News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week June 2nd to June 8th 2005.
POT PLAN SAVES THE DAY
Axarquía’s reclassification plan could legalise 10,000 houses
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THERE ARE AN ESTIMATED 10,000 ILLEGALLY CONSTRUCTED HOUSES IN THE AXARQUÍA WHICH IF LAND IS RECLASSIFIED UNDER THE NEW POT PLAN COULD BECOME LEGAL.
The Public Works department at the Junta de Andalucía confirmed that as many as 10,000 houses are now considered to be illegal after issuing a report which has been presented to representatives of 31 municipalities.
Presenting the Plan de Ordenación del Territorio (POT), Vicente Granados said that the existence of this number of illegal buildings, mainly in the interior areas, was partly as a result of the fact that a third of municipalities in the area have no planning policy.
URBAN GROUPS CLASSIFICATION
To solve the problem, the POT proposes to favour the development of urban groups, while taking care to maintain the countryside’s appearance, structures and environment. It suggests so-called “compact urbanisations” (urbanizaciones compactas) with a maximum of 30 houses per hectare, “soft urbanisations” (urbanizaciones blandas) with a minimum of five hectares and up to four houses per hectare, and “rustic” (rústico) areas of at least 25,000 square metres intended for agricultural and farming use. When districts begin to have problems of expansion because of lack of space, urbanisations could be regraded from “soft” to “compact”.
‘SOFT’ ZONES TO LEGALISE PROBLEM HOUSES
However, the POT does not address the problem, raised by several municipalities, of residential properties which have been built on land presently defined as agricultural. The Mayor of Frigiliana, Javier López, went so far as to suggest that the plan should instead offer different solutions for the varying areas of the Axarquía. Others agreed that the introduction of the “soft” zones could legalise almost 80 per cent of problem houses. Ecologists groups say they are concerned that any sort of “amnesty” should be offered to the owners of illegally constructed houses. The document now goes into a development stage during which regional government is inviting comments on its contents.
Guadalhorce hospital still controversial
Cómpeta PP opposition party believes the project is not viable financially
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
NOT EVERYBODY IN THE GUADALHORCE VALLEY REJOICED AT THE RECENT NEWS THAT THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA HAD DECIDED TO PROVIDE THE AREA WITH ITS OWN REGIONAL HOSPITAL.
First there were the mayors from neighbouring towns who complained about Cártama being selected as the location for the new medical centre. Now complaints are coming from within Cártama itself, from the opposition Partido Popular, which says the Town Hall has ‘mortgaged the town’s future’ by agreeing to both provide the land for the hospital and pay part of the construction costs.
Under the agreement signed by the Town Hall, the Junta de Andalucía and the provincial government, Cártama is to put up the 45,000-square-metre site and pay six million euros toward construction, while the provincial government pays 7.2 million euros and the Junta 12 million euros.
THERE IS NO PLEASING SOME
The PP in Cártama says the bill is simply too high for a town with a total annual budget of 11 million euros. The Town Hall also currently has an outstanding loan of 2.4 million euros, says the PP. The group also complains that the proposed hospital is smaller and with fewer types of treatment than the regional hospitals of other areas with similar or smaller populations, like Antequera, the Axarquía or Ronda.
Wanninkhof family says King did not act alone
NEWS Staff Reporter
The private prosecution in the Rocío Wanninkhof murder case, made up by the 19-year-old victim’s family, has submitted its summary of charges and sentencing request. The family is seeking a 20-year prison sentence for Briton Tony Alexander King. It has requested that the trial get underway with King as the sole defendant, but in its summary of charges it insists that King acted “according to a plan created with third parties who accepted and participated, fully or in part, in the execution of the repugnant act.” Several parts of the summary refer to King approaching the victim or assaulting her “alone or in the company of at least two people.”
Among the private prosecution’s list of 59 proposed witnesses to give testimony at the trial is Dolores Vázquez, who was previously convicted of the 1999 Mijas murder but was released from prison when the higher courts annulled her trial. She was later cleared of all charges after King was arrested for the murder of another teenage girl in Coín and DNA samples linked him to the Wanninkhof murder. Rocío Wanninkhof’s family has insistently maintained that Sra Vázquez, who previously had a romantic relationship with Rocío’s mother, was involved in the crime.
The private prosecution’s sentencing request is lighter than that requested by the public prosecutor’s office, which is asking for 26 years and nine months for King. The public prosecutor’s charges against King are murder and attempted sexual aggression.
Major NATO exercise in the Straits and Andalucía
News Staff Reporter
A major NATO exercise is underway involving around 10,000 troops and 47 warships. It is the most important aero-naval exercise to be organised by the Spanish Navy in 2005 and carries the code name ‘Neotapon 05’.
