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Week December 23th to December 29th 2004.
FESTIVE SPENDING FEVER
Shoppers expect to pay nearly double for seasonal produce
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THE AVERAGE HOME ON THE COSTA WILL SPEND OVER 300 EUROS ON FOOD OVER THE FESTIVE PERIOD, WHILE TWO OUT OF EVERY THREE SHOPPERS WILL BUY SEASONAL PRODUCTS WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT PRICE VARIATIONS.
The Ministry of Agriculture revealed the results of their survey of Christmas shopping habits last week which showed that only 37.5 per cent of people look around for the cheapest food prices.
Experts say that habits change in December and consumers augment their regular purchases by visiting specialist suppliers and gourmet shops. At this time of year, more money is spent on foodstuffs seen as having added value, such as wines which display their area of origin, as well as on seasonal favourites, such as shellfish, and an increased consumption of alcoholic drinks.
HIGHER PRICE TAGS
However, such produce usually shows higher price tags towards Christmas. The Ministry says that, last year, drinks rose by 37 per cent, seafoods by 38 per cent and quality wines by almost 52 per cent, statistics reflected in the survey results which indicate that up to 84 per cent of shoppers expect to pay more during December.
A separate survey published last weekend suggest that these higher food and drink bills ahead of Christmas will push up the average festive spend of every Spanish citizen this year to a total of about 1,000 euros, and while food and drink accounts for the biggest single purchase, it will be less than a quarter of their total festive outgoings. Christmas spending has risen by almost 27 per cent since 2001, with travel accounting for about 19 per cent, presents and games taking up to 20 per cent, entertainment nearly 16 per cent, and lottery tickers around 12 per cent.
The study concludes with recommendations that consumers should show responsibility in both the purchase and consumption of food, and should be more flexible in the preparation of their celebratory meals.
Also it should be remembered that Christmas is a time for spending but also a time for giving. Therefore, Costa del Sol News would like to send a special Christmas greeting to all local charities, whose priority rests on the giving, and who have worked so hard in the run up for Christmas.
GIBRALTAR AIRPORT JOINT-USE ACCORD NEARS
The facility could handle one million passengers a year
By David Eade
THE JOINT USE OF GIBRALTAR’S AIRPORT LOOKS CLOSER TO BECOMING A REALITY, WITH THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT SEEKING TO CLOSE AN ACCORD ON THE ISSUE BY MARCH OR APRIL OF NEXT YEAR.
It has been estimated that should such an agreement be reached, passenger levels at the airport could leap to one million flyers a year. The current traffic level with just a couple of flights a day to the UK is around 120,000 passengers annually.
It is envisaged that in future not only would Gibraltar operate flights to London but also Madrid, as well as other European capitals. The British Airways concession GB Airways and Monarch currently fly to and from the Rock, but Spanish airlines Iberia and Air Europa have already declared interest in providing future services.
The current airport facilities would not be able to cope with the predicted rise in passenger numbers and a larger or additional terminal would be required. Meanwhile, Spain’s current plan to invest 180,000 euros on improving the frontier would be obsolete before it started, given the large number of people that would pass across the border once airport traffic increased.
According to the socialist deputy for Cádiz, Salvador de la Encina, when Britain, Gibraltar and Spain meet in the new forum, one of the subjects up for urgent discussion will be the modernisation of the existing border, including improvements in the entrance and exit points for vehicles. He added that they would also discuss extending the existing runway.
The deputy stated that joint use of the airport would reactivate the economy of the region and increase the tourist capacity of the zone. This view was backed by the socialist senator and former mayor of Jimena, José Carracao, who said the main beneficiaries would be the populations of Gibraltar and La Línea.
‘HUMILIATION’ FOR SPAIN
The new political forum has been bitterly criticised by the Partido Popular, whose leader, Mariano Rajoy, has labelled it ‘a humiliation’ for Spain. However, Sr Carracao has called on the PP in the Campo de Gibraltar region to collaborate on the new accord, adding: “Rajoy has no idea what is happening here. We call upon the PP in this region to speak out against their national leaders now so that the new forum can bring benefits to the Campo zone.”
Town centre bars to be banned in 10 years
NEWS Staff Reporter
The mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos, plans to have all the late-night drinking bars removed from the centre of the town in the next 10 years.
