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Week May 5th to May 11th 2005.
RESIDENTS TAKE ACTION
Los Hidalgos residents in Manilva fight over-development
BY DAVID EADE
A DEVELOPER BUILDING HUNDREDS OF APARTMENTS ON LAND OFFICIALLY DESIGNATED FOR INDIVIDUAL VILLAS AT LOS HIDALGOS IN MANILVA HAS FAILED TO GET THE COMMUNITY OF OWNERS TO STOP A COURT CASE AGAINST THE LOCAL MAYOR.
The residents’ action alleges illegal planning permissions were given by personal decree. Community spokesperson Ray Spencer told Costa del Sol News: “At the Extraordinary General Meeting last Saturday attended by 60 people the only vote in favour of halting the legal action was that of the developer. The Valencia-based promoter fears that its projects for 310 apartments being built where there should be 40 villas may now be halted by judicial action.”
The Los Hidalgos residents first took action against the Mayor, Pedro Tirado and the Town Hall in April 2003. The Malaga criminal court ruled that whilst there was a valid case to answer, it should instead be heard in the civil court and the hearing is expected shortly.
PLAN PARCIAL OVERRUN
The first case centres on one of the plots on the Plan Parcial approved by regional government in June 1997 designated seven villas, where instead the Mayor, by personal decree, allegedly approved construction of 16 three-storey, semi detached town houses. Similar personal decrees were subsequently issued for four-storey apartment blocks on three other areas zoned for villas.
Sr Manuel Reina Ferri, the firm’s administrator, argued it was “unfair” to single out his development when no action was taken against an earlier substantial apartment project, which had been built over-size at the urbanisation’s entrance.
PRESIDENT CHRIS WARREN SPEAKS OUT
The president of Los Hidalgos, Chris Warren declared: “Quite apart from the way these permissions have been granted without going through the recognised planning process, the effect of such intense development on the community’s infrastructure – particularly water and sewage and road traffic – is immense and we fear for the future of the entire urbanisation”.
Allegedly by order of the Mayor, Manilva Council produced an updated plan providing for apartments on almost all of the remaining unoccupied areas at Los Hidalgos. “But there was no consultation with the general body of the council or the community, nor was an ‘Estudio de Detalle’ produced, and the revised plan has not been approved by regional government”, Mr Warren claims.
Heated debate over defence links with USA
Minister Bono meets up with Donald Rumsfeld for talks
BY DAVID EADE
SPAIN’S MINISTER OF DEFENCE, JOSÉ BONO, EARLIER THIS WEEK VISITED THE USA DURING WHICH TIME HE MET HIS AMERICAN COUNTERPART DONALD RUMSFELD.
The trip opened up the debate in Spain on us defence links but especially the future role of the joint base at Rota in Cádiz. The USA has stated its intention of spending 326 million euros enlarging the facilities at Rota to include new installations, the creation of a new medical centre and an upgrade to the runway to allow it to receive the giant Galaxy transporters. This has upset the local Town Hall as the work will go-ahead without any building licences which could have earned the municipality around six million euros.
However it appears that the USA may have an even bigger roll in store for the Cádiz base. According to the socialist deputy, Mamen Sánchez, the government of Sr Rodríguez Zapatero does not yet know whether the USA plans to convert Rota in to its European advanced post in the fight against al’Qaida. Sra Sánchez observed that Spanish governments had always been “reluctant” to become involved in these types of operations that fall outside of the existing bilateral agreement with the USA.
PROMINENT ROLE FOR ROTA BASE
Recently the commander in chief of the US forces in Europe, Marine general James Jones, has raised the possibility that Rota could be used for the concentration of military facilities to house special operations units in Europe and to act as a nerve centre against the al’Qaida cells that exist in the sub-Sahara. Mr Jones had revealed in the military magazine ‘Stars and Stripes’ that President Bush was having conversations with various European states on creating a US military advanced post south of the Alps with both Rota and Sigonella in Sicily as possible candidates.
According to the Mayor of Rota, Lorenzo Sánchez Alonso, there already exists at the base a special operations unit of around 50 men. The Izquierda Unida Euro MP, Willy Meyer, called on the Spanish Premier not to authorise the conversion of Rota in to a US advanced base in the fight against al’Qaida as he believed such a move would be a “tragic error”.
