News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week August 11th to August 17th 2005.
Málaga's annual 10-day long feria starts tomorrow night
BY DAVE JAMIESON
THE CITY OF MÁLAGA BEGINS ONE OF ITS MOST IMPORTANT ANNUAL EVENTS TOMORROW NIGHT WHEN THE 2005 CITY FAIR GETS UNDERWAY.
For 10 days, much of the day to day business of the city will grind to a halt as residents are joined by hundreds of thousands of tourists to enjoy a tradition which has its roots over 500 years ago.
In a major change this year, however, the prégon or formal declaration of the fair’s start will not be read from the balcony of the Town Hall. Instead, to promote the marine character of this year’s events, the ceremony will take place at La Malagueta beach, a move which has not gone down too well with traditionalists in the city. The identity of the celebrity who will make the speech is as always a matter of great excitement and this year the honour has gone to flamenco singer Estrella Morente. Crowds will gather to hear the pregón at around 23.30 tomorrow night and to respond with cheers and shouts to the call for them to enjoy 10 days of fun. And once the fireworks go off at midnight, the party has started.
DAY AND NIGHT REVELLERS
Málaga’s fair is split in two, with day time events in the centre of the historic old town and the fun-fair at night on its own site, which since 1998 has been a permanent home of 512,000 square metre site alongside the motorway, close to the new Conference Centre. Day time activities include a Magic Fair, a Festival of International Folklore, and numerous events for children, while the night time events include traditional fairground dodgems, waltzers and shooting galleries. Eating up enough electricity to power the city of Toledo, over half a million lamps and lanterns - 100,000 more than last year - will light the way for revellers until dawn.
Business will be thrashed out over a glass or two of fino in the many 176 casetas erected for the week, and clients will be impressed with their hosts’ generous hospitality and extravagant entertainment. For the first time, the roundabout Marqués de Larios is home to three metre high representations of a bull, bullfighter and a gypsy women, made of steel, on a bed of red, yellow, violet and white flowers.
The average malagueño is said to spend 250 euros on being suitably attired, with specialist clothing shops this year reporting a slight increase in sales. Some save up for the fair all year, and with the price of a traditional ladies’ flamenco dress costing up to 700 euros, this is understandable.
And the week is an important one for the city’s economy with an estimated 150 million euros expected to be poured into cash registers over the next ten days. An average of 786 Guardia Civil, local and police officers will be on duty each day and more than 300 concerts featuring over 1,400 artistes will be on offer.
TAKE THE BUS NOT THE TRAIN
Those planning to visit Málaga during the feria should be warned that parking is always difficult and public transport might be a better bet. Málaga buses will run special night services between the city centre and the fair ground between 21.00 and 7.00 with a flat rate ticket of one euro per journey, or a 15-journey season ticket for 9.95 euros. Between 7.00 and 21.00 buses of the “Linéa F” will operate a free service between the two centres, running every ten minutes. Over 100 buses will be operating the route.
However, the local train service bringing revellers into Málaga from the west is under threat of disruption. The CGT trades union has announced a series of stoppages during the fair as part of an on-going dispute with Renfe, which will affect near 100 drivers, inspectors and ticket office staff. If the planned strikes go ahead, there will be no local trains from Sunday 14 to Saturday 20 August between midnight and 7.00, from 12.30 to 15.00 and between 19.00 and midnight. On Sunday 21, the last day of the fair, there will be services from midnight to 6.00. Further stoppages are also planned later in the month.
Illegal homes crisis continues
Cártama homeowners upset over Town Hall crackdown
By Oliver McIntyre
THE FIGHT AGAINST ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION HAS BECOME A DOUBLE-EDGED BLADE IN MANY COSTA TOWNS, WITH THE INTERESTS OF CONTROLLED DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION PITTED AGAINST BELEAGUERED HOMEOWNERS WHO, IN SOME CASES UNWITTINGLY, LIVE IN ILLEGAL HOMES AND COULD FACE SANCTIONS AND EVEN DEMOLITION.
Such is the case in Cártama, where officials estimate there are as many as 4,000 illegal homes and have been on a campaign to crack down on the problem. Some residents whose homes have been targeted are speaking out against what they feel is inconsistency in Town Hall policy and unfair enforcement.
The latest case involves 21 homes in a rural area of Cártama known as Manguarra. The homes sit on what was once a 67,000-square-metre property whose owner subdivided and sold the land in 27 lots of roughly 2,500 square metres each, 21 of which were subsequently built on, beginning in 2002.
The Town Hall says the Manguarra homes are illegal because they lack construction permits and sit in the flood plain of the Fahala River. Due to the latter, the Town Hall has said there is basically no way the situation of the homes could be legalised.
