News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week August 4th to August 10th 2005.
Traffic cams spot thousands speeding in Málaga
BY DAVE JAMIESON
AS TWO NEW TRAFFIC CAMERAS ON MÁLAGA’S RING ROADS SWUNG INTO FULL OPERATION ON MONDAY, IT WAS REVEALED THAT THEY HAD IDENTIFIED OVER 20,000 SPEEDING VEHICLES DURING THE MONTH OF JUNE.
The cameras, installed at Las Pedrizas and the tunnel of Cerrado de Calderón, were on trial until the end of July, and spotted vehicles travelling at more than the permitted 80 kilometres per hour, with worst offender clocking a staggering 193 km/hr. Over 430,000 vehicles passed by the cameras during the month, of which 18,700 private cars and 1,700 lorries were speeding.
HEFTY FINES EXPECTED
Now that the detection system is fully operational, drivers caught on camera exceeding the limit can expect fines of between 300 and 600 euros and the suspension of their driving licences for between one and three months. The owner of a vehicle seen speeding receives a letter, including a photograph of the incident, asking who was driving at the time it was taken. Once this is established, the driver is formally denounced and can opt to accept the sanction imposed or contest it.
SPEED LIMITS TO BE RESPECTED
The Traffic Authorities say the intention is not to dish out fines, but to persuade road users to adhere to the speed limit. However, the body’s director general, Pere Navarro, said they would suspend or revoke “thousands and thousands” driving licences if it was necessary.
The Traffic Authorities hope to reduce the excesses of high-speed driving drastically and to reduce the number of road fatalities, with the added benefit of being able to redeploy a substantial number of officers into other security duties.
Winter fuel query upsets costa campaigners
BY DAVE JAMIESON
CAMPAIGNERS FOR INCREASING THE AVAILABILITY OF THE UK’S WINTER FUEL ALLOWANCE FOR THE ELDERLY HAVE CRITICISED A BRITISH MP’S DEMANDS TO REVIEW OVERSEAS PAYMENTS.
Last month, the Liberal Democrat’s work and pensions spokesman, 40 year old David Laws, upset long-term Coast residents when he asked why “some quite affluent pensioners living abroad” in what in some cases were “quite warm Mediterranean climates” were receiving the help.
The payment, intended to help cover higher heating costs in the coldest months, has been at the centre of debate for several years. Demands that all UK pensioners living outside the country should receive the annual ?200 payment have been rejected by the Government who claim the payout is not a pension but an allowance which can be withdrawn at any time. Presently, individuals who lived in the UK and were in receipt of the benefit before becoming resident elsewhere in the E.U. continue to receive it after moving abroad. Others who had not been receiving the allowance before moving out of the UK are not eligible, no matter what their age is.
BRIT CAMPAIGNER SPEAKS OUT
Jim Bromley of Nerja, who has been campaigning for a fairer system for years, says that this is “a mute discriminatory point and a side-step which allowed the UK Government to get out of a sticky hole.” In response to Mr Laws’ comments, Jim adds that many UK MPs do not understand how the allowance works in reality. “The present system is discriminatory against the older group of pensioners who took up residence prior to the introduction of the allowance and who are not entitled to receive it. These people are the most vulnerable to the varied changes in seasonal variations.” He adds that having a single rule covering ex-pats in a range of countries with varying climates does not solve the problem.
Mr Laws’ reference to “quite warm Mediterranean climates” has puzzled long-term residents in Andalucía where recent winters have been far from balmy. Last winter saw record low temperatures, with snow and frost along the Costa del Sol. In January, electricity suppliers Sevilla-Endesa reported demand for power in the province of Málaga was 16 per cent higher than the previous record for the month. This, says Jim, has raised the cost of living which has necessitated many elderly pensioners who are not receiving the UK fuel allowance to re-assess their finances in order to meet the rising cost of winter heating.
The Lib-Dem spokesman’s demand for a review is based on claims that over ?7 million (10€ million) has been paid to ex-pat pensioners, with the bulk of the cash going to Spain. Recipients here are reported to have received 31,000 payments totalling ?6.3 million over the last three winters. France had the second highest pay out (?2.4 million), with Ireland third (?884,000). The total payments are said to have trebled over the last three years.