New accident revives old complaints
Mijas residents say Town Hall has failed to act on unsafe road
By Oliver McIntyre
A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT EARLIER THIS WEEK IN MIJAS RETURNED TO THE SPOTLIGHT A LONG-RUNNING COMPLAINT BY RESIDENTS REGARDING THE UNSAFE CONDITION OF A LOCAL ROAD.
Costa del Sol News first reported last September on the Las Casitas de Calahonda homeowners association’s efforts to get Mijas Town Hall to improve safety on the road that leads from the AP-7 toll motorway to the A-7 (old N-340). According to the association’s president, Englishman Peter Aumord, the road needs improved lighting, speed humps and signage telling drivers to slow down as they come off the motorway into the dangerous descending curve. At the time of last September’s report, Mr Aumord indicated he had seen “about 10 accidents on that road in the past two years.”
Following the most recent accident earlier this week, Mr Aumord told CDSN that the Town Council has admitted that measures to slow down traffic on the road are necessary, but “they are trying to shirk away from their responsibilities by giving the urbanisation the authority to install such measures and pay for [them itself].”
‘TOWN HALL RESPONSIBILITY’
The homeowners association has refused to take on the expense of installing basic safety features on the road, said Mr Aumord. The Town Hall should “meet its responsibilities to all its residents, and before a fatality occurs,” he said.
Cártama approves Guadalhorce hospital site
By Oliver McIntyre
Last week, just days after Junta de Andalucía President Manuel Chaves’ surprise announcement that the Guadalhorce Valley would receive its much-demanded regional hospital, the Cártama Town Council unanimously approved the concession of a municipal property for the facility. Sr Chaves had indicated that the hospital would be located in Cártama, which had previously been selected as the site for what was going to be a diagnostic and treatment centre but will now be a full-service regional hospital.
The selected site is a 44,000-square-metre property in the Manguarra area, near Casapalma. It sits near the A-357 road, close to the intersections of various roads leading to other Guadalhorce Valley towns. The next step is for the Town Hall, the provincial government and the Junta to reach the agreement that Sr Chaves said would be negotiated between the three entities in order to get the hospital project up and running.
Despite the general satisfaction throughout the Guadalhorce last week following the announcement that the valley was to receive a hospital, some mayors in the area expressed concern over the selection of Cártama as its location. The mayors of Coín and Alhaurín el Grande each stated that their own town would be a better, more central location than Cártama. Coín Town Hall has even upped the ante by offering the Junta a larger property – 80,000 hecares – for the hospital. Regional government delegate José Luis Marcos urged Guadalhorce mayors to avoid falling into turf battles over the location of the hospital, which he said would only slow the process of creating the new medical centre.
Foreigners targeted by gangs
By David Eade
A 47-year-old Irishman, Gerard C. Boran, is in serious condition in Málaga’s Carlos Haya after being attacked by a gang of youths in Fuengirola. He was returning to his home after a few drinks in a pub when he was set upon by the group, who beat him up and then robbed him.
The mugging occurred at 05.00 on Friday, April 22. Mr Boran was first treated at the local health centre, but the beating he took was so violent that it caused cerebral bleeding, a broken jaw and numerous cuts and bruises all over his body, requiring his transfer to Carlos Haya.
On the night of the crime the National Police arrested two Spaniards, aged 21 and 23, who are alleged to be the principal attackers. Both have previous convictions. Mr Boran reportedly had suffered two previous attacks but is not sure whether it was the same people on each occasion.
Assaults of this nature have been reported in the Torreblanca zone of Fuengirola with some frequency in recent months. The targets are always foreigners and are usually attacked after they have drawn cash from bank machines. However, the majority of cases go unreported as the victims believe the police will take no action, unlike what has occurred in Mr Boran’s caseSanta María Polo Club to be a world beater.
A spokesperson for a foreign residents’ group called for changes to be made to the policing of Fuengirola. He claimed that such attacks take place because the police are confined to barracks when they should be out on the streets on patrol.
Santa María Polo Club to be a world beater
BY DAVID EADE
THE PRESIDENT OF THE SANTA MARÍA POLO CLUB, RAMÓN MORA-FIGUEROA, RECENTLY ANNOUNCED A 172 MILLION EUROS ENLARGEMENT PLAN FOR THE COMPLEX IN SOTOGRANDE ZONE OF SAN ROQUE THAT WILL MAKE IT THE WORLD’S TOP VENUE FOR THE SPORT.