Following the recent demolition of an illegal home elsewhere in the town (CDSN, June 16 – 22), the Manguarra residents are justifiably nervous. But they are also upset, saying that they acted in good faith and invested a lot of money to ensure their homes have the proper infrastructure and are safe despite being in the flood zone.
They say they applied for building licenses and although these were not granted, the Town Hall never stated that they could not move forward with construction. Following the common practice of the day, they say, they rushed to build before more-restrictive regional land laws came into effect in 2003. Last year they spent 20,000 euros each to deepen the bed of Río Fahala and build a retention wall to prevent future flooding, they say. They have now banded together to fight to have their properties included in zones that could be legalised in the town’s new local development plan (PGOU).
TOWN HALL STANDS FIRM
The Town Hall insists that it has never allowed the construction of illegal homes. Municipal officials vow to continue their crackdown on illegal construction and place the blame for such houses squarely on the shoulders of those who built them. “These people have committed an illegal act and have done irreparable damage in Cártama,” Mayor José Garrido said.
Blaze engulfs east side of Rock
By David Eade
The east side of the Rock of Gibraltar went up in flames on Saturday and it took fire fighters five hours to bring the fire under control. Witnesses stated that they had seen a flare fired just before the blaze started. Later police confirmed that two 17-year-olds were being held. It was alleged that the youths had found two flares and fired them off. They have been charged with arson and will appear in court this week.
The fire happened on Saturday afternoon on the old water-catchment area, destroying between 800 and 1,000 square metres of vegetation. The dense smoke covered an area stretching from above Both Worlds out to Catalan Bay, moving fast in strong levanter winds.
A total of five fire engines from Gibraltar’s fire brigade and the Ministry of Defence fire service attended the scene. Firefighters said it was lucky that the fire zone was enclosed by plain rock, as this helped prevent the advance of the flames. It was feared that the fire could reach the top rock edge, threatening the cable car there, and a fire engine was sent to the area. Eventually the fire was brought under control, at around 21.30, but officers stayed on site to deal with occasional flare-ups.
Population and housing boom planned for costa
Local development plans show 425,000 new homes
By Oliver McIntyre
THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLANS (PGOUS) CURRENTLY BEING DEVELOPED BY TOWNS THROUGHOUT THE REGION PREDICT SHARP POPULATION INCREASES IN MANY COSTA MUNICIPALITIES AND PLAN FOR NEARLY HALF A MILLION NEW HOMES TO MEET THE INCREASED DEMAND.
The main coastal towns and the city of Málaga with its metropolitan area, which together represent just a fifth of the province’s municipalities but the vast majority of its population, have included in the drafts of their new PGOUs a combined 425,000 new homes.
The western Costa del Sol, which is already the most highly developed area of the province, is also the area where town halls are planning for the greatest population and housing increases. The draft PGOUs in the area project some 250,000 new homes and a population increase to as many as 1.7 million people in the next 10 years. In the province as a whole, the official population currently sits at about 1.4 million and, based on projections, could reach three million within a decade.
Towns at the top of the list for projected growth include Estepona, with plans for 82,000 new homes and a population reaching 200,000 (current pop. 50,000) and Mijas, with plans for 70,000 new homes and a population of 125,000 (current pop. 53,000). Marbella, where the first and foremost concern is addressing the illegality of thousands of existing homes, is planning for as many as 50,000 new homes in its PGOU. Benalmádena projects a population of up to 150,000 (current pop. 42,000) and calls for the construction of 48,000 new homes.
LESS ON EASTERN COSTA
On the east side of Málaga, protected open spaces and restrictions laid out in the Junta de Andalucía’s regional development plan (POT) for the Axarquía zone mean that housing and population growth will be on a smaller scale. Nonetheless, towns like Rincón de la Victoria and Torrox are planning for populations of up to 50,000 each (they currently sit at 30,000 and 13,000, respectively), and each of the two towns plans for 15,000 new homes. Vélez-Málaga (current pop. 62,000) and Nerja (current pop. 19,000) envision population increases to 80,000 and 45,000, respectively.
Meanwhile, in the fast-growing Guadalhorce Valley some small towns are expecting large population surges. In Alhaurín de la Torre (current pop.: 27,000), officials are planning for up to 100,000 inhabitants, while Coín (current pop.: 19,000) sees a projected jump to 50,000 residents. Other towns in the valley, like Pizarra and Cártama, are pushing for commercial-industrial growth, with the inclusion in their PGOUs of new or enlarged industrial parks.