NO CHANGES FOR THE MOMENT
However, the Department for Work and Pensions has rejected the call to reassess the policy saying that there were no plans to review the winter fuel system as it affected British citizens living abroad. But Jim continues to campaign for the arrangements to be changed so that the allowance becomes available to all within the designated age group, which, he says, “the Government until recently implied, but was never so.”
Coín plans future airport
News Staff Reporter
Coín has unveiled some details of its local development plan (PGOU) which would put the town at the centre of an enviable communications network. New roads, new railways and even a new private airport are proposed. Although yet to be officially presented, the Town Hall has released some general points which would work towards providing for a town of 50,000 with a strong industrial, residential and tourist backbone.
Four million square metres of land are to be reserved for a business park, close to a new airport with rail links to Cártama and Álora.
The Town Hall says that the private sector has already shown interest in the airport which would primarily be for freight, but would also accommodate passenger flights. A number of road improvements are listed, including the upgrading of the A-397, known as the Puerto de los Pescadores, which links the town with Mijas Costa. Luxury urbanisations are also planned, along the lines of those in Ojén and Benahavís, while a leisure area in Sierra Blanca could also provide social, cultural and health facilities.
Coín’s Mayor, Gabriel Clavijo, believes the ideas would convert Coín into ‘a great developmental force in the Guadalhorce valley’.
Police unions step up protest
Work–to-rule could cause delays at borders
By David Eade
THE TWO SPANISH POLICE TRADE UNIONS, SINDICATO UNIFICADO DE POLICIA (SUP) AND UNION FEDERAL POLICIA (UFP) HAVE DECLARED A WORK-TO-RULE AS FROM LAST MONDAY.
They have taken the action alleging a total breakdown in negotiations with the Spanish central government.
The move could cause chaos at Spain’s borders. The National Police are in charge of checking the passports and documentation of everybody crossing the country’s frontier. Hence this could result in far greater delays at Málaga airport and especially at the border with Gibraltar with hold ups in traffic and pedestrian crossings at peak hours or when the tourist coaches enter or leave en masse.
The police unions said in a joint statement they had decided to step up their protest as a result of what they have described as the “inaction, lack of interest and dishonesty of the socialist government.” They also accused the PSOE administration of having reneged on a signed agreement with the national police unions.
The police unions claim that the socialist government has lost all credibility with the security forces in Spain at a time when international terrorism commands the world news headlines. They observe that whilst
other governments in Europe are adequately reinforcing and strengthening their security forces, they claim the Spanish government is creating “despondency and lack of motivation in our ranks.”
Police stations also affected
It is not only delays at borders that will hit foreign residents and visitors to the Costa del Sol. The work-to-rule is a national dispute and will therefore also cover the reporting crimes at police headquarters and the processing of applications for documents such as residency cards (residencies). The latter were already the subject of lengthy delays at many police stations due to understaffing with waiting times of up to a year reported in Fuengirola and Torremolinos.
Luxury car thieves arrested
NEWS Staff Reporter
A total of 16 people have been arrested in a National Police operation that has seen the smashing of a gang dedicated to the importation of luxury cars, the majority of which had been stolen. In operation ‘Castillo’ officers arrested two people in Marbella and the rest in Huelva, Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla and Alicante.
The criminal gang was largely made up of Spaniards. Apart from the 16 arrests police also investigated 14 businesses in the same towns and cities. Officials claim the group turnover mounted to 186 million euros and the Spanish tax authority was defrauded of around 160 million euros in the process.
Operation ‘Castillo’ was started in January of this year and ended with the arrests of the 16 including the group’s leader in Huelva. They are accused of vehicle theft, creating false documentation, and fraud as well as other associated offences.
The police were made aware of the major scam when a Mercedes car with a Luxembourg registration was stolen in Spain. The vehicle was registered in the name of a Huelva company that had imported the car with false documentation and immediately transferred it to another company that had no relation with the purchase or sale of vehicles.