Vice-Admiral José Martínez Sainz-Rojas announced to the media that the exercise would run until June 10. It would be carried out in the Straits of Gibraltar, the Mar de Alborán off the Costa del Sol as well as at land sites at ‘Alvarez de Sotomayor’ in Almería and the Sierra del Retín in Cádiz.
Taking part are military units and personnel from ten European countries including Britain plus Turkey and Morocco. On the high seas there will be 27 Spanish naval vessels plus 19 from NATO countries and one from Morocco. King Juan Carlos has already visited the troops taking part in the exercise in Almería.
Smoking kills one person every hour in Andalucía
Teenage girls smoke at higher rate than boys
By David Eade
ROUGHLY EVERY HOUR A RESIDENT OF ANDALUCÍA DIES AS A CONSEQUENCE OF TOBACCO USE, WITH A TOTAL OF 10,000 DEATHS IN THE REGION EACH YEAR FROM ILLNESSES PROVOKED BY SMOKING.
The unsettling figures were released by the Andalucía minister of Health, María Jesús Montero, as part of the events staged to commemorate Monday’s World No Tobacco Day. She released a series of stark statistics, including the fact that a person’s life expectancy is reduced by 15 years if he or she smokes. Surveys have revealed that 14.6 per cent of girls aged 14 to 15 smoke on a daily basis, well ahead of 4.9 per cent of boys, she said.
The average age for starting smoking dropped to 16.9 years in 2003 from the previous level of 17.1. One out of every four boys aged 11 to 12 admit that they have tried smoking and half of 14-year-olds have smoked at some time.
The addiction to tobacco is highest amongst the lowest income groups, according to official figures. Data suggests that people with fewer resources smoke more and have more difficulty it giving up.
QUITTING THE HABIT
The Andalucía Health Service (SAS) has two schemes aimed at preventing smoking and encouraging smokers to kick the habit. The first is a minimal intervention offered at all health centres, in which patients are given information on the effects of smoking. Between five and 14 per cent of people who receive this attention go on to give up smoking, according to official figures. The second, a more advanced intervention, involves pharmacological and psychological therapies. This method has a success rate of around 40 per cent. In the past year the number of Andalucíans who have approached the health service for help to give up smoking has doubled.
Manilva’s town planning woes
By David Eade
LAST WEEK THE COSTA DEL SOL NEWS REPORTED ON THE INVESTIGATION INTO THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING THE RECLASSIFICATION AND SALE OF LAND AT LA PARRADA IN MANILVA.
Now Manilva’s council is to investigate claims that a large housing development is being constructed in the municipality not only on land owned by the local authority but also without the relevant works licence. The matter was raised at last week’s council meeting by Izquierda Unida councillors. Mayor Pedro Tirado claimed he was surprised by the claims and announced that he would order the works to be suspended while an investigation is carried out.
According to IU councillors around 700 square metres of the 5,495 square metre site is owned by the municipality and they claim the construction company has already built a swimming pool and a social club on it without a licence and without permission to use the land.
The future of the Costa
Meanwhile mayor Pedro Tirado has been proclaiming Manilva as the future of the Costa del Sol. He insisted that his administration did not intend to allow construction and population growth on such a scale that Manilva lost its identity. He added: “we want to progress in a reasonable and balanced manner.”
As to the new local development plan (PGOU) the mayor has told the professionals drawing up the document that local people must have a voice and vote on the decisions for the future of Manilva. Tirado also urged local residents to make their comments and voice their criticisms of the plan that can be viewed at the local town hall.
Bay industries to reduce emissions
News Staff Reporter
The air pollution in the Bay of Algeciras industrial zone is now to be tackled head on by the regional government. It is to issue a decree ordering the companies involved to reduce their emissions of sulphur dioxide. They will be forced to change the fuels that they currently use for others that carry fewer pollutants.
These moves were announced in Algeciras by Fuensanta Coves of the Junta de Andalucía’s environment department. She said that her department had been forced to act because of recent pollution incidents. She pointed to 33 cases of contamination reported so far this year and stated that whilst in none of them the legal limits for emissions had been exceeded they had generated bad smells, caused nuisance and alarm amongst local people.
The new norms are to be laid down in a special update to the current air quality plan of the Campo de Gibraltar. It will legally require industrial companies to reduce their levels of sulphur dioxide emissions. The new regulations should be in operation in two months and will require industry to change from its present fuel that has 1.5 per cent sulphur to others with a lower percentage.
Sra. Coves stressed that when these new regulations came in they would be legally binding whereas at present the agreements governing pollution levels are only voluntary. Higher levels of vigilance would also be introduced to enforce the new decrees. An air monitoring control unit has already been installed in the industrial estate and will operate on a 24-hour basis with five technicians assigned to its operation.