Sr Barrientos acted after studying more than 150 comments submitted by various residents’ associations and other groups regarding the protection plan for the town’s historic centre.
Amongst the various proposals being brought forward under the plan, the most important is deemed to be the decision to not grant any new licences for what are called ‘special bars’, or ‘bares de copas’, which cause late-night noise and nuisance. The bars of this type that currently exist in the historic centre will not have their licences renewed and will be moved to other zones within a 10-year period.
Another provision will affect new residential blocks in the zone. In future, where possible, all apartment buildings must have their own parking areas. They must also have a small area set aside for rubbish containers with access for waste-disposal vehicles so that rubbish bags are no longer placed in the streets for collection.
Organised crime units target Sotogrande
Special police units formed to counteract international gangs
BY DAVID EADE
THE SOCIALIST DEPUTY FOR CÁDIZ, SALVADOR DE LA ENCINA, HAS SPOKEN OUT AFTER CENTRAL GOVERNMENT’S RECENT ANNOUNCEMENT THAT IT IS FORMING SPECIAL UNITS TO FIGHT ORGANISED CRIME.
Sr de la Encina said that as from 2005, three new Guardia Civil units would be formed to fight against the mafias. They would tackle international terrorism, illegal immigration and organised crime respectively.
The deputy stated that the majority of the international gangs, many from Eastern Europe were active in the province of Málaga, especially in Marbella. However it was also known that they were operating in the luxury residential zones of Sotogrande and La Alcaidesa in Cádiz.
Sr De la Encina assured local residents that special police units have strengthened their presence in these residential zones of San Roque and La Línea to prevent a repetition of the robberies that occurred last summer and also to stop the gangs from carrying out their businesses.
He added that the Guardia Civil had increased its patrols in both Sotogrande and La Alcaidesa for the festive season when there was a marked increase in the local population due to residential tourism.
The deputy also pointed to central government’s determination to eradicate these criminal groups. He stated that 1,200 Guardia Civil officers had been posted to the Mediterranean coastal region in a crackdown on all types of organized crime and terrorism.
On a reassuring note Sr de la Encina reported that crime levels in the Campo de Gibraltar area, which includes both Sotogrande and La Alcaidesa, were below the national average due to the “magnificent” work of the local security forces. However he did criticize the previous Partido Popular government for letting the number of National Police stationed in La Línea and Algeciras to fall below their official establishment level and stated that the sizes of both forces would be increased in February 2005.
Hospital records dumped in Málaga street
By Dave Jamieson
An investigation is underway into how hundreds of children’s medical records came to be dumped on a Málaga industrial estate. Two large sacks full of paperwork were found on the Guadalhorce estate in the city last Thursday morning and were identified as records of children who had attended the paediatric department of the Hospital Materno Infantil the previous weekend. Names, symptoms, diagnoses and treatments were detailed in the papers which revealed a frenetic period of activity at the hospital with a succession of fractures and injuries, stomach complaints, viruses and other medical problems.
Next day, health councillor María Jesús Montero, ordered a series of urgent investigations to determine who was responsible for the failing which she described as very serious. As a first step, she ordered that the hospital should send no more documents for recycling unless they had been partially destroyed in order to guarantee patient confidentiality, while the director general of Carlos Haya hospital, María Ángeles Prieto, confirmed that the Hospital Materno has launched an internal investigation. She explained that normal procedure is for records to be held for at least six months, after which they are taken away to be destroyed, adding that it was “unthinkable” that they should end up in the street. The enquiries will involve the specialist company contracted to undertake the recycling of the hospital’s waste paper.
Nerja shock over water plant 10-year delay
BY DAVE JAMIESON
NERJA MAY HAVE TO WAIT ANOTHER TEN YEARS BEFORE GETTING ITS WATER PURIFICATION PLANT.
Last week’s meeting between Town Hall representatives and the water supplier, Confederación Hidrográfica del Sur (CHS), was told by CHS engineers that a new site should be found for the facility, in perhaps the Almijara or Río Seco areas, instead of the earmarked ground at Fuente del Badén. The president of CHS, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, said that it would be necessary to modify the town’s planning ordinances, that it would take four years to licence the project, and that Nerja could expect the plant to be operating in eight to ten years, something which the town’s Mayor, José Alberto Armijo, described as “unacceptable”.