Eastern costa marina gets boost
Officials approve feasibility study
By Dave Jamieson and Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA HAS MOVED AT LAST ON THE LONG-PROPOSED PROJECT FOR A NEW MARINA ON THE EASTERN COAST.
After years of delay, Andalucía’s Public Ports Authority (EPPA) has announced that it will licence a development plan for the marina along the stretch between Torrox and Nerja, the neighbours who are rivalling one another to have the facility sited in their respective municipalities. The project to assess the marina’s positioning, potential and pitfalls will have a budget of 100,000 euros and be open to tender in the usual way. Applications are due by September 9, and the five month study is to be completed by next summer.
Nerja’s mayor, José Alberto Armijo, had been increasing pressure on the Junta in recent months to get moving on the marina. He said he was delighted that his efforts had produced results, but was again critical of the Junta’s failure to advise Nerja’s Town Council of an important decision, leaving him and other councillors to learn of it through the media.
Nerja has been pushing for a marina for years. The Town Council first considered it as long ago as 1965, and in 1971 drew up detailed plans for a town centre marina, with the old Guardia Civil base overlooking Playa Carabeo chosen for the nautical clubhouse. The project had a budget of 200 million pesetas.
However, it was not until 14 years ago that the Junta gave the go-ahead on the by-then revised plans, but its decision was later annulled. The latest news has therefore brought a great deal of optimism in the municipality, which wants the marina to be constructed on the western outskirts of the town, in a largely undeveloped zone between the mouth of the Chillar River and the border with Torrox. Mayor Armijo says that Nerja meets all the criteria necessary for a marina, including tourist, economic and social considerations.
The mayor of Torrox, Francisco Muñoz, described the Junta’s decision as, “the best news of the summer” and said he felt optimistic about its outcome.
Meanwhile, Mijas has included a future marina as an element in its new local development plan (PGOU), though the project is still in the study stage. At the outset, municipal officials are planning for at least 2,000 moorage spots. After initial studies, the Town Hall has identified the zone east of La Cala, between Calahonda and Faro de Calaburras, as the proposed location of the marina.
Málaga City Hall has also recently made a controversial change to the city’s local development plan to allow the construction of a Puerto Banús-style marina and residential complex between Guadalmar and the Parador golf course. But the project faces some stiff opposition and many bureaucratic hurdles at regional and possibly even national level before it can move forward.
Marbella threatened with water shutoff
By David Eade
All the Costa del Sol is facing water supply problems because of the drought, but now Marbella could find itself without water because it has run up a huge debt.
Acosol, the water company of the western Costa del Sol, has sought permission from the regional government to cut its supply to Aquagest Sur, which has had the concession for Marbella since 1992. The director of Acosol, Miguel López, explained that since March 2000 Aquagest has run up a debt of 18 million euros.
Since the announcement was made, the regional government has come back to say that it is not the appropriate authority to order a turning off of Marbella’s supply. The mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, has offered to step in to mediate between the two water companies.
Earlier, Deputy Mayor Isabel García Marcos acknowledged the problem but stated she did not believe that the regional government would agree to water being withdrawn from Marbella, adding: “It would be a scandal at a national and international level.”
She said that at the height of summer more than 600,000 people could be affected by such a water cut. She insisted that it is not the residents of Marbella that are at fault, as they have paid their bills, but is rather a matter between Aquagest and Acosol that needs to be settled either by mediation or through the courts.
Thirty-minute tsunami warning
Was ‘Atlantis’ in the Straits of Gibraltar?
By David Eade
THE NATIONAL SEISMIC NETWORK HAS CALCULATED THAT IF THE SOUTH OF SPAIN WERE TO BE HIT BY A TSUNAMI OF THE MAGNITUDE OF THAT WHICH STRUCK CÁDIZ AND HUELVA IN 1755, THE AUTHORITIES WOULD HAVE 30 MINUTES TO WARN THE POPULATION AND TAKE BASIC PREPARATIONS.
According to statistics supplied by the National Geographic Institute, Spain is not immune to the danger of the giant waves created by an earthquake beneath the seabed. The institute believes Spain has suffered 24 tsunamis since 218 BC, the worst occurring in 1755. The last one took place on May 27, 2003, when an earthquake on the coast of Algeria generated a small tsunami that raised the sea by 15 centimetres in Mahón and Palma de Mallorca and caused damage to a large number of boats.
The director of the seismic network, Emilio Carreño, says that of the 24 tsunamis that have hit Spain in the last 22 centuries, only the one in 1755, which also devastated Lisbon, reached ‘disaster’ status, although others have had a major destructive power.