Tourists block farm tracks at Maro
By Dave Jamieson
Farmers and growers between Nerja and Maro are facing more problems. Already hit by a series of major thefts of produce from their fields, they have now complained to Nerja Town Hall that cars parked by holiday makers are blocking access to their land. Tourists wishing to make their way to some of the more remote beaches at the foot of the Maro cliffs must use agricultural tracks to get there, and many are parking their cars on these tracks and blocking the farmers’ way. José Moreno of the Maro Agricultural Cooperative says that, at present, the problem is restricted to weekends but as the main holiday season begins, it is feared that it will become an everyday occurrence, preventing growers getting their vans and lorries carrying produce onto the main road for distribution. In the worst incident so far, the track leading to La Caleta beach was obstructed where cars had been left 200 metres away, at the point where vehicles cannot travel further. Sr Moreno said that, on occasion, more than 30 cars had blocked the way and the Local Police had been called to tow away the offenders. The traffic department at Nerja Town Hall said that signs, prohibiting parking on all such tracks used by local farmers, would soon be erected at their entrances from the main road.
From Town Hall to hotel
New project planned for Fuengirola
BY DAVID EADE
FUENGIROLA’S PRESENT TOWN HALL WAS CONSTRUCTED IN 1868 AND HAS OVER THE YEARS BEEN A SCHOOL, A CHAPEL, A COURT, AND EVEN A PRISON. NOW, IF ALL GOES TO PLAN, IN THE FUTURE IT WILL BECOME A HOTEL.
A new Town Hall is to be built next to the history museum and the local authority has been looking for a new use for the charming old building. It has decided that it could be converted in to a lovely 36-room three-star hotel without it being necessary to extend the building. If the project goes ahead, it would cost some 1,400,000 euros for the structural conversion and a further 300,000 for the interior design.
Fuengirola’s Mayor, Esperanza Oña, suggested that the hotel could be called ‘Hotel Casa Consistorial’. Its aim would be to attract a different type of tourist from those who want a sunshine and beach holiday.
HELP FOR TRADERS REJECTED
As Fuengirola’s Mayor was contemplating the future of the Town Hall the socialist group on the town council were calling for help for all the businesses in the commercial centre affected by the works especially in the Avenida Ramón y Cajal.
The second phase of the remodelling of the avenue has taken four months and the PSOE party argues that the disruption caused is unjustified. At Monday’s meeting of the town council it called for financial aid for 30 businesses located between Arroyo Real and Juan Sebastían Elcano who have suffered badly.
However the ruling Partido Popular group totally rejected the motion. The councillor for finances, Ana Mula, was adamant that no municipal aid would be forthcoming. She described the PSOE request as “incoherent” and rejected any aid for traders in the streets that are affected by the improvement works.
Restrictions as water dries up
By Dave Jamieson
As the region saw its first water restrictions in a summer which promises potentially serious drought, the row over Nerja’s long-overdue water purification plant has resurfaced.
The Town Hall at Villanueva del Trabuco, 20 kilometres east of Antequera, has prohibited the use of water for various activities after supplies fell below 25 per cent of their capacity. Within the municipal area, water may not now be used for irrigation, filling swimming pools or storage tanks, or for washing cars and other vehicles. The mayor, Mercedes Pascual Martín, said the step had been taken because of “the special circumstances of drought this year”, but the Union of Small Agriculturalists in Málaga said they had not been notified of any restrictions by the water authority, the Cuenca Mediterranéa Andaluza (CMA).
Meanwhile, Nerja’s mayor has criticised the CMA, for “failing to achieve promises made to councillors, businesses and the public” at a meeting last December, when the project to build a water purification plant in the town was again debated. José Alberto Armijo says that on that occasion, the CMA undertook to visit Nerja during January to agree on a new site for construction of the plant, but that they never arrived. He also said that a number of other details regarding the project, including its financing, were still outstanding, and called for immediate liaison between the CMA and the Junta de Andalucía on the subject.
The provision of Nerja’s water purification plant has become a long running political 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 the Junta over who would pay, and Greenpeace has criticised Nerja for failing to have the facility operating. After last December’s meeting, the shock announcement came that Nerja might have to wait another ten years before getting its water purification plant. Engineers said 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. It was estimated 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. At the time, Mayor Armijo described this as “unacceptable”.
Following the mayor’s recent criticism, the president of the CMA, Antonio Rodríguez Leal, hit back at Nerja, accusing Sr Armijo of blocking progress on the project. He said the Town Hall had rejected the Junta’s suggested resiting of the plant by the Chillar River. The matter was due to be debated at a full meeting of Nerja Council earlier this week.
Mijas International Day
By Oliver McIntyre
THOUSANDS TURNED OUT SATURDAY FOR MIJAS’ XVII INTERNATIONAL DAY, A CELEBRATION OF THE TOWN’S DIVERSITY OF CULTURES AND NATIONALITIES.
