encouraging the businesses to ban smoking inside their establishments, or at a minimum to create smoke-free areas.
The AECC cites tumour-registry statistics showing that in Málaga at least 30 people per year die as a result of exposure to second-hand smoke in the workplace. The worst affected professions are those of waiter/bartender and officer worker. The head of the AECC’s Tobacco Unit in Málaga, Salvador Oña, says over 30 per cent of non-smokers end up being ‘involuntary smokers’ due to second-hand smoke in their workplace. He added: “One hour of exposure to air contaminated by second-hand smoke is the equivalent to smoking three cigarettes.”
SMOKE-FREE BY 2007
Regardless of the effectiveness of the AECC’s current campaign – which it says it will extend throughout the year and not just during the Week Against Cancer – the smoke is scheduled to clear in many Spanish workplaces in the near future. In 2007 it will become a legal requirement for offices to provide a smoke-free work environment, and the Ministry of Health is working to speed up the timeline to as early as the end of next year, by negotiating with labour unions and industry representatives.
The Tobacco Unit of the AECC in Málaga has offered free consulting to any business in the province interested in learning the best ways to create smoke-free areas in the workplace.
Málaga’s town planning confusion
BY DAVID EADE
THE PRINCIPAL TOWN PLANNING INSTRUMENT IN 10 OF THE 17 MAJOR MUNICIPALITIES IN THE PROVINCE OF MÁLAGA ARE NOT WORTH THE PAPER THEY ARE PRINTED ON.
This stark fact was revealed by sources at the regional government’s Ministry of Public Works. Only the town halls of Alhaurìn el Grande, Fuengirola, Málaga, Nerja, Torremolinos, Torrox and Nerja have had their town planning by-laws (PGOUs) approved and published in the official State or regional government bulletins.
In the case of Marbella regional government has published the town planning ordinance dating back to 1986, which is the only statue it is willing to recognise. Under the administrations of now deceased mayor, Jesús Gil, the town hall passed a series of updated versions of the PGOU but all were rejected by the regional government. This has led to a series of court cases in which various urban developments have been decreed illegal and face demolition for not complying with the norms laid down in 1986.
The town halls that have not complied with their obligation to have their PGOUs published are Antequera, Benahavís, Benalmádena, Coín, Estepona, Manilva, Mijas, Rincón de la Victoria, Ronda and Vélez-Málaga. Their town planning by-laws are now in judicial limbo and a sense of insecurity surrounds their validity.
HIGH COST OF PLANNING ORDINANCES
According to sources at the ministry of public works one reason why so many town halls have failed to publish their PGOUs is the high cost involved. The cost of placing the document in one bulletin, normally the State version, could cost the town hall between 12,000 and 24,000 euros depending on the size of the PGOU and its accompanying plans and maps. However, several town halls are currently working on their town planning ordinances and are expected to present their plans shortly.
Legal sources have stated that a prerequisite for a town planning ordinance to be deemed legal is for it to be published in an official bulletin. The dean of administrative law at Málaga University, Ángel Sánchez Blanco, stated that the High Court had passed a judgement requiring all PGOUs to be published. None-the-less a regional government source stated that a PGOU that had not been officially published could still be valid.
King accuses Graham of murdering missing Motril girl
By Oliver McIntyre
In testimony before a Motril court last week, Tony Alexander King confirmed that, in a personal letter written and sent from jail, he stated that he would make Robert Graham “pay for what he did to Rocío and the girl from Motril,” referring to María Teresa Fernández, an 18-year-old from the town who went missing in August 2000 and has never been found. According to the lawyer for Srta Fernández’s family, José Rojas, King stated in his testimony that he suspects Graham murdered María Teresa Fernández, although Graham never directly told him so.
Sr Rojas claimed that King’s testimony opened a new line of investigation in the Motril case, although he did not specify exactly what that was, stating that doing so could affect the development of the case. The lawyer also stated that he believes there is sufficient evidence, including witness accounts, to suggest that Robert Graham was in Motril around the time of Srta Fernández’s disappearance. Sr Rojas told reporters that King, who is currently awaiting trial for the murders of two other young women – Rocío Wanninkhof in Mijas and Sonia Carabantes in Coín – testified in Motril that he and Graham were very good friends and that he “knew [Graham] was a murderer and that he enjoyed killing.”
King has also previously attempted to accuse Graham of the murder of Rocío Wanninkhof, but the judge in that case found no merit to the allegation and ruled that no charges be filed against Graham. King is the only person facing trial for the Wanninkhof and Carabantes murders.
Torremolinos warns of phone companies ‘slamming’
BY Oliver McIntyre
Torremolinos Town Hall’s Office of Consumer Information (OMIC) issued has issued a warning about some telephone service operators using what it calls ‘slamming’ techniques to steal customers away from competitors. It says it has received an increasing number of complaints from consumers whose telephone service was switched from their usual provider to a different one without their express consent.
