News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week May 26th to June 1st 2005.
HOLIDAY RENTALS TARGETED
New national laws to come into effect by the end of the year
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE UNREGULATED RENTAL OF HOLIDAY APARTMENTS, VIEWED AS A THREAT BY THE HOTEL INDUSTRY AND AS A MAJOR LOSS OF TAX REVENUES BY THE GOVERNMENT, IS THE TARGET OF NEW LAWS BEING DRAWN UP AT BOTH REGIONAL AND NATIONAL LEVEL.
The Junta de Andalucía is working on legislation aimed at better defining and classifying holiday-rental apartments, and even establishing a registration system for apartments that are to be put to such use, in order to better regulate them. Officials say professors at Sevilla University are currently drawing up the draft legislation, which, following review by lawmakers and industry groups, could be passed into law by the end of this year. Similar regulations have recently been established in the country’s other principal tourism markets, the Balearic and Canary Islands.
FRAUDULENT RENTALS UNDER CONTROL
Central Government is working on a new law aimed specifically at what it considers the fraudulent renting out of holiday apartments without declaring the associated income for tax purposes. It estimates that around 80 per cent of holiday-apartment rentals in the province of Málaga fall under this category. Meanwhile, the National Statistical Institute (INE) is working on a census of holiday apartments in order to create a more exact assessment of the sector.
The CCOO trade union estimates that in the Costa del Sol there are about 1.2 million beds in the ‘residential tourism’ market, of which 400,000 are used as holiday-rental apartments. The provincial government’s ‘Sopde’ planning and development agency estimates that only about 60 per cent of all Costa tourists stay in hotels. And the tourism-industry association Exeltur says that last year more than 10 million visitors to Spain stayed in their own holiday home or that of a friend or family member, about double the figure of seven years ago.
FOREIGN HOMEOWNERS TO GET OMBUDSMAN
In the midst of all the controversy over holiday-apartment rentals and traditional versus residential tourism, at least one group was voicing its support last week for the so-called residential tourists. The Association of Residential and Sports Tourism Developers (Promotur) announced plans to create a sort of ombudsman for foreign homeowners in Spain. Promotur says the ‘defensor del cliente’ will help provide the Costa holiday-home market a level of transparency and security that can be promoted in outside markets, particularly the UK.
Court investigates Manilva land deals
BY DAVID EADE
MANILVA, WHOSE MAYOR IS THE FORMER GIL PARTY MEMBER PEDRO TIRADO, HAS SIGNED TWO AGREEMENTS IN NINE MONTHS THAT INCREASED BY 80 PER CENT THE DENSITY OF CONSTRUCTION ON 130 HECTARES OF LAND.
Now the Marbella judge carrying out the investigation in to the ‘Ballena Blanca – White Whale’ money laundering operation on the Costa del Sol, Miguel Ángel Torres, is examining the circumstances surrounding the reclassification and sale of the land at La Parrada.
The land in question, which is close to Manilva’s border with San Roque, covers 1.3 million square metres and was sold at the end of last summer for 160 million euros to five property developers. The sale was made by the Finn Aki Kujala, who has since been detained and jailed by Sr Torres as he is suspected of being one of those involved in the Ballena Blanca scam.
The land was sold by Royal Marbella Estates, a company that is administered by Start Michael Klaus DKM whose representative is the German (edit). Kujala has no direct relationship with Royal Marbella Estates but is alleged to have been involved in organising the two town planning agreements with the Town Hall for La Parada.
CONSTRUCTION DENSITY UP BY 80 PER CENT
Manilva Town Hall, presided over by Mayor Pedro Tirado, the ex-Gilista who stood for the Partido Democrático de Manilva at the last local elections, signed in less than a year two town-planning agreements with Royal Marbella Estates. Thanks to these agreements the 1.3 million square metres of land was given a building density of 18 dwellings per hectare, thereby increasing the construction density by 80 per cent. The previous density had been 10 dwellings and the change meant that apartment blocks could now be built on the site rather than individual houses.