The police discovered that these false companies and another 14 businesses investigated during the operation registered during 2004 more than 600 vehicles between them. It has also been established that 19 cars were stolen in Spain and other EU countries and that all of them had been obtained illegally. The company also registered cars with Spanish plates without paying the necessary taxes.
Opposition to desalination plant in Benalmádena
By David Eade
As reported in last week’s Costa del Sol News the Mayor of Benalmádena, Enrique Bolín, has contacted the ministry of the environment offering land for the coast’s second water desalination plant with the recreational port zone. Sr Bolín is proposing that the plant should be incorporated in to the plans for the enlargement of the Puerto deportivo.
However the Mayor’s proposal has not met with the support of the opposition Izquierda Unida group at Benalmádena Town Hall. They have accused Sr Bolín of suggesting the desalination plant should be located in the port development simply to generate central government support for the controversial enlargement scheme.
IU spokesperson, José Luis Centella, has attacked the poor water management that currently exists in the town. He points to the example of the old water treatment plant whose output should be used for irrigation but where thousands of litres are being lost due to lack of capacity.
The opposition party has suggested the carrying out of a study to create means of dealing with future droughts and also to develop projects to cope with those situations. Sr Centella says the plans that have been announced have deficiencies and it is necessary to draw up a new plan for the future.
Meanwhile the Mayor of Benalmádena, Enrique Bolín, has visited the new water treatment plant where he held a meeting with technicians from the local association of town halls. The installations were badly damaged by fire last year but the sub-director said the works to repair and complete the plant were in an advanced state and it should be operational next summer, probably between June and August.
WATER PRICE RISE
The price of water in the eleven municipalities in the association of town halls of the western Costa del Sol is set to rise after the desalination plant in Marbella comes on-line. The rise will be 13.8 per cent that will equate to an increase of 0.02 euros per each cubic metre of water supplied by the company Acosol.
Marbella bathers flee orca whale
News Staff Reporter
Bathers on Marbella’s La Bajadilla were evacuated from the zone on Monday by Red Cross volunteers after a giant Orca whale was spotted a kilometre and a half off the beach. The area remained closed whilst the coast guard service using a patrol boat and helicopter monitored the movements of the eight-metre long whale. Bathers were allowed to return once the Orca was seen to have left the area.
Orcas, known as the killer whales, belong to the sub-order of toothed whales and are members of the dolphin family. The average weight of an Orca is around four tonnes and they can reach six to eight metres in length, so the whale off Marbella would have been full-sized. The female killer whale can live up to 80 years old and the males up to 60.
Orcas are the most abundant of whale species and inhabit all the oceans of the world. They are also the top predators in the ocean with their food preferences varying according to where they are. Prey includes marine mammals (other whales, seals, sea lions and walruses), fish, squid, sea birds, sea otters and penguins and they consume up to 100 kilos daily.
Málaga’s hi-tech approach to beat poor parking
Details of the offence together with two photos will be sent to the registered owner
BY DAVE JAMIESON
NEW MEASURES ARE BEING INTRODUCED TO CATCH THE DRIVERS OF VEHICLES PARKED ILLEGALLY OR DANGEROUSLY IN THE CITY OF MÁLAGA.
A new police car, equipped with the latest technology, has the ability to read and instantly identify the matriculation number of any vehicle, and will shortly be on the streets.
Double parking will be targeted by the operators, as will cars abandoned in appropriate places, but, during the rush hours, the device will also be used to identify any vehicle which is seen travelling in bus-only lanes. Offenders will subsequently be fined. The practice, already employed in other cities including Madrid, Barcelona, Bilbao and Vigo, is reported to generate several hundred sanctions every day.
The use of the new equipment will be shared between the local police and the municipal transport undertaking, EMT. While the police already use video cameras to catch parking offenders, the equipment in their new car will not only record the incident but immediately generate the fine demand. It can read the plates of all vehicles it passes while travelling at up to 40 kilometres per hour and instantly identify them by referencing the local police database stored on its on-board computer.