Citing the intense competition among telephone companies since the deregulation of the telecommunications industry, OMIC stated: “The companies try lawfully to win over customers from the competition, but sometimes fall into fraudulent practices: the hijacking of clients by transferring their phone service without their knowledge.” The practice can go as far as falsifying customers’ signatures and illicitly obtaining their bank account data, according to OMIC’s alert. It says consumers should exercise caution when speaking with telephone company representatives offering a new service. It also recommends getting all details of the offer in writing, providing no bank account details until making a final decision, and giving ‘yes’ for an answer only when 100 per cent certain that the change in service is desired.
Regional government to speed up hospital project
By Oliver McIntyre
The Junta de Andalucía announced earlier this week that the creation of the planned hospital for Mijas and Fuengirola can be sped up by three or four years if the two town halls agree to actively support the project.
According to the Junta's delegate in Málaga, José Luis Marcos, the Junta is already committed to creating the hospital, but work is not scheduled to begin until at least 2008. But if the town halls sign an agreement of collaboration with the Junta, work could begin as early as 2005, he said.
Sr Marcos has invited Mijas Mayor Agustín Moreno and Fuengirola Mayor Esperanza Oña to a meeting tomorrow (Oct. 15) in order to discuss a possible agreement. What the Junta needs from the town halls in order to jump-start the work, he said, is an agreement on the ceding of an appropriate property for the hospital and for the town halls to provide a yet-to-be-agreed financial contribution to the project. "What I want is to inform the mayors of the opportunity that exists to significantly speed up the creation of the hospital if they are prepared to participate in the project," he said.
Meanwhile, the CARE diagnostic and treatment centre to serve the two towns is expected to be completed in early 2005. The centre, located in a rented building in Las Lagunas, will be operated under the direction of the Hospital de la Costa del Sol in Marbella.
Thyssen-Bornemisza museum comes to Andalucía
Exhibition to include works from over 30 Andalucian artists
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
ART LOVERS IN ANDALUCÍA WILL SOON BE ABLE TO VIEW SOME OF THE REGION’S GREATEST PAINTINGS WITHOUT HAVING TO TRAVEL TO THE LARGE MUSEUMS OF MADRID.
Thanks to an agreement between the Unicaja Foundation and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, some 80 to 90 works from the museum’s collection are to be displayed in a travelling exhibition to be mounted in Sevilla’s Museo de Bellas Artes and later in Málaga’s Palacio Episcopal.
ANDALUCIAN ARTISTS COME HOME
The exhibition will include paintings from over 30 acclaimed Andalucían artists, spanning the second half of the 19th century to the early 20th century. Highlighting several art movements within the context of Romanticism and Regionalism, the show features the works of such painters as Francisco Zurbarán, Julio Romero de Torres, José Moreno Villa, Domínguez Bécquer, Aguado Bejarano, Gómez Gil and Verdugo Landi, among others.
SEVILLA AND MÁLAGA
The exhibition, titled ‘Pintura Andaluza en la Colección Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza’, will run in Sevilla from the second half of October to January 15 and in Málaga from early February to the end of April.
Court investigates Alhaurín Mayor’s salary raise
By Oliver McIntyre
A Málaga court has opened an investigation into charges by the socialist PSOE party in Alhaurín de la Torre that Mayor Joaquín Villanova (Partido Popular) was inappropriately awarded an excessive pay raise. The PSOE says that when the Mayor lost his position as senator for the PP at the last elections, he converted his mayoral post to a full-time, exclusive position with an annual salary of 63,000 euros. It charges that the salary is excessive, that it was not budgeted for in the 2004 municipal budget and that there were irregularities in the administrative process for approving the change.
In statements last week to press agencies, the Mayor admitted that there may have been some ‘administrative flaw’ in the process of approving his salary increase, but insisted that there was “no malfeasance, and under no circumstances a penal offence.”
Málaga penalises single drivers
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga intends to tackle one of its worst traffic black spots by restricting access only to vehicles of two or more occupants. The city has decided to create a lane for “Vehículos de Alta Ocupación” (VAO) or High-Occupation Vehicles, in the approaches to the Teatinos campus by the end of this year or early 2005, in an attempt to beat chronic congestion in the area. The councillor responsible, Javier Berlanga, said the plan, which requires only a small infrastructure change, would mean that only buses and other vehicles carrying at least two people would be allowed to pass. He said VAO lanes had been used with great success in other cities, such as Madrid, and that, while the use of installing cameras to monitor the traffic flow was not presently planned, police officers would fine those who breach the regulation.
The present volume of traffic on the link road is expected to nearly double, from 76,500 to 127,000, according to a recent study, prompting the city’s Town Hall to implement a number of measures to avoid gridlock. The municipal transport undertaking, EMT, launched eight new articulated, low-emission buses last week for use on routes to Teatinos to help cope with a doubling in the student population over the last couple of years.
Nerja’s golf turnaround
BY DAVE JAMIESON
IN WHAT APPEARS TO BE A MAJOR TURNAROUND, THE COMPANY APPOINTED TO DEVELOP THE SPORTING AND LEISURE FACILITY HAS NOW SAID IT WISHES TO PROCEED WITH THE TRANSFER OF THE LAND.