It is also intended to increase the level of membership to 1,500 people.
Mora-Figueroa presented the ambitious plans as part of the welcome ceremony for the 52nd edition of the Copa Embajadores that was held at the club over the May holiday weekend. He made his announcement at the meeting at which representatives of both Spanish and international polo federations were present.
The project will see the improvement of the club’s existing installations, the construction of new facilities as well as the creation of two zones that are complementary to the sport of polo, which will add tourist and commercial value to Santa María making it a year-round operation.
The enlargement of the club will have a positive effect on the wealth and employment levels in San Roque. It is estimated that the project will create around 1,200 indirect and direct jobs in the locality.
A group of experts, who created the installations for the Mediterranean games in Almería this year, will be responsible the project. Its design will have the protection of the environment as a top priority and will include measures to ensure savings in the consumption of water and electricity as well as the correct management of waste.
However San Roque Town Hall has issued a word of caution over the high profile announcement of the project. It has stated that the enlargement scheme has yet to be studied by its officials and the Santa María polo club cannot assume that its approval or that of the regional government will be automatically forthcoming.
Meanwhile the NH Hoteles group has stated that it intends to export the commercial model of the Sotogrande luxury resort in San Roque to other developing recreational zones in the world. The announcement was made in Madrid by the president of the hotel group, Gabriele Burgio. Both the Caribbean and Middle East are possible recipients with the Dominican Republic and United Arab Emirates being first in line. A 284-hectare ‘Sotogrande’ style development is already underway at Donnafugata in Sicily whilst Sotogrande has formed a joint company under the title Santa Barbara Golf to create a resident golf complex in Castellón which will be started next year and completed in 2008.
Red tide shuts down Costa fisheries
NEWS Staff Reporter
The fisheries from the Bay of Málaga to Nerja have been shut down to mollusc fishermen due to a red tide. The precautionary closure was ordered Monday by the Junta de Andalucía’s Agriculture and Fishing Department due to the detection of a high concentration of a toxic algae in the waters of fisheries 34 and 35 (from Málaga to Punta de Vélez and from Punta de Vélez to Maro, respectively).
The current red tide is the result of an algae that contains a species of phytoplankton known as Pseudonitzschia, which can produce a toxin called domoic acid. When the toxin is ingested by some shellfish, particularly bivalves like clams, mussels and scallops, it makes them potentially unsafe for human consumption. If eaten by humans, the contaminated shellfish can cause amnesic shellfish poisoning (ASP), which can bring on gastrointestinal and neurological problems within minutes or hours of ingestion.
Agriculture and Fishing is carrying out further analyses to determine whether shellfish in the affected areas have been contaminated by the naturally-occurring toxic algae. The closure of the fisheries is a preventative measure to protect public health while the testing is carried out. Once it is proven that the molluscs are not contaminated or the level of toxic algae recedes, the fisheries will be reopened.
Meanwhile, the Málaga mollusc fisherman will have to ply the waters of the Torremolinos-to-Manilva fisheries. Last week, part of this zone – around Marbella and Estepona – was also the subject of a red tide warning, but the Junta lifted the warning after confirming that the molluscs were unaffected.
"English-only" sparks Nerja protests
Residents complain about non- Spanish speaking businesses
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA TOWN HALL HAS RECEIVED COMPLAINTS ABOUT FOREIGN-OWNED BUSINESSES IN THE TOWN WHERE THE EMPLOYEES DO NOT SPEAK SPANISH.
It is estimated that, in the centre, as many as 30 per cent of businesses deal only in English, which has prompted a number of indignant residents to make their feelings known to the Municipal Consumer Information Office. One lady was reported to have described as "intolerable" the fact that a substantial number of establishments in Nerja cannot understand customers who speak in Spanish, and has asked the Council to recommend to such businesses - especially bars, restaurants and estate agents - that they should make information in Castillian available to the public. Another local man complained that some estate agents even make property details available in English and German, but not in Spanish, while a third Nerja resident claimed that, on a recent visit to a bar, he had to order his beer in English as the staff spoke no Spanish. He added this was not an isolated incident and that in many establishments neither the waiters or proprietor speak Spanish, nor have they bothered to print a copy of their menus in Castillian.