According to a recent article published in the journal ‘Geology’, a submerged island that could be the source of the Atlantis legend was hit by a large earthquake and tsunami 12,000 years ago. Spartel Island, in the Gulf of Cádiz, now lies 60 metres under the sea in the Straits of Gibraltar, but geologist Marc-André Gutscher of the University of Western Brittany in Plouzané, France, thinks it once lay above water.
His findings add weight to a theory that the island could have inspired the legend recounted by the philosopher Plato more than 2,000 years ago. Dr Gutscher said that the destruction described by Plato is consistent with a great earthquake and tsunami similar to the one that devastated Cádiz, Huelva and the city of Lisbon in 1755, generating waves with heights of up to 10 metres.
Evidence from a seafloor survey shows thick "turbidite" deposits that result from sediments that have been shaken up by underwater geological upheavals. Dr Gutscher reports it dates from around 12,000 years ago, around the time Plato indicated that Atlantis was destroyed.
Another French geologist, Jacques Collina-Girard, suggested Spartel Island in 2001 as a candidate for the origin of the Atlantis legend. He stated it is "in front of the Pillars of Hercules", or the Straits of Gibraltar, as Plato described. The philosopher said the fabled island civilisation had been destroyed in a single day and night, disappearing below the sea.
Málaga rowers beat Cambridge and Oxford
By Oliver McIntyre
The local team made a come-from-behind victory to beat out the legendary Oxford and Cambridge crew teams in the first boat race the university squads have ever raced in Málaga. The ‘Ciudad de Málaga’ regatta, held last Thursday at the mouth of the Málaga port, was won by the team from Club Real Mediterráneo, the host of the event.
In the first heat of the 1,800-metre race, Oxford edged out the other boats, with the Málaga team coming in second and Cambridge crossing the finish line last. But Oxford was still vulnerable, having beaten the Málaga team by just 0.60 seconds. In the second and final heat, the local team came on strong and handily beat both of the English squads, winning the event with a total time of 2min 29.71sec. Though Cambridge finished second in the second heat, Oxford had the faster combined time, taking the second-place trophy with a total time of 2min 36.47sec. Cambridge’s third-place combined time was 2min 40.62.
Brenan library moves forward
Alhaurín el Grande celebrates Hispanist writers
By Oliver McIntyre
THE FUTURE ALHAURÍN EL GRANDE MUNICIPAL LIBRARY, TO BE BUILT ON THE SITE OF THE TOWN’S OLD SLAUGHTERHOUSE, TOOK A STEP FORWARD LAST WEEK WITH THE TOWN HALL’S PUTTING OUT TO TENDER THE 1.7 MILLION-EURO FIRST PHASE OF THE PROJECT.
The initial work includes the excavation of the site and construction of the building, including two storeys of underground parking that will create around a hundred new parking spaces in the central zone, said Mayor Juan Martín Serón.
The library, one of the local administration’s flagship cultural projects, is also to house the Gerald Brenan Foundation’s headquarters and a Hispanist Literature Centre. Brenan (1894 – 1987) moved to Alhaurín around 1970 after having spent some of his early writing years in the Alpujarras region of Granada, where he first began to make a name for himself as a Hispanist author. In 1984, the Gerald Brenan Foundation was created in the town, and the author donated all of his works, his personal library, photographs and other effects to the Town Hall.
The municipal library owns some 5,500 books or manuscripts donated by Brenan, as well as a number of photographs, while the Gerald Brenan Foundation, currently located at the Casa de Cultura, has additional items. The new library will bring all of the Brenan materials together under one roof.
Mayor Serón last week offered no specific timeline for the beginning of construction, other than to say that it will start immediately after the contract is awarded. Pre-construction preparation work at the site, including the moving of an electric transformer and underground infrastructure, has already been completed, he said.
Huge jellyfish haul in Marbella
By David Eade
More than four tons of jellyfish have been removed from Marbella’s beaches by Town Hall workers. This equates to around 400,000 individual jellyfish, as they weigh an average of just 20 grams each, according to officials.
Pedro Pérez, who is in charge of Marbella’s beaches, stated that in recent days his department had received numerous calls from bathers alerting officials to the large number of jellyfish on the coast and asking if they could be dealt with. He assured people that the plague of washed up jelly fish was not a reflection on the quality of the seawater but was due to high salinity, marine currents and the winds.
The provincial delegate for the Junta de Andalucía’s Environment Department, Ignacio Trillo, said the huge amount of jellyfish in the sea off southern Spain this summer is a natural, climate-related phenomenon. Hundreds of people have been stung along the Costa del Sol and swimming has been banned off some beaches during times when the presence of jellyfish in the water was particularly high.