The final accord between the Mayor and the property company was signed in August 2004 just a month before Aki Kujala and the representative of Royal Marbella Estates closed the sales agreement for the land. The first agreement was signed on November 28, 2003; five months after Sr Tirado became Mayor, in which the Town Hall is said to have agreed to zone the land as being for construction. It is understood that Manilva Town Hall received 1.5 million euros for the first agreement and 4.2 million euros for its coffers for the second.
La Parada had been zoned by Manilva Town Hall in 1994 as being for urban use in its local development plan (PGOU). The regional government’s provincial town planning commission then suspended the move as in its view Manilva had already zoned an excessive amount of land for urban use.
Apart from the land sales there also seems to be a link between the Mayor of Manilva and Aki Kujala. It is alleged that Francisco Calle, the Mayor’s brother-in-law, is a member of Gestierra Andalucía, which is in turn owned by Kujala. The company was founded in April 2004 and has as its objectives the promotion and construction of golf courses and hotels.
Foreign residents protest cat-feeding ban
NEWS Staff Reporter
A group of foreign residents in Nerja have given the Town Hall written notification of their intention to leave the town if the local government ignores their call for an end to the cat-feeding ban in public areas, according to Sanitation and Beaches councillor José Miguel García. Stray cats, as well as dogs, have become a touchy and controversial subject in the town. Residents of areas like El Chaparil and Castilla Pérez have complained to the Town Hall about problems due to an overabundance of strays. Complaints also arise in the Balcón de Europa, Calahonda and El Salón beach areas, where it is believed as many as a hundred stray cats live.
Among the actions taken by the Town Hall was the posting of signs telling people that feeding the cats is prohibited. Other measures include stepped up stray-catching efforts and pleas to the public to not abandon animals in the streets. Those with unwanted animals should contact the Town Hall or an animal shelter, say municipal sources.
For some foreign residents in the town who regularly feed the cats in the beach zones, the feeding ban is an unacceptable solution to the problem. But to date, the Town Hall has announced no plans to remove the signs.
British woman accused of fraud
By David Eade
The ‘London School of English’ language school in the avenida de Málaga in Ronda has been closed since April 15. Now its 28-year-old British owner, identified at Kelly V.B., has been arrested by the National Police and is being held at the disposition of the courts accused of various counts of fraud.
Police acted after official complaints were made alleging that the Briton had defrauded 22 families and various companies to the value of 5,300 euros. The fraud relates to monies paid by students for their classes and also for an end-of-course trip. Before the closure of the school the students had to pay the cost of the lessons for April, their pre-exam fees and the cost of a study trip that was to have taken place in the summer. However the school closed without any warning in the middle of April and there was no further contact from the owner of the school.
When phone calls to the schools contact numbers were not answered the families of the various pupils contacted the police. Various local businesses that claim they are owed money by the language school’s owner have also laid formal complaints.
Mother comes to the rescue
However when the Costa del Sol News spoke to Kelly’s mother, the well-known TV clairvoyant, Josefina Valero, she claimed that the whole case had been blown out of all proportion. She stated that the amount involved was far less than the 5,300 euros stated and that the students who had paid the April fee had received tuition for the first two weeks. She also added that only a few of the students had complained to the police. She further alleged that Kelly’s Portuguese husband had been strip searched by the police and told he would be sent to jail for fraud adding that she believed there were racist overtones to the whole case. Sra Valero added: “On Thursday we are meeting with Kelly’s lawyer who will then have access to the court papers showing all the allegations made against her. We will talk to the press after that to clarify the situation.”
Illegal-home amnesty rejected
Regional government says case-by-case review needed
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS STATED THAT IT BELIEVES ABOUT 85 PER CENT OF THE PROPERTIES ILLEGALLY BUILT UNDER PREVIOUS ADMINISTRATIONS IN MARBELLA CAN BE LEGALISED, BUT HAS REJECTED THE BLANKET AMNESTY THAT WAS REQUESTED BY THE TOWN HALL.
Many new buildings in Marbella do not comply with the 1986 local development plan (PGOU), which is the only one recognised by the Andalucía government. One major problem is that some of the newer illegal properties have been sold on and the current owners fear they could lose their homes through no fault of their own.