In the case of a parking offence, a demand for the payment of the appropriate fine is then generated automatically, detailing the offence along with two photographs of the incident, and is sent to the registered owner. Officers also expect that the procedure will assist them in finding stolen vehicles, as well as those on which a tax is due or which have not passed the required ITV( MOT) inspection.
BUS-ONLY LANES PROTECTED
During peak periods, an EMT inspector will travel on board the specially equipped and identifiable blue and white Renault Scenic helping to identify those vehicles blocking bus-only lanes by travelling in them illegally. The councillor responsible, Javier Berlanga, said that such drivers cause great problems for the bus operators, and that, if the method is successful, the Town Hall planned to buy more such vehicles in the future.
The EMT is also reported to be about to introduce another means of protecting bus-only lanes. Following success in Madrid, barriers made of rubber and plastic will be installed on the edge of the bus lane to prevent cars and lorries from crossing. The 34 centimetre high device will not cause damage to any vehicle which collides with it and will return to its original position after being hit. Málaga will soon have almost 10 kilometres of bus-only lanes on its city roads.
Torrox arab route
By Dave Jamieson
The legend of Almanzor is being brought to life for tourists in Torrox. The Town Hall has started a series of walking tours to explain something of the influence which the 10th century monarch had on Andalucía. He is said to have been born in a Moorish castle which once stood on a hill above Torrox, and went on to take Córdoba and then Compostela from the Christians. During the walks, visitors see Arabic ruins, are told of the high cultural level of life at the time, and hear how the legendary Almanzor designed plans and found solutions to technical problems during the building of Córdoba’s Mezquita. The tour of the Arab Route around Torrox takes place again today, August 11, and on Thursday 25 at 10.00 , while next Thursday, August 18, the walk will explain the importance of the arrival of the Romans in Torrox. Those wishing to participate are recommended to reserve a place at the town’s tourist office, situated in the Arab tower in calle Baja de Torrox. The tourism councillor, Francisco Castro, said the two walking tours added new cultural and classical dimensions to the town’s offerings to visitors.
Estepona to impose a barbecue ban
Councillor calls for collaboration to avoid fires
By David Eade
ESTEPONA TOWN HALL IS CONSIDERING SEALING OFF PUBLIC BARBECUE ZONES IN FOREST AREAS TO ELIMINATE THE POSSIBLE RISK OF FIRE.
The move was announced by the councillor responsible for the mountain areas of the municipality, Miguel Escarcena, who called for the collaboration of people in complying with the ban imposed by the central government in Madrid in an attempt to prevent more devastating fires.
The councillor said that barbecue zones had already been sealed in various municipalities in Madrid and he considered that this method would also be effective in Estepona. He said there were already rural brigades and environment vigilantes patrolling the forest zones of Estepona to ensure there were no fires but he felt special measures needed to be taken to see that the new law banning barbecues was enforced especially when the patrols were not on duty.
BAN TO LAST UNTIL NOVEMBER
There are two principal zones where barbecues have traditionally been lit in Estepona at the Los Pedregales municipal park and Los Reales in the Sierra Bermeja. Both these areas will now be banned from having barbecues lit until November 1. He appealed to young people to observe the ban observing that because of their ages they were less likely to be conscious of the risks and dangers of lighting fires.
San Roque pollution studies start in September
BY DAVID EADE
THERE HAVE BEEN NUMEROUS PROTESTS IN RECENT MONTHS BY RESIDENTS OF SAN ROQUE, ESPECIALLY THOSE LIVING IN THE BAY OF ALGECIRAS ZONE, WHO ARE ALARMED AT THE EFFECT THAT POLLUTION FORM LOCAL HEAVY INDUSTRIES MIGHT BE HAVING ON THEIR HEALTH.
Now it has been announced that they will be subjected to various studies to establish jut what the actual health effects are. The regional government recently held a meeting with residents’ associations to advise them that the pollution tests would begin in September.
The regional government’s director of health, Josefa Ruiz, and the Cádiz delegate for health, Hipólito García, announced that one of the tests would be for allergies. It will determine the number cases of asthma, sinus and skin complaints amongst 4,000 children and youths in the municipality.
