Costa del Sol News - 9th March 2005

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Week March 3rd to March 9th 2005.


Costa del Sol residents angry over infrastructure plan


Estepona’s Town Hall and many residents of the municipality were first surprised when posters went up around the town urgently calling people to a public meeting on February 22. The meeting was to discuss proposals presented by regional government for a project to improve the communications infrastructure along the Costa del Sol.
What the majority of local residents did not know was that for them the plan would involve the construction of a motorway extension, support roads and a rail line involving the demolition of many homes as the proposed roads passed through Estepona’s urban areas. During the meeting it emerged that the closing date for lodging objections to the POT plan was Friday February 25.

James Machin, a Estepona resident who would be affected by the POT proposals told Costa del Sol News: “The first public meeting was held at a local venta and was totally inadequate for the hundreds of people who turned up. The Town Hall had sent various officials who did their best to appease the angry crowd by explaining that a letter of objection had already been lodged by the Town Hall, which, they claimed objected to most of the proposals and offered alternative routes.”

Mr Machin further explained: “The second meeting on February 23 again attracted a multitude of people who mostly went home dissatisfied. There was only one plan available which was inadequate for the large number of people present. There was also a lap top computer displaying an image of the proposed new infrastructure but the image was of such poor quality it was impossible to see the details of housing. The Town Hall’s letter of objection was only available in Spanish and there was no Town Hall representative present.”

The final meeting took place on February 24 at the Victor de la Serna College. It was attended by around 1,000 people but the venue was too small leaving many concerned residents out on the street. The sizeable contingent of foreign residents were also angry that the promised simultaneous translator was not present.

A representative from regional government has agreed that the deadline for objections should be extended to March 18. Residents wishing to lodge an objection should visit the Estepona Infrastructure department that is located in the basement of the Town Hall’s offices in the port.

Mijas Racetrack brings stars

Concerts to be held between May and September

By Oliver McIntyre

The company that operates the track, Carrera Entertainment, says the launch of the concert series is aimed at converting the racetrack from a purely sports-oriented facility into one of the Costa's major entertainment venues.
The specific dates for the concerts have not yet been made public, but racetrack management says they will be held between May and September. It says Elton, Kravitz and Stewart are confirmed acts, as is the English group UB40. Several other bands are expected as well, but the complete final line-up has not yet been announced. Both the line-up and the specific concert dates should be announced in the next couple of months.

Meanwhile, the racetrack is also set to kick off its spring horseracing season, which begins March 6 and runs through May 29, with a total of eight events on alternating Sundays and six races at each event. Some of the major events include the Spanish Derby on May 29, with a 99,960-euro purse and the Mijas Cup on May 15, with 86,700 euros in prize money. In all, the 48 scheduled races of the season carry a total prize purse of 530,910 euros.


Police seek Brit in brutal murder case

Victim’s body was discovered in June 2002

By Oliver McIntyre

Investigators say Paul W. tortured and killed Christopher B. in a dispute involving drug trafficking.
The investigation began in June 2002, when some construction workers spotted a body floating in the sea off Las Yucas beach in Benalmádena. Investigators quickly discarded the possibility of an accident at sea when they hauled in the body and found the legs had been cut off at the knees and the skull was fractured from prolonged exposure to extreme heat.
An investigation into the history of the victim, a 30-year-old Liverpool native, revealed that he had been involved with British drug gangs on the Costa, and ultimately led police to centre their suspicions on Paul W., who lived in Arroyo de la Miel and is also accused of two previous attempted murders. Investigators believe the victim worked on a drug crew led by Paul W., who blamed him for the disappearance of a shipment. According to this theory, the accused then tortured the victim to try to make him talk, beating him and cutting off his legs before killing him and then stuffing the body in an oven.

Paul W. has been described as being about 5’ 6” with a stocky build, short hair and connected eyebrows. He is known to usually be in the company of his brother, who is much taller than him. Investigators believe that after the murder he fled to the UK and hid out for a time before continuing on to the Netherlands. The other attempted murders he is accused of are a 2001 shooting in La Cala de Mijas and a stabbing incident that left the victim seriously wounded.