The CHS also dismissed calls for the plant to be either covered or constructed underground, a demand made by local residents fearful of bad smells, because of the increased cost. The Town Hall, which may have to annul the contract it has already signed for the plant’s construction, also appears upset that technicians from the CHS visited the area to search for a new location without making official contact at either technical or political level.
LONG RUNNING SAGA
The provision of Nerja’s water purification plant has become a long running saga in the town. A redesign was ordered after the original plan was shown to be inadequate for the size of the municipality, the Town Hall has argued with regional government over who would pay, and Greenpeace has criticised Nerja for failing to have the facility operating. Last week’s meeting came as a result of an ultimatum, issued to the CHS by Nerja, for a response regarding its stance on the long-delayed project, stating that, if no reply was received, the Town Hall would refer the matter to Madrid.
Local reaction to the delay came swiftly. A number of local groups have expressed their dismay and concern, saying that the continued appearance of untreated water off the town’s beaches would damage the resort’s image. The town’s business association has demanded immediate action, with further delays avoided at all costs, and has asked the Town Hall to ensure that construction of the plant does not produce a negative impact on its surrounding area.
BACK TO SQUARE ONE
Speaking on behalf of the Nerja’s ruling party, the Partido Popular, councillor José Miguel García said that the decision of the CHS returned the town to square one. He recalled that, in November 2000, the CHS had asked Nerja to put a site for the plant at its disposal “in the briefest time possible”. The town had responded with the 26,300 square metre area on the eastern outskirts at Fuente del Baden, which was described at the time by the CHS as having “several advantages”. The councillor said that the CHS’s new approach had lost Nerja both time and investment.
Illegal construction in Mijas
By Oliver McIntyre
Mijas Town Hall has opened proceedings against 333 illegal building projects so far this year, according to municipal data. Based on regional laws, those responsible for the illegal works can be hit with fines of up to 150 per cent of the value of the construction project in question.
The proceedings opened this year are the result of inspections carried out by the Guardia Civil’s Seprona environmental-protection unit, as well as by the town’s new local Policía Urbanística unit. In an effort to crack down on the growing problem of illegal construction, in February of this year the Town Hall created the special local police unit, aimed specifically at rooting out unlicensed building projects. The officers received special training on urban-development law, and were outfitted with high-tech equipment to carry out their inspections and investigations. They use a digital mapping system, GPS devices, and digital photo and video cameras to collect information, and a computerised programme to store and manage the data.
So far this year, the Policía Urbanística unit has carried out nearly 900 inspections, leading to halt orders on 407 illegal building projects, according to the Town Hall. The most serious offences resulted in the opening of the legal proceedings which carry potential fines.
Retirement complex for Alhaurín
By Oliver McIntyre
The new Sol Andalusí luxury retirement centre in Alhaurín de la Torre, which is in the final stages of construction and hasn’t even opened its doors yet, already has future competition knocking at its door. Alhaurín Town Hall last week gave the green light to a new project that will see the creation of another high-end retirement complex in the Torrealquería area. The project, which has already received approval from the Junta de Andalucía, calls for a 22,134-square-metre complex with 13,620 square metres of residential units, in addition to several general-purpose buildings. The complex is to be called Parque Alquería.
In exchange for the Town Hall’s reclassification of the land in order to allow the construction of the new complex, the development company ceded to the Town Hall 218,065 square metres of land, which has already been added to existing municipal land as part of a forest park. The developer will also build a museum dedicated to famed liberal General José María Torrijos, on the site of the ‘cortijo’ where in 1831 he and his men were held prisoners before being executed. The museum project is valued at 390,000 euros. In addition, the developer will pay the Town Hall 1.1 million euros in cash.
Cañada del Lobo conflict continues
Torremolinos and regional government clash again
By Oliver McIntyre
TORREMOLINOS DEPUTY MAYOR AND ENVIRONMENT COUNCILLOR MARGARITA DEL CID LAST WEEK ISSUED ANOTHER STRONGLY WORDED STATEMENT AGAINST THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA'S ENVIRONMENT DELEGATE IN MÁLAGA, FEDERICO TRILLO.