Mayor Marisol Yagüe is anxious to avoid widespread demolition but the Junta de Andalucía insists that to give a general amnesty instead of studying each case individually would be fraudulent. It is also concerned about cases where buildings have been constructed on land categorised for other purposes, such as green space. The Junta argues that people who benefit from having their properties legalised should pay for the creation of green zones to replace those that were built on.
NEW PORT AND ROADS
Meanwhile, further details of the new draft PGOU have been released. It includes a leisure port in San Pedro de Alcántara plus a new bypass road to the north of the town through the Sierra Blanca, aimed at alleviating traffic congestion around the La Cañada shopping centre. It also calls for abolishing the toll on the motorway between San Pedro and Marbella. Also included in the draft PGOU is the long-awaited project to convert the A-7 (old N-340) highway to an underpass at the entrance to San Pedro.
Alhaurín dust-up over air metres
NEWS Staff Reporter
The opposition socialist PSOE party in Alhaurín de la Torre has publicly denounced the fact that metres to test for dust particles in the air, a measure that was approved in May of 2003, have still not been installed in the town. The dust-metres are supposed to be set up by the quarrying companies as part of an accord reached between the Town Hall, the Junta de Andalucía and the local quarrying industry. The PSOE blames the Town Hall and Mayor Joaquín Villanova (Partido Popular) for the delay in getting the metres installed, and says that it has been requesting progress reports on the project since 2003. In August of that year, say party representatives, initial testing showed suspended-dust-particle levels at between 1.8 and five times legal levels.
Municipal sources say the delay by the companies “has occurred despite the Town Hall continually insisting” on the project’s completion. The Town Hall says that the setback in getting the metres installed and functioning is that the machines have not yet received the necessary certification from an authorised agency or company.
Suicide pact suspected in Cajiz tragedy
By Dave Jamieson
The bodies of a man and a woman were found last week inside a house located about a kilometre outside the Axarquía town of Cajiz. The National Police say that when officers arrived at the house in response to an emergency call last Thursday, the woman, who was found in one of the bedrooms with a plastic bag over her head, appeared to have been asphyxiated while the man had apparently hanged himself. It is believed the bodies remained undiscovered for four days until a friend called at the house.
The couple had lived in the rented house in the area known as Los Almendros for some years and had been trying to sell their business in Torre del Mar with the intention of moving elsewhere on the Costa del Sol. Shocked neighbours in the area, which is popular with foreign residents, said the man, in his 50s, was from Hanover and always appeared pleasant.
Investigations are ongoing, including the examination of a number of letters, written in German, found by the bodies. Officers are working on the theory of a suicide pact, although the motives are unclear. Forensic examinations revealed that the woman had been dead for a week and that her husband ended his life some days later. Police said there were no signs of a struggle or violence, suggesting that no third party was involved.
Cases of lung cancer in women double in a year
Costa del Sol Hospital to take ‘No smoking’ campaign to schools
BY DAVID EADE
ACCORDING TO FIGURES RELEASED BY THE COSTA DEL SOL HOSPITAL IN MARBELLA SMOKING ACCOUNTS FOR AROUND FOUR MILLION DEATHS EVERY YEAR IN SPAIN AS WELL AS CAUSING NUMEROUS CARDIOVASCULAR, RESPIRATORY DISEASES – THE MOST FREQUENT BEING CHRONIC BRONCHITIS - AS WELL AS NUMEROUS TUMOURS.
The Costa del Sol medical centre has also expressed its concern about the large increase in the number of cases of lung cancer amongst local women that it has detected, which have doubled in the past year. In 2004 the hospital’s lung disease department diagnosed for the first time over 100 cases of cancer between both sexes.
Lung specialist, José Luis Fernández Guerra, laid the increase in the incidence of lung cancer cases amongst women on the change in their social conditions. He stated that more women were now working, their roll in society had changed and the publicity campaigns of tobacco companies were now being aimed at them as well as young people.
CHILDREN START SMOKING AT 12
In relation to smoking amongst the young a survey of Marbella school children carried out last year showed that most smokers started the habit at an average age of 13 years. Sixty per cent of young smokers had their first cigarette between the ages of 12 and 15 years whilst 27 per cent before they had reached 12.