Rubbish-tax hike

By Oliver McIntyre

Non-registered (non-‘empadronado’) residents of Torremolinos are to be hit with a 10.2 per cent hike in their rubbish tax, while registered residents will see their rates increase just 3.2 per cent. The disparity comes as the result of two measures passed last week by the Town Council. The first increases the rubbish-collection fees by 10.2 per cent (approved by the ruling Partido Popular over the ‘nay’ votes of the opposition parties), and the second provides a subsidy to registered residents in the amount of seven per cent of the fee increase (approved by the PP with abstention of the opposition parties). The upshot, according to the Town Hall, is that registered residents see their rates rise by “a percentage identical to the Consumer Price Index increase over the last year.”

The Town Hall justified the move by citing the growth the town has experienced – and the increased rubbish-collection workload that entails – as well as the large number of non-registered permanent residents in the town. It is not the first time that the Town Hall has increased municipal taxes or fees by a higher percentage for non-registered residents than for registered ones, a practice that has stirred some controversy and even sparked a European Commission investigation late last year.


Go ahead for San Pedro underpass project


The government in Madrid has published in the state bulletin (BOE) the consultation and technical contract for the new underpass project on the A-7 (old N-340) through the centre of San Pedro de Alcántara.
The minister for public works, Magdalena Álvarez, has given the go-ahead for the scheme after listening to and taking in to account the objections and comments submitted by the town hall and local residents groups to the original published project.

The new revised plan will affect the A-7 between kms 169 and 175 and will now have a budget of 52.9 million euros, around 20 million euros more than previously announced. It should be completed by 2008.
According to the ministry the road improvements will commence to the south east of San Pedro and finish near to Puerto Banús. The aim is to eliminate as far as possible the various intersections that impede the traffic flow of more than 65,000 vehicles a day. The crossings to go are at Las Petunias, the Marqués del Duero and El Ingenio.

By starting the process of the construction of the underpass, central government has finally unblocked an infrastructure project that has for many years been a priority for the province. In recent years it has been a political football bouncing between the former Partido Popular government in Madrid and its PSOE counterpart in Andalucía. In 2003 the Ombudsman, Enrique Múgica, ruled that Madrid had full competence to undertake the project as it was in the public interest.

Military studs visit Coín

NEWS Staff Reporter

A small stable of stud horses owned by the Spanish Army has arrived in Coín, where the valuable purebreds will be made available to impregnate mares from throughout the Málaga region during this mating season. It marks the rebirth of an old tradition that, until now, had seen a 30-year hiatus, but is being rekindled to help perpetuate purebred gene lines in the region’s equine stock.

The Army studs – five Spanish purebreds and one Anglo-Arabian – will be housed at the Finca de Juan Huertas in Coín until the end of May. They are available, free of charge, to breeders who want their mares impregnated, either by physical mating or via artificial insemination. In order to ensure an orderly and efficient process throughout the season, breeders have to make an appointment in advance.

The horses were brought from Army’s stud farm in Jerez de la Frontera and it is expected that this week a stud donkey will also be transported to Coín. The project comes as the result of an accord between Coín Town Hall and the Ministry of Defence, under which the Town Hall ceded the 20,000-square-metre property, located along the Alozaina road, to be used as the stable and breeding facility. Mayor Gabriel Clavijo said the town had won out in a competition among several municipalities for the right to house the breeding farm. .

Going round and round in Nerja

Roundabout adornments blamed for causing traffic hazard

By Dave Jamieson

In the last few weeks, the artist Robert Harding, winner of a competition organised by the Town Hall, has been supervising the realisation of his plans for a work entitled ‘Encounters’, which features a water fountain. Mr Harding, who moved to Torrox following 20 years in Africa, is building an archway supporting 12 figures, all in stainless steel, sitting on marble bases and surrounded by water jets. The 6,500-euro cost is being financed by the European Union. The completed work is now taking shape on the new roundabout by the recently renovated bridge over the River Chillar.

The installation came in for criticism, however, when motorists suggested that the supporting stone blocks obstructed drivers’ views of oncoming traffic, and that large vehicles could easily collide with them. However, the Town Hall said that local police officers had inspected the site and confirmed there was no danger of reduced visibility or collision.