The statement referred to the sanction proceedings Sr Trillo's department has opened against the Town Hall in regard to the recently inaugurated Cañada del Lobo municipal nature refuge and hostel and responding to the recent broadening of the proceedings to include a failure by the Town Hall to have the proper environmental impact report for the project, the councillor described Sr Trillo's attitude as "bordering on the absurd."
Sra del Cid cited documentation confirming that from the beginning of the project, back in 1998, the Town Hall received approval from Sr Trillo's department, including a second approval when the scope of the project was enlarged later on, in early 1999. Nonetheless, she said, the Town Hall has submitted its response to the Environment delegation indicating that it is willing to file an environmental impact report now if required. "The only thing the Town Hall wants is for the Cañada del Lobo facility to be available to be enjoyed by the public," she said.
The initial sanctioning proceedings, carrying a potential fine of 600 to 6,000 euros, were opened in November, alleging that the Town Hall project had encroached on public mountainside. The encroachment, according to Sra del Cid, consisted of a four-metre-wide, 260-metre-long path, and the installation of three streetlight-type lamps and nine small pathway lights between the refuge and the hostel. The path was in fact created by the Junta de Andalucía itself, she said, as part of the widening and improvement of an existing road to provide better access for firefighters in the event of forest fires. At the time the original proceedings were opened, Sra del Cid accused Sr Trillo of taking a "Taliban attitude" against the Town Hall.
Nerja foreigners thrive
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja’s final head count for 2004 shows that foreigners now constitute 24.1 per cent of the municipality’s official population. The Town Hall says that of the 4,733 registered non-Spanish residents, Britons make up 40 per cent, Argentineans 12 per cent, and Germans under nine per cent. 66 different countries are represented in the official total figure of 19,623.
Conversely, the population of Maro, which falls within the same municipality, is shrinking. Ten years ago, 800 people lived in the village whereas latest statistics indicate less than 650.
Figures out last week also show that of the 1,700 businesses registered in Nerja, a third are bars or estate agents operated by foreigners. According to the Town Hall, the British own most property companies, Germans and Scandinavians specialise in bars typical of their home countries, Argentineans operate telephone kiosks and souvenir shops, and Moroccans run “100 peseta” shops in the town centre. Nerja now has one commercial business for every 11.5 people officially registered in the town, a figure considered by experts to be high. During 2004, around 200 new businesses opened in the town, principally restaurants and property offices, of which just five per cent failed to seek the authorities necessary to trade legally.
Benalmádena's blissful year
Castillo Bil-Bil weddings increase
By Oliver McIntyre
THIS YEAR 290 COUPLES HAVE CELEBRATED THEIR NUPTIALS AT BENALMÁDENA'S CASTILLO BIL-BIL, AN 85 PER CENT INCREASE OVER 2003, ACCORDING TO TOWN HALL DATA.
Those choosing Bil-Bil as the venue for their wedding are a diverse lot, says the Town Hall, "from elderly couples to twenty-somethings and people of all different nationalities. One recent wedding at the facility was of a Nigerian couple." But the Bil-Bil brides do have one thing in common, say municipal sources: they tend to show up on time.
The Arab-style, 1930-construction municipal facility, which is used not just for weddings but also for other events like art exhibits and classical music recitals, must be reserved for marriage ceremonies six months in advance.
The most popular months are September and October, according to the Town Hall, while the slowest are January and February. Saturday is the busiest wedding day of the week.
The cost to reserve Bil-Bil for wedding ceremonies is 180 euros, which includes basic decorations like carpets and floral arrangements, as well as Mayor Enrique Bolín or a town councillor to officiate the ceremonies (this year Social Services councillor María José Bustos holds the record for number of weddings performed: 35). The Town Hall says it even provides text for many couples' vows. The room where the weddings are held has a capacity of 200 people, around 40 seated and the rest standing. Each wedding ceremony lasts about a half-hour.
Andalucía plans tourist resurgence
Regional government explains new strategy
By Dave Jamieson
AS TRAVEL AGENTS ALONG THE COSTA DEL SOL REPORTED A 15 PER CENT DROP IN BOOKINGS THROUGHOUT THE FESTIVE SEASON, THE REGION'S TOURISM OFFICIALS LAID OUT THEIR STRATEGY FOR PROMOTION DURING 2005.