Nearly 30 groups, most representing countries but some from specific organisations like the Royal British Legion or the Royal Air Force Association, operated stands at the event. The members of each group offered traditional food and drink from their country of origin and many were decked out in colourful traditional outfits representing their home culture. The Russia stand (pictured) was awarded first prize overall for decoration, outfits and food and drink. Second place went to France and third place to India.
Just hours before Cuban-born singing star Lucrecia was set to take the stage at Saturday’s International Day in Mijas, a lighting scaffold collapsed and the heavy spotlights slammed down onto the performance platform. “Thank god there was no one there at the time the lights fell”, a relieved Mijas Foreigners’ Department representative told Costa del Sol News.
The scaffold collapsed sometime between 21.00 and 22.00, apparently due to one of its steal support legs breaking. The only show planned for the stage was a midnight performance by Lucrecia, whose production team had brought the stage equipment with them from Valladolid and set it up themselves, the department representative told CDSN.
Foreigners’ Department staff immediately notified the fire department, which brought a crane to the site to remove the heavy scaffold. The stage crew made some last minute adjustments to ensure everything was in order, and the show went on, albeit an hour or so late. Lucrecia took the stage at around 01:30, filling the night air with Latin sounds and thrilling those fans who had been patient enough to wait out the delay, said the Foreigners’ Department source.
(Full photo report in next week’s issue.)
Apartment-rental programme heats up
Regional government’s new scheme stirs interest
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA’S RECENTLY LAUNCHED PROGRAMME TO PROMOTE THE RENTING OUT OF SOME OF THE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF EMPTY APARTMENTS IN THE REGION AND PROVIDE AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR YOUNG PEOPLE MAY SOON BE BEARING FRUIT.
The scheme, which provides incentives to apartment owners and rental agencies, and subsidies to young renters, got underway around a month ago and appears to be stirring interest in the sector.
In the province of Málaga, which by itself is estimated to have some 100,000 unused apartments, 20 agencies or other entities have applied for certification under the Junta’s ‘Registro Público de Agencias de Alquiler’, which administers the programme. Two, the agency Rentacasa and the Federation of Homeowners Associations (Unidad), have already been certified, according to officials. Ten others have completed all the paperwork and are awaiting finalisation of their certification. Real estate or rental agencies are eligible, as are associations and town halls.
Under the programme, the apartment rental rate is negotiated based on criteria established by the Junta, normally below market price. The agency, which finds the apartments, secures tenants and handles the signing of rental contracts, gets three per cent of the annual rent plus 600 euros a year per apartment rented. The apartment-owner becomes eligible for subsidies of up to 6,000 euros for upgrades to the apartment and insurance. The renter, under 35 years old and with an annual income no greater than 15,792 euros, gets subsidies of 40 per cent of the rent, up to 2,880 euros a year, for a period of two years.
MÁLAGA’S SLOW START
Despite the interest now being shown by agencies in Málaga, officials say the province got off to a slower start than other parts of Andalucía, partly because many owners in the Costa area prefer to rent out their apartments as summer holiday flats rather than long-term as homes. Applications in Málaga province have come from Málaga city, Vélez-Málaga, Fuengirola, Mijas, Pizarra and Estepona, where the Town Hall’s municipal housing company has applied.
Information about the Junta-sponsored rental scheme is available at provincial Public Works delegations as well as on the department’s Web site (www.juntadeandalucia.es/obraspublicasytransortes/).
New laws for moped riders
By Dave Jamieson
The minimum age for riding a powered two wheeled vehicle is to be raised from 14 to 16 years. The director general of Tráfico, Pere Navarro, has confirmed the change which he described as an attempt to reduce the high number of victims of road accidents involving such motorcycles, and which will come into effect in the autumn. Fifteen youngsters aged 14 or 15 die on Spain’s roads each year in incidents involving these vehicles. Further restrictions on young riders are promised with those under 18 being prohibited from carrying a passenger on the back seat. New users will have to pass an exam and a revised licence will be made available in a series of changes which will bring the country into line with the rest of the EU. Málaga will be one of the provinces most affected by the changes as it comes second only to Barcelona in the number of two-wheeled vehicles registered, 40,000 in the last three years alone. Interestingly, however, national sales of mopeds fell in 2004 for the sixth consecutive year; 124,000 units were manufactured which was a drop of 11.7 per cent on the previous 12 months. In contrast, sales of motor cycles rose by 33.5 per cent encouraged by a change in the licensing requirements. The use of low powered mopeds is seen by many as a cheap and convenient form of transport, but the cost of insurance is rising, tempting many to risk riding uninsured. In the first ten months of last year, local police in the city of Málaga prosecuted 1,462 riders for failing to have the obligatory insurance documents. Mopeds and motorcycles are involved in almost a fifth of all road accidents in Spain, and in nearly ten per cent of all fatal accidents.