LEVELS OF NICKEL AND BENZENE TO BE TESTED
Another test will ascertain the level of nickel in the atmosphere and compare the figures with the amounts found in other major towns in Andalucía. This will be carried out by testing the urine of three different age groups, those below 15 years, those aged 16 to 45 and those over 46 years.
There will also be a test to establish the level of benzene in the air. It will look at the impact of the emissions of this substance from local industries and then evaluate what effect it has on the health of local residents.
The director of health stated that the levels of mortality in the Campo de Gibraltar are similar to the rest of Andalucía based on cardiovascular, cancer and traffic accidents. She observed that the area smoked more than other territories in Cádiz and Andalucía.
Nuclear subs may still be repaired on the rock
By David Eade
THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT HAS ADMITTED THAT THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS NOT SENT IT THE LONG-AWAITED LETTER PROMISING THAT NUCLEAR SUBMARINES WILL NOT BE REPAIRED IN GIBRALTAR’S NAVAL DOCKYARD.
The letter was sought as a confirmation of a verbal promise said to have been made in May 2001 by the then British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, to his Spanish counterpart after the furore over the year-long stay of HMS Tireless for repairs to its nuclear reactor’s cooling system.
The Spanish government’s statement came in the form of a reply to a parliamentary question laid by the opposition Partido Popular deputy María del Carmen Quintalla. The PSOE admitted that it could do nothing to stop the docking of nuclear submarines in the port of Gibraltar as the waters were ceded by Spain to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
Nonetheless Spain was seeking to work in a constructive and collaborative manner with the UK to ensure that when nuclear submarines do visit Gibraltar the security of the local population is guaranteed.
The first meeting of the dialogue forum involving Spain, Britain and Gibraltar was held in Málaga on February 11 of this year just after the nuclear submarine HMS Sceptre had visited the Rock for repairs after a breakdown. This prompted the Spanish government to request Britain at the meeting to place in written form the promise made by Cook four years earlier. Madrid has blamed the delay on receiving the letter on the British general election and a change of minister at the Ministry of Defence but is now wondering if the UK is serious in setting out Cook’s promise in writing.
Robin Cook died on Saturday whilst on a walking holiday in the Scottish Highlands. He was moved from the Foreign Office by Premier Tony Blair after the 2001 general election and was made Leader of the House, a position he resigned from in protest over the Iraq War. He was admired across party lines as being the most formidable parliamentarian of his generation and is widely acknowledged as being the key architect of bringing down the Tory government of John Major by his devastating attacks on its performance.
Asian immigrants found on fishing vessel
NEWS Staff Reporter
The central government’s delegate in Andalucía, Juan José López Garzón, has declared that there has been no change in the modus operandi of the mafias bringing immigrants illegally to the coasts of Spain. He was speaking after 135 immigrants from India and Bangladesh were intercepted on board the fishing vessel, Menavaas I, off the coast of Algeciras.
He stated that the arrival of this vessel containing Asian immigrants did not signal any change to the human cargoes from North African that traditionally cross the Straits of Gibraltar to land on the Cádiz coastline. The Menavaas I had set sail from Mauritania bound for the Mediterranean when it was discovered with no fuel as it passed through the Straits but there is no indication that its primary destination was Spain.
The Guardia Civil have arrested the nine men crew of the vessel who come from Senegal, Sierra Leone and Mauritania. They will appear in court this week charged with offences against the rights of their cargo of illegal immigrants. Officers have been having difficulties interrogating the crew members as the language that the majority of them know is English but they do not speak it fluently so various translators are being sought.
The immigrants themselves are being held by the National Police in Algeciras to await repatriation. They will also be called before the courts to give details on the conditions of their trip from Mauritania. Thirteen are from Bangladesh with the remainder being from India.
Four of the immigrants were taken to the Punta Europa hospital in Algeciras suffering from fever. It has since been established that they all have malaria and they are undergoing tests to establish the seriousness of their conditions. It is not known whether they contracted the disease in their native countries or during the trip to Spain.
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