Another of the town’s roundabouts will also soon be adorned with a work of art. Work to install a sculpture called ‘Gondala of Nerja’ at the entrance to the La Noria urbanisation is expected to start soon. The figure, by Seville artist Francisco Parra García, was a runner-up in the competition won by Robert Harding. The cost of 45,000 euros is to be met by the EU’s Interreg programme, which supports trans-frontier projects through central government in Madrid.

Meanwhile, the Town Hall has awarded the contract for the next roundabout to be built on the N-340 through the municipality. Almisol S.A. will undertake construction of the complex junction at the entrance to El Capistrano village, where numerous traffic accidents have been recorded. The six-month project will cost almost 380,000 euros and will meet demands from local residents who have been calling for improved safety in the area.

English Cemetery foundation imminent in Málaga

NEWS Staff Reporter

The establishment of a foundation to maintain Málaga’s English Cemetery is imminent, according to British Consul Bruce McIntyre. He confirmed in the media last week that the papers are almost ready to be taken before a notary and that a date is to be arranged with Málaga’s mayor, Francisco de la Torre, for the signing.

At present, the English Cemetery, which is the property of the British government, is financed solely by voluntary contributions from visitors, while plans for a charitable foundation to take over its maintenance and conservation were announced 18 months ago. This followed a meeting in Málaga in 2003 between the British ambassador in Spain, Steven Wright, and the city’s mayor, after which Mr Wright explained that the foundation would be open to support from Spanish sponsors as well as British interests in Málaga, and would have the objective of securing public and private funds to finance maintenance and restoration. He also confirmed the British government’s intention to ensure the future maintenance of the cemetery.

The cemetery, founded in 1831 and the first of its kind in the country, was the result of work of the then British consul in Málaga, who was horrified by the barbaric burial practices that were applied to non-Catholics at that time. Normally, the body was taken to the water’s edge at midnight under armed guard and buried in a standing position with the head left exposed to the weather and packs of wild dogs. The cemetery was the target of vandals two years ago, and following the death of its gardener, Antonio Alcaide, last July, opening hours to the public were restricted for a time.


School registration process kick off

Selection process open until March 31

By Oliver McIntyre

It is the first time the selection period has taken place in March, rather than April. The school-selection process is for those children who are to be newly enrolled in a primary or secondary school or who are changing schools. The provincial Education delegation in Málaga says it expects the number of newly-enrolled students this year to exceed last year’s 30,500.

Some parents groups have complained that the selection process has opened prior to the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department providing certain details that parents might need for selecting schools. One is the finalised list of private nursery schools that will be approved to accept state-school children free of charge. Another is the list of schools that will offer bilingual education. The Junta has committed to providing bilingual education in 100 schools throughout Andalucía in the 2005-2006 school year, but the specific schools have yet to be named, and they probably won’t be before the close of the school-selection process.

All school selection requests will be granted except in cases where a particular school has less available slots than placement requests. In those cases, a series of criteria – proximity of the school to the child’s home, whether the child has siblings at the school, family income, etc. – will be used to decide which children are assigned to the school. The placement lists will be made public by April 12, with any appeals due within 10 days and final decisions issued by May 7.

Once the selection and placement process is complete, the enrolment period for getting children officially signed up at the school where they have been placed will be June 1 – 8 for nursery and primary schools and July 1 – 10 for secondary schools.


Semana Santa in the satellite age

By Dave Jamieson

Twenty-first century technology will meet the tradition of centuries in Málaga during this year’s Easter processions. A number of the guilds and brotherhoods who process magnificent floats through the city during Semana Santa have shown interest in participating in a pilot project which allows their whereabouts to be tracked by satellite. The plan is being developed by the company Location Control, based at the Andalucía Technology Park, and will see a Global Positioning System (GPS) transmitter located on each float, feeding information on its location to a satellite, hundreds of kilometres above the Earth’s surface, which is then relayed back to a central base. The company’s commercial director, José Antonio Moyano, said that two of the guilds had already taken up the offer of a free installation, while several others were considering participating in the first such application of GPS technology in Spain. Users will be able to determine a range of information, including the location of the floats within three metres, the length of the procession, the distance between floats, the procession’s speed, and the number and duration of the rest stops taken. Organisers will also be able to analyse the data later for use in planning the processions in future years.