Experts with the country’s High Council of Scientific Research (CSIC) have indicated that the worst of the summer’s jellyfish infestations have passed. However, periodic spikes in the concentration could continue, and the experts advise that people suffering a second sting within one year could face stronger reactions than from a first sting.
Nerja names first Tourists of Honour
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja has named its first-ever ‘Tourists of Honour’, who will accept the award in the town next week.
Twelve years ago, Antonio Romero, entranced by a Venezuelan flamenco dancer, developed the melody she used and, with his singing partner Rafael Ruiz, recorded the song that became one of the year’s biggest Spanish hits. It went European, and was then remixed by two deejays in Florida, the Bayside Boys, who began playing it in Miami dance clubs. Their English-language version went to number one in the US. The song was La Macarena, sung by Antonio and Rafael under their stage name, Los del Río.
Next Friday, August 26, Los del Río will be honoured in Nerja, where they have spent summers with their families for more than 20 years. The Town Hall has announced that the duo will be named ‘Tourists of Honour 2005’, in recognition of the ambassadorial role they have played on Nerja’s behalf. The title is new, created by the town’s Tourism Department and representatives of the private sector, and has received support from all political groups. It is intended that it will be awarded to those who holiday in Nerja and go on to promote its tourist attractions.
The award will be presented to Antonio and Rafael on Nerja’s official Tourist Day. The event, which has been scheduled at the end of the summer in previous years but has been brought forward to make its events available to more visitors, will include song and dance events during the afternoon on Burriana and Torrecilla beaches. In the evening, there will be around four hours of free entertainment on the Balcón de Europa from 20.00, culminating with a performance by the town’s guests of honour late in the evening.
Heavier fines for traffic tickets
Seatbelt and mobile-phone infractions can cost up to 300 euros
By Oliver McIntyre
DRIVERS CAUGHT FAILING TO WEAR A SEATBELT, CHATTING ON A MOBILE PHONE OR RIDING A MOTORCYCLE WITHOUT A HELMET CAN NOW FACE FINES OF UP TO 300 EUROS, BASED ON A REVISION OF TRAFFIC OFFENCES AND FINES THAT TOOK EFFECT LAST WEEK.
Under the new structure, ‘minor’ infractions carry fines of up to 90 euros, ‘serious’ offences are fined 91 to 300 euros and ‘very serious’ infractions have fines of 301 to 600 euros and can reach as much as 1,500 euros in special cases, particularly those involving repeat offenders.
In addition to the seatbelt, helmet and mobile-phone offences, ‘serious’ infractions include speeding, reckless driving, parking in dangerous places, throwing lit cigarettes on the road and driving a vehicle without a current ITV inspection. Other ‘serious’ offences are failure to respect traffic direction by officers or traffic indicators like stop signs and stoplights, driving a vehicle with defective or blinding lights and failure to use proper child-safety seats.
‘Very serious’ infractions include driving while under the influence of drugs or over the legal limit for alcohol, refusal to submit to drug or alcohol testing, driving more than 50 per cent and 30 kilometres per hour over the speed limit and driving without a valid driver’s licence.
In addition to the new fine schedule, licence suspension periods have also been stiffened. The minimum suspension period is one month.
Officials say the reclassification of some previously ‘minor’ offences to ‘serious’ is aimed at encouraging safer driving practices and reducing the number of accidents and traffic-related deaths and injuries. At the time the new classifications took effect last week, there had been a total of 2,004 traffic deaths in Spain so far this year. Over the long weekend, there were an additional 45.
Violent prisoners released early
By Dave Jamieson
Spain is being accused of releasing dangerous prisoners too quickly. The country’s National Association for the Victims of Violent Crime is taking its argument to Strasbourg for a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights. The group says it is wrong for terrorists and others found guilty of violence to be released after serving only a minimum part of the sentenced jail term.
In its evidence, the group cites a number of examples, including that of an ETA member, Juan José Larrinaga, who in 1980 was found guilty of five murders and condemned to 221 years, but who was released from prison in Cádiz after serving 20 years. It says other terrorists, including Juan Nazábal Auzmendi, Fidel González Garcia, Félix Bengoa and Carlos María Recio, who were each sentenced to 100 years, spent between 18 and 19 years behind bars before gaining their freedom. In addition, the association highlights the example of Miguel Ricart who was jailed for 170 years for the rape and murder of three young girls but could be freed before completing even “a decent percentage” of the term.
The association says it wants to see the legal system respected, not changed, pointing out that Spanish law allows for criminals to be jailed for up to 40 years. It is concerned that eight other ETA prisoners – including the notorious Jose Ignacio de Juana Chaos, who was condemned to a sentence of 3,000 years for his crimes – could also win early release under the present arrangements
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