This week the hospital is co-promoting a ‘no smoking’ campaign in conjunction with Marbella’s delegation for youth and sport. It will see groups of doctors visiting secondary schools throughout the municipality as part of a wider education campaign using videos and discussion groups to bring home the deadly effects of smoking.
PARTICIPATE IN ‘MARBELLA SIN TABACO’
This coming Sunday the municipality will celebrate its third popular run under the banner ‘Marbella sin tabaco’. It is a fun run over 4,500 metres that will start in the Alameda at 11.00. Entry to the race is free, all age groups can take part and you can enrol at the hospital, the Juventud and Deportes delegations or local sports clubs. The first 500 runners to enrol will be given a t-shirt to commemorate ‘World Non-Smoking Day’ on May 31.
Estepona on rural fire alert
News Staff Reporter
As summer approaches there is a heightened risk of fires in the forest and mountain zones of Estepona. This had led to a meeting being held between the town hall’s delegations of mountains and the environment in order to take steps to intensify the prevention and vigilance operations to stop fires breaking out.
The various rural brigades operating in Estepona have now started working together to hopefully prevent any serious summer fires that all too often are started by human negligence. Four rural vigilantes will now patrol the zones of the municipality throughout daylight hours and will also work with officers from the environmental wing of the Guardia Civil, Seprona plus local civilian security officers.
The councillor responsible for the mountain zones, Miguel Escarcena, stated that teams of workers are busy clearing the rural roads and also creating access for the fire brigade and civil defence units should they be called upon to tackle a fire. For his part the environment councillor, Juan Manual Rodríguez stressed that cleaning and maintenance of the firebreaks to prevent fires from rapidly spreading was also underway.
The two councillors will be meeting shortly with the provincial delegate for the environment, Ignacio Trillo, as well as regional government technicians to plan the fire prevention activity for this summer. They will also be discussing the work the Andalucía authority is doing in a general clean up of the forest zones as well as the reforestation plan for the areas that have been damaged by fire in recent years which affected 70 per cent of Estepona’s forests.
They will rock you!
Málaga prepares for Queen musical
By Dave Jamieson
THE HUGELY SUCCESSFUL STAGE MUSICAL BASED ON THE MUSIC OF THE LEGENDARY BAND QUEEN AND ITS VOCALIST, THE LATE FREDDIE MERCURY, IS COMING TO THE CERVANTES THEATRE IN SEPTEMBER.
“We will rock you” opened at London’s Dominion Theatre in May 2002, and has since played to an audience of a million at that venue alone. Add the 100,000 who have seen the production which opened the following year in Madrid, plus those who have attended performances in Barcelona, Bilbao, Valencia and many other stagings around the world, and the total of those who have already seen the show is vast.
The book is by UK comic Ben Elton who created a plot woven around the hit songs of Queen and set in the future in a place which was once called Earth. Everyone watches the same movies, wears the same clothes, and thinks the same thoughts, now that globalisation is complete. Playing rock and roll music has been banned for centuries, but resistance is growing and rebels start a search for a hero who can inspire people again.
The idea for the musical came from actor Robert de Niro. He had seen a series of short films about the band at the Venice Film Festival, and found himself talking with guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor at an after-show party. The idea was developed and de Niro himself was one of the original show’s four financial backers.
The 30-strong company of this blend of science fiction, comedy and music will give seven performances in Málaga across four days between September 8 and 11 - at 21.00h on the first night, at 19.00 and 22.30h on the following two nights, and at 18.30 and 21.30 on the final night. Most of the songs will be in English, although two – “No one but you” and “These are the days of our lives” – have been translated into Spanish.
Benalmádena Marina expansion gets green light
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
“BENALMÁDENA WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST RECREATIONAL MARINA ON THE MEDITERRANEAN,” BOASTED THE TOWN HALL LAST WEEK AFTER RECEIVING A REPORT FROM THE REGIONAL PORT AUTHORITY (EPPA) THAT, WITH A FEW CONDITIONS, GIVES THE GO-AHEAD TO THE TOWN HALL’S LONG-FOUGHT MARINA EXPANSION PLAN.