Last month, Mayor José Alberto Armijo, announced that Med Group had withdrawn from the project because of the lack of backing shown by the Junta de Andalucía. He said then that, in the two years since Med Group had 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 “thrown in the towel”, describing the move as a sad day for Nerja. Now, however, Med Group are reported to have written to Mayor Armijo saying that there is no obstacle to proceeding with formally drawing up the papers for the land in the Barranco de la Coladilla, near Nerja’s famous caves at Maro.
Sr Armijo said that the developer had undertaken to meet its obligations as winner of the blind auction in 2002 when they were awarded the contract. Next Friday, October 22, has been set as the date on which the papers will be signed before the notary, after which Med Group will be obliged to pay 50 per cent of the agreed price to Nerja Town Hall under the terms of their
Despite the political polemic, the apparent change of heart by Med Group has been warmly welcomed within Nerja, although it is, as yet, unclear how matters have been resolved. Environmental considerations were previously cited as the principle stumbling block, with the Junta de Andalucía’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.
Med Group’s director general, José Pont, says now that all environmental problems will be reconciled and that the group will meet all its obligations. The original 150 million euros investment plan included the construction of an 18 hole golf course, 800 houses, and a four-star 125-bed hotel, but any amendments made to permit the project’s progress have yet to be revealed.
Volvo Masters incident
News Staff Reporter
The former local police chief of La Línea, José Carrión Capilla, faces court action for impersonating a police officer after an incident with a British organiser of the Volvo Masters Andalucía golf tournament at the border with Gibraltar. The alleged incident happened near the taxi rank on the La Línea side of the border. A chauffer driven car carrying the Briton, who had just arrived on a flight from London, was involved in an altercation with the car driven by Sr Carrión.
In the row that followed it is said that Sr Carrión presented himself as being a police officer and showed his badge even though it is understood that he had resigned from the force several months before. As Sr Carrión is now a private citizen the court prosecutor will decide whether he should face charges for impersonating a police officer.
The incident came to light after the British Volvo Masters representative met with Gaspar Zarrías, the councillor for the regional government. Sr Zarrías had invited the representative to discuss the forthcoming Volvo Masters Andalucía golf tournament to be held at Valderrama later this month.
New mental health unit for Costa del Sol Hospital
BY DAVID EADE
AS PART OF A TWO MILLION EUROS INVESTMENT IN EXTRA MENTAL HEALTH CARE IN MÁLAGA PROVINCE THE COSTA DEL SOL HOSPITAL IN MARBELLA IS TO ACQUIRE A SPECIALIST UNIT.
The new Marbella centre will have 16 beds and a 600 square metre zone of social and leisure activities. The unit is specifically for patients who have suffered serious mental health problems and who would benefit from a break to re-orientate them before being place back in the local community.
The centre is just part of an overall investment in mental health care in Marbella and its surrounding region. It includes creating places to allow family members of mental patients to take a break and the improvement of continual assistance programmes. In addition it involves a programme of communication and information to remove the stigma of mental illness and overcome the marginalisation of the mentally ill.
NEW LA LÍNEA HOSPITAL
The Mayor of La Línea, Juan Carlos Juárez, has confirmed that the Cádiz delegate for health, Hipólito García, is about to authorise the construction of a new hospital in the municipality.
The Mayor stressed that in a recent telephone conversation with the delegate she had stressed the good relations that exist between the town hall and the health authority. In addition she stated that the regional government was about to accept the land on which would be built the new hospital.
As well as the new hospital the Juárez also announced that work would start shortly on the construction of the Levante health centre. The building will occupy 1,200 square metres of land in Nueva Atunara and means that all areas of the municipality will soon be covered for primary health care. However the Mayor stressed that other health centres would be considered if there was sufficient need.
Istán Ground Force
By Suzan Davenport
Avid gardener and fan of BBC's popular Ground Force gardening makeover programme, Carolyn Farmer was "completely blown away," in the words of her partner Gordon Westcott, when she walked in to their transformed garden in Istán last week and came face to face with Charlie Dimmock, Tommy Walsh and the whole team. Gordon enlisted the help of a friend, Jenny, to carry off the surprise and she whisked Carolyn away for a couple of days in Granada, while the team's green fingers, spades, hammers and saws went to work on the property's dry 'campo' garden.
With over 1,000 applications from property owners in Spain to be 'ground-forced', it's not clear to Gordon why production company Endemol chose his application but he was thrilled when he learned the news. The hardest part was keeping it a secret from Carolyn, who once over the shock, told Costa del Sol News: "I just can't believe it. I've seen the reaction of other people on the programme - how they are speechless and I've always thought it was impossible that they couldn't have known, but it is so true. I just didn't have a clue. I was lost for words".
Have they had time to enjoy the shady, tranquil seating area and trademark Charlie Dimmock water feature that Gordon requested?
"Right now, Carolyn is on an adrenaline rush and we have spent the weekend at the local nurseries hunting for more plants, but yes, it really is a relaxing and cool spot to take in the view of the surrounding mountains and enjoy the sound of the running water," said Gordon.
The Istán programme is expected to be aired some time next Spring on BBC1.