Nerja's Tourism Office has confirmed that it has recorded cases where Spanish tourists have completed a page of the Complaints Book - which, by law, every business is required to have available - claiming that staff were unable to converse with them in their own language or to provide any printed information as an alternative. However, the office added that nothing had changed as a result of such denuncias, adding that it was not up to them to tell private businesses how to manage their affairs.
NERJA'S FOREIGN POPULATION
Nerja has a large foreign population - around a fifth of its official total of 20,000 - with numerous British, German and Scandinavian owned businesses, amongst others. Restaurants are obliged to have a copy of their menus available in Spanish, but no other such requirements are presently in place to promote better harmony between the nationalities.
Mijas issues agricultural burning alert
NEWS Staff Reporter
Mijas Town Hall issued an alert last week that May 1 marked the beginning of the ‘medium-risk’ fire season in Andalucía. All agricultural burning (of weeds or other plant waste, tree trimmings, dry crops, etc.) must be approved ahead of time by the Junta de Andalucía Environment Department’s delegation in Málaga, said the Town Hall. Within the municipality of Mijas, it said, those seeking burning permits may submit the application to either the Las Lagunas Tenencia de Alcaldía office or the Fire Extinction and Rescue Service at 75 Camino del Coín.
The permit application must be submitted a minimum of 10 days prior to the day the burning is to be carried out. If the burning is to be prohibited, the Environment delegation will advise the applicant at least 24 hours before the scheduled burning. Obligatory precautions include keeping the burning site under observation during the entire process, including for at least two hours after the fire has been extinguished. Also, the burning must be called off if winds are blowing toward nearby structures, trees or other flammable objects, or if the wind in general is blowing at force three or greater on the Beaufort scale. The burning must be carried out on weekdays between sunrise and 14.00. In all cases, plentiful water must be available and a firebreak at least 10 metres wide must be established around the burning zone.
Málaga's Huelin beach closed
By Dave Jamieson
The city of Málaga last week closed one of its beaches while its contamination is investigated.
The construction of new beach bars on Huelin beach has led to the discovery of tar mixed with the sand in the disturbed ground. Claims have been made that the tar is a leftover from the time that the Campsa hydrocarbons factory was operating near the beach, and that, when the site was cleared in the mid 1990s, the job was "partial" and took in only the area which is now Huelin park. The allegations by the opposition socialists at Málaga Town Hall came with a demand that the beach should be closed until any danger posed to public health could be properly assessed. Last Thursday, the councillor responsible for the city's beaches, Teresa Porras, agreed to close Huelin, pending the results of analysis of the contamination, but accused the socialists of creating unjustified "social alarm". A number of different studies are understood to be underway to determine, amongst other things, if the seawater off the beach is fit for bathing.
However, the decision not to halt construction of the two new "chiringuitos" while the analysis results are awaited brought the Council accusations from the opposition that its "passive attitude of waiting is a grave irresponsibility". An IU councillor, José Luis Portillo, demanded that the Town Hall should take steps to "guarantee public health and the economic activity of the chiringuitos".
Andalucía foreign residents' boom
Brits top Málaga list in latest statistics
By Dave Jamieson
SATURDAY IS THE LAST DAY OF THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT'S AMNESTY WHICH HAS PERMITTED ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS TO APPLY FOR LEGAL STATUS WITHIN SPAIN.
However, experts do not expect that the total numbers of those without papers will be reduced substantially. The National Statistics Institute (INE) estimates that more than a million individuals will risk forced expulsion by continuing to live outside the legal requirements for non-EU citizens. A major crackdown on illegal working has been promised following the end of the amnesty period.
The INE's figures show that, last year, the province of Málaga gained almost 36,000 foreign residents - from both in and outside the European Union - with non-Spanish individuals registered at Town Halls now constituting 12.4 per cent of the province's total population of 1.45 million. The national average is 8.4 per cent.
The total of foreigners has risen by a quarter to 179,896 in 12 months making Málaga the Andalucían province with the largest number of non-Spanish residents, and placing it fifth nationally. Almost 70 per cent of those who settled in Málaga in the last year came from outside Spain, keeping Málaga second only to Sevilla as Andalucía's most heavily populated province. Just under ten per cent of the province's population is over the age of 70, nearly four per cent more than in 2003. Nationally, Spain's population of just under 44 million includes almost 3.7 million foreigners, 21.6 per cent up in a year, will the largest concentration of nearly 800,000 in Cataluña, followed by Madrid.