The main changes required by EPPA are a reduction in the number of parking spaces, from the planned 1,100 to 364, and in increase in the number of new moorage slots, from the projected 800 to 1,000. The greater number of new moorages is possible because of an increase in the Marina’s water area due to the nixing of a land zone where the Town Hall originally wanted to put an opera house. The Marina will now have a water area of 197,630 square metres, 27,000 square metres more than the Town Hall had planned. It will have a total of nearly 2,000 moorages.
Because of the reduction in parking, the only access-road improvements required will be modifications to existing roads, said Mayor Enrique Bolín last week. Access roads had been one of the biggest sticking points for the expansion plan, which the Town Hall has been trying to get off the ground for some eight years. Its investment in the project so far, just for the technical plans, reports and bureaucratic process of trying to get the plan approved, have run to 1.8 million euros, according to municipal sources.
60 MILLION EUROS EXPANSION
The actual expansion is expected to cost 60 million euros, with a construction timeline of around three years once work begins. Before that can happen, the Town Hall needs to incorporate the changes indicated in the EPPA report and submit the plan to the Junta de Andalucía for final sign-off. Municipal sources say the construction contract could be awarded by the end of this year.
No need for water panic- yet
Andalucía’s water reserves ‘sufficient’
By David Eade
ACCORDING TO THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY ANDALUCÍA IS BETTER PLACED NOW TO FACE A DROUGHT THAT DURING THE LAST DRY PERIOD BETWEEN 1992 AND 1995.
In the interim a new programme of reservoir building has taken place with the result that the region has a 17.2 per cent higher storage capacity than previously.
With its new reservoirs Andalucía can now store 3,304 cubic hectometres of water compared with 2,734 in the 1990s. Current works in progress will boost that storage capacity by another 400 cubic hectometres when completed. With just a few weeks before the official start of summer Andalucía’s reservoirs are at an average capacity of 65 per cent and officials say that severe usage restrictions will only be invoked when the levels drop to 10 per cent.
Of course the new increased capacity is a fine thing but the reservoirs are still dependent on heavy rains to fill them to their capacity. For now the experts say there is no cause for worry but if there is no substantial rainfall in the autumn then the same experts say Andalucía will have problems.
The reservoirs are not the only source of water in the region. New technology in the form of water desalination plants are already producing in both Málaga and Almería provinces 82.1 cubic hectometres of water a year which can be used to alleviate any problems on the Mediterranean coast.
Although there has been an increase in the water storage capacity in Andalucía the further good news is that consumer demand has not increased at the same pace. Therefore with the increased capacity the region has larger long-term reserves.
Experts have described two types of drought that are affecting the region. The first drought, a meteorological one, has been brought on by an average 50 per cent drop in rainfall, with the shortfall in Almería standing at 75 per cent. The second has been described as a vegetation drought affecting both crops and the soil.
TWO YEARS’ WATER
With certain provisions, the authorities are confident that Andalucía presently has sufficient water for two years for ‘priority users’ of water of 80 per cent of the population. However experts have also stated that there could be problems in less than a year on the Costa del Sol where the increase in summer visitors could make necessary the use of alternative supply sources such as the damn at La Viñuela and the connection to Málaga capital as well as a revision of the supplies from wells to ensure the maximum output.
Airports to check passengers’ identity
By NEWS Staff Reporter
From this week, all passengers flying out of a Spanish airport must present proof of identity before being allowed to board an aircraft. Previously, only those travelling to destinations not covered by the Schengen agreement were required to confirm their identities.
The body controlling Civil Aviation in Spain has introduced the requirement for all airlines operating in the country, covering both international and domestic flights. It said that the change has come about “as a result of Community requirements”, referring to the EU’s flight security programme. Passengers now must present either a national identity card (DNI) or passport along with their boarding card at the point of embarkation, to ensure that the boarding card is being used by its true owner.
Meanwhile, passengers numbers at Málaga airport were up 0.3 per cent on the same month last year. Travellers to and from domestic destination rose 5.9 per cent, whereas international travellers fell by 1.2 per cent. As usual Britons accounted for most foreign arrivals with 55 per cent of the total of over 788,000. 3.4 million passengers passed through the terminals in the first four months of the year. Nationally, passenger numbers rose 5.3 per cent last month, and 7.4 per cent between January and April compared to 2004.