The fall in reservations over the Christmas and New Year holiday period is "considerable" according to experts who blame changes in the ways in which holidays are now arranged. The Association of Costa del Sol Travel Agents said that use of the Internet and making travel plans independently are the main reasons, while the prices charged in new, emerging destinations are also playing a part. 35 per cent fewer tourists visited the region from the Netherlands this year, many opting for Turkey instead, while German tourists are also favouring Turkey as well as Tunisia.
The sector, which has had a disappointing 12 months despite a national year-on-year increase of 2.9 per cent between January and November, will now be hoping more than ever that the Andalucía's new Marketing Plan, announced last week, will regenerate the region as a tourist destination in the New Year. At a press conference, the delegate responsible for tourism, commerce and sport, Paulino Plata, confirmed that a budget of 67.3 million euros, 26 per cent up on last year, has been allocated by the Junta de Andalucía for the project.
Sr Plata said that the main thrusts of the campaign would include a greater use of the Internet, the strengthening of traditional markets plus the consolidation of emerging markets, and the targeting of new countries. He added that one challenge would be to recover business from two good clients of Andalucía, Germany and the Nordic countries.
A new strategy will be direct marketing, based on research which shows that 70 per cent of visitors to the region design their own holidays, without the use of a travel agent. An accord has also been reached with tour operator Turespaña to co-ordinate promotional activities abroad, particularly in distant markets. Sr Plata explained that this would enable Andalucía to be promoted in tourist offices throughout the world, with information supplied on demand and with a maximum potential for development.
The new marketing plan also intends to ensure that Andalucía is very visible on the Internet, where Sr Plata wants it to appear high up on search engine listings and on the pages of low-cost airlines. Between five and ten per cent of the budget will be spent on Internet promotion, with the region's own website translated into several more different languages.
Andalucía will be represented at 40 tourist fairs, 33 of them in Europe, while foreign agents, tour operators and journalists will be invited to travel on one of 68 familiarisation visits. Nationally, special promotions will be held in 49 cities with special weeks planned in Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao, and representatives will attend 16 trade fairs across the country, three of them in Andalucía.
One of the innovations will be an awareness campaign directed at residents of Andalucía promoting the importance of tourism. Sr Plata said that well-known names from the region would be involved in reminding local people of the open and warm reception which visitors should expect from the area.
Foreign markets have been split into three groups which will be receiving different levels of promotion. The first and largest group, which will get most attention, includes most of Europe and the US, the middle group includes Japan, China and Canada amongst others, while lowest priority goes to countries including Australia and those in South America.
Picture-taking radars to control speeding
By Oliver McIntyre
The Ministry of the Interior's national Traffic Authority (Tráfico) last week unveiled plans for the installation of 500 permanent radars on motorways throughout the country, creating a network of control points that will automatically photograph speeding vehicles and generate mail-delivered tickets.
The first phase of the project is scheduled for 2005, with the installation of 125 of the new radar units. The rest will be installed over the following few years. The scheme has an overall budget of 55 million euros and falls under Tráfico's long-term strategy to reduce traffic accidents by 40 per cent. The agency hopes the radar programme itself will reduce road fatalities by 10 per cent.
Andalucía will get a total of 21 of the fixed radars during the first phase of the project. Five will be located in the province of Málaga, tentatively slated for the A-45 near Las Pedrizas, the Málaga ring road near El Palo, the A-7 near Rincón de la Victoria, and two along the A-7 near Parque Antena in Estepona.
The radar cameras are housed in green mailbox-type units with a small bullet-proof window. When a speeding vehicle passes, the radar automatically triggers the system's high-resolution digital camera to snap a photo of the vehicle's number plate. The image is saved in the system's computer memory and then downloaded by Tráfico's provincial headquarters via fibre-optic connections. Central computers process the information and generate a ticket, which is sent to the owner of the vehicle within 10 days.
Tráfico insists that the new radar programme is not aimed at generating revenue through traffic fines. It says the location of the radars will be signalled by road signs, and a map of the locations will be made public periodically. The goal, says Tráfico, is to improve road safety by getting drivers to slow down.