Trials so far have proved positive, although Sr Moyano said that checks have still to be made on whether the signal can be received by the satellite when the processions move through the narrow streets in the old part of the city centre. Anyone with an Internet connection will be able to follow a procession’s progress by visiting the company’s website which will be in operation for this purpose from Palm Sunday, March 20, onwards. In the future, such data will also be available via a mobile telephone.


Consul presents voter-registration campaign

Electors urged to register by March 11

By Oliver McIntyre

British citizens living abroad to ensure they are on the electoral register for UK elections and referendums. If a UK Parliamentary general election were to be called for 5 May, electors would need to register by March 11 to be able to vote.
British citizens living abroad but who have been registered to vote in the UK within the last 15 years can apply to be overseas voters, explained Mr McIntyre. If they were too young to register when leaving the UK, their parent or guardian must have been registered.

The registration form and all details on how to register can be found on the Electoral Commission's voter information site, Overseas voters are eligible to vote in elections for the UK Parliament and the European Parliament.


Crackdown on illegal immigrant employers

By Dave Jamieson

"Zero tolerance" has been promised in the fight against businesses which employ illegal immigrants. The Ministry of Work and Social Services has announced a massive crackdown on illegal working beginning in two months, following the end of a three month amnesty on May 7 during which individuals have been encouraged to regularise their situations.
Almost 50,000 applications are already reported to have been received nationwide, but this represents only a small proportion of the estimated total of immigrants working illegally in Spain. In the province of Málaga there arethought to be 20,000 illegal non-EU workers, of which the authorities estimate 60 per cent already meet the required criteria for acceptance. However, only 768 applications were received in the first 15 days of the campaign. In Andalucía during the same period, 3,966 applications were processed by the Ministry, of which 97 per cent were successful. Ceuta and Melilla have recorded even worse figures however, with only two applications in the former and not one in the latter. The area returning the highest figure so far has been Madrid.

The low take-up appears to have prompted last week's announcement by Jesus Caldera, the minister responsible, that more than 500,000 inspections would be made throughout Spain following the expiry date for applications. He said that after May 7, "zero tolerance" would be exercised against those employing staff illegally. Sr Caldera said that the inspections would be concentrated in those areas where a black economy is suspected and which has produced few applications for immigrant workers to regularise their positions, a definition which includes Andalucía. "We are not going to permit any illegal work in Spain," he added, underlining that the penalties for offenders would be very high. While targeted at non-EU staff living in Spain illegally, the workplace inspections will clearly net residents from other European countries who, while not requiring a work permit, do have to meet legal requirements if they are in paid employment. A 12 per cent increase in funding has been put in place to allow the increased number of inspections promised for this summer.

The Ministry says that immigrants from Ecuador have submitted most applications so far at over 13,000 recorded, with half as many Colombians in second place. In third place are Moroccans, followed by Romanians and Bulgarians. 37 per cent of all applicants work in domestic service, while the remainder have come from business owners and employees in a variety of positions.


Renters to declare property-registry info

By Oliver McIntyre

As part of its package of measures aimed at fighting tax fraud, Spain's Hacienda tax agency will require people who live in rented apartments or homes to provide the property-registry reference number of their residence on their tax filing. The idea, according to Hacienda Director Luis Pedroche, is to prevent the owners of rental properties from failing to declare their rental income on their own tax filings. The new requirement comes into effect this year, for 2004 taxes.

In order to facilitate the process for the tenant, Hacienda (officially called Agencia Tributaria) is working to develop a system by which its PADRE computer-assistance programme for tax forms will provide access to the appropriate property-registry number. When the taxpayer who is a renter gets to the part of the electronic form that asks for the property-registry info, the PADRE programme would provide a link to a Web page, where the renter enters the postal address of the rented residence, and the Web page then provides the reference number for the property in question. That way, says Sr Pedroche, the process will be "less uncomfortable for tenants, as they won't have to ask the owners for their fiscal identification number."