The INE says that Málaga's official foreign population is led by the British who account for 43,625 residents, followed by over 18,902 Moroccans and 14,821 Argentineans. Their tally also includes over 10,000 Germans and 6,000 Italians.
STATISTICS 'NOT DEFINITIVE'
However, another set of statistics suggest the figures are less than definitive. The Permanent Immigration Monitoring unit of the Ministry of Employment and Social Services says that only 27,000 British residents of Málaga hold residence cards, followed by 8,000 Moroccans and 4,000 Argentineans. The unit, which takes into account only those who reside legally, says that in the first three months of 2005 the province gained 7,767 foreigners.
This means that as ever, the statistics are approximate due to the number of non Spanish residents who fail to register their presence at a Town Hall or to apply for a residence card. The true figures are generally held to be considerably higher than last week's reports suggest, so putting a strain on the financial resources of individual municipalities whose grants from central government are based on the number of registered residents.
Benalmádena tourism campaign launch
Costa town billed as "grand theme park" in Madrid presentation
By Oliver McIntyre
BENALMÁDENA MAYOR ENRIQUE BOLÍN AND STAFF FROM PROYECTO OLIMPO, THE COMPANY IN CHARGE OF PROMOTING LOCAL TOURISM, HAVE UNVEILED THE TOWN'S NEW IMAGE.
At an event held last week in the glitzy Casino de Madrid and attended by dozens of reporters from the Spanish and international media, the mayor and his team launched their new campaign: 'Benalmádena has it all!' ('¡Todo en Benalmádena!').
At the presentation, the Benalmádena officials billed their town as "a grand theme park." They cited local tourist attractions like the Sea-Life aquarium, the Tivoli World amusement park, the Selwo Marina marine-animal park, the Telecabina cable-car ride and the Sala Fortuna nightclub theatre, which between them received over two million paid visitors last year. The mayor and his team also highlighted the town's marina, its sports-tourism offerings, and its cultural institutions and activities.
The campaign launch marked the first time that Benalmádena has made such a presentation aimed specifically at the domestic and international press.
Costa del Sol News was one of many publications represented at the event, including major UK newspapers like The Independent and other international news agencies. Mayor Bolín invited all the journalists to come to visit Benalmádena personally in late May or early June for a Town Hall-hosted programme of activities.
Driest spell for 60 years hits Spain
NEWS Staff Reporter
Spain is going through its worst drought for 60 years. Following earlier warnings by the province of Málaga's supply authority, the Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza (CDSN last week), the National Meteorological Institute (INM) says that the lack of rain in the five months from November to March means that the country is suffering is driest spell since 1947, the first year in which rainfall data was accurately recorded. The INM says that, on March 31, the total volume of water stored in the country's reservoirs was 37 per cent less than average and that every month since the start of the hydrological year on September 1 had been officially classified as dry or very dry. January was the driest month, with just 16 per cent of average rainfall recorded. The Institute says the situation is one of "extreme drought" and cites the driest regions as western parts of Andalucía, along with Extremadura and Castilla - La Mancha.
The Minister for the Environment, Cristina Narbona, responded to the statistics by claiming that water supplies were guaranteed despite the low rainfall. While recognising the severity of the situation, she pointed to alternative resources and to the 100 million euros of emergency work already underway in Murcia, Andalucía, Ceuta and Melilla. The Minister also made a plea for the public to make efficient use of water.
Farmers and growers are particularly concerned, and their association Asaja last week wrote to Elena Espinosa, the Minister of Agriculture, demanding immediate action to counter the water shortages. Asaja's letter said such action did not have a direct economic cost and were easy and quick to put into operation "if the political will exists for them".
Ecologists have expressed concern about the increased risk of fire in the countryside because of the dry state of the vegetation and early high temperatures. The fire protection service Infoca has already activated half its personnel and more than a dozen people have been arrested in Málaga already this year for starting fires. It says negligence by agricultural workers is the most common cause of the blazes.
The Junta de Andalucía rejected claims that it was "alarmed" by the situation in the region, saying that it was preparing various steps to be taken if required. A number of wells, excavated in the Guadiaro area during the drought of 1995, had been reactivated, for example. The average annual rainfall in the city of Málaga is 547 litres per square metre, while this year, just 172 litres have been recorded in the first four months. The three most recent dry years were 1985 when 266 litres was recorded, 1994 (299 litres) and 1981 (314 litres).