News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week September 15th to September 21st 2005.
No more overcharging as government bans rounding up
By Dave Jamieson
CENTRAL GOVERNMENT HAS ANNOUNCED PLANS TO OUTLAW THE PRACTICE OF ROUNDING UP CHARGES FOR TIME-BASED SERVICES WHICH WILL SAVE CONSUMERS MILLIONS OF EUROS.
The change is one of a number of measures in a new consumer-rights law which has already been approved by the Council of Ministers. The draft bill proposes to prohibit the rounding-up practice employed when prices are based on units of time – for example, in certain car parks and telephone companies. It means that, in future, consumers will only be charged for the actual time used. It will become illegal to charge a customer for unused time.
The three biggest mobile phone operators – Movistar, Vodafone and Amena – refused to make an immediate comment on the new legislation, although Movistar moved to billing customers in half-minute units instead of seconds just a week earlier.
According to the Federation of Consumers in Action, fixed-line telephone users overpay almost 100 million euros per month as a result of the rounding up of the duration of their calls to mobile phones. The companies have previously argued that moving to a tariff based on the exact number of seconds used will increase the price of short calls.
Amongst other areas of consumer law, the new bill will protect the rights of consumers who opt to terminate a service agreement, including those for power, water, gas and telephones. Making such a decision should no longer involve any form of compensation to the supplier for depriving them of the business. The Government says that if it takes only a phone call to begin using a service, it should also take only a phone call to cancel it.
Similarly, abusive clauses in contracts relating to property purchase will be outlawed. It will also be illegal for the charges of connecting services – including water, gas and sewage – to be passed on to the purchaser of a new property, rather than being integrated within the agreed price.
The Organisation of Consumers and Users described the changes as "positive," while the minister responsible for Consumer Affairs, Elena Salgado, said the new legislation was "the most important in recent years for the improvement of consumers' rights and interests."
Shadow Minister arrested in brawl at Spanish borde
Lord Glentoran could face charges
By David Eade
LORD GLENTORAN, THE CONSERVATIVE NORTHERN IRELAND SHADOW MINISTER IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, WAS ARRESTED WITH HIS WIFE AFTER A SCUFFLE WITH GUARDIA CIVIL OFFICERS AT THE BORDER AND DULY APPEARED IN COURT IN LA LÍNEA THE FOLLOWING DAY.
The 70-year old Tory peer, a former athlete who won a gold medal in the bobsleigh event at the 1964 Winter Olympics, and his 57-year old wife reportedly have a home in Calle Fondo in Sotogrande. The fracas took place whilst they were making their way into Spain after arriving in Gibraltar on a GB Airways flight from Gatwick.
Spanish official sources allege that both Lord Glentoran and his wife appeared to have been drinking and were abusive after being asked to register two bottles of whiskey and two cartons of cigarettes on customs forms, a standard procedure at the Gibraltar border. Three Guardia Civil officers intervened and were allegedly attacked by the shadow minister and his wife. The three officers reportedly sustained injuries and Lord Glentoran's wife suffered an injury to her arm. It is further alleged that the unharmed Tory peer attempted to flee to Gibraltar but was stopped before he reached British soil.
He was taken to the Guardia Civil headquarters in La Línea and the British Consul in Málaga arrived around midnight with two Spanish lawyers. Lord Glentoran and his wife appeared in the No. 3 court in La Línea and could now face charges of assault, resisting arrest and disobeying officials.
Man killed in car cliff plunge
By Dave Jamieson
A 30-year-old Motril man died in a car accident near Nerja on Monday afternoon. His Peugeot 506 fell 100 metres from the N-340 coast road onto El Pino beach in the Maro cliffs area. However, when rescuers made their way to recover his body, they discovered a second corpse in an advanced stage of decomposition.
The victim whose car fell from the road was said by witnesses to be struggling to retain control of his vehicle after it was left hanging precariously over the edge of the cliffs following a dangerous traffic manoeuvre. Witnesses said he was thrown from the vehicle as it eventually fell, landing 30 metres from the beach, in a very inaccessible area. A number of bathers were first on the scene, quickly supported by the emergency services, but the driver died shortly afterwards despite efforts to revive him by a team from Nerja's health centre.
The second body was found by a member of the public clambering across the cliffs in an effort to help the emergency services. Police are trying to identify the corpse, which was dressed in a t-shirt and trousers and was reported to be severely decayed.
Benalmádena urban-planning investigation
By Oliver McIntyre
The anti-corruption prosecutor's office has opened criminal proceedings against Benalmádena Town Hall over a construction licence issued to a private developer to build an apartment block on land classified for public use. The construction project, located directly adjacent to the Cercanías train stop in the Torremuelle urbanisation, was reported to the prosecutor by the local homeowners' association, which charges that the construction licence was approved despite "unfavourable reports by municipal technicians." Not only did the Town Hall allow residential building on public-use land, but it also increased the allowable construction on the site by 714 square metres, says the group.
The Town Hall has issued no public response to the proceedings against it by the anti-corruption prosecutor. Based on the prosecutor's investigation and recommendations, a judge will decide whether a judicial investigation will be opened and formal charges filed.
The prosecutor's action comes in addition to two ongoing civil suits brought against the project by the homeowners' association. In the civil suits, the group is seeking the demolition of the partially-built apartment block.
New elections demanded for Marbella
Officials try to polish the town's tarnished image
By David Eade
THE PRESIDENT OF THE PARTIDO POPULAR (PP) IN ANDALUCÍA, JAVIER ARENAS, HAS DECLARED THAT THE MUNICIPALITY OF MARBELLA NEEDS TO HOLD NEW ELECTIONS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE TO SOLVE THE PROBLEMS THAT ARE ENGULFING THE TOWN HALL.
Sr Arenas was speaking at a meeting of provincial party presidents in Jaén as yet another political crisis broke out between the ruling government team in Marbella. On this occasion, accusations had been made by municipal employees against the management of the Town Hall departments administered by the three Partido Andalucista councillors in the tri-party governing team. The allegations were made by around 20 workers, and Mayor Marisol Yagüe has now ordered an internal investigation to determine the validity of the claims.
This has left the tri-party coalition that seized power in August 2003 from the then GIL mayor, Julián Muñoz, hanging by a thin thread. The PA has denied the claims against its representatives, including Deputy Mayor Carlos Fernández, saying it is a conspiracy against the party. If the PA withdrew from the coalition it would leave the mayor, who leads a former faction of the GIL, without sufficient numbers to govern even with the support of the third party in her coalition, the Socialist PSOE.
Due in large part to political scandals like those pointed out by Sr Arenas, the regional government and local Marbella businesses have decided to mount a campaign to improve the image of the town. The regional government's minister for Tourism, Commerce and Sport, Paulino Plata, recently met with the commercial directors of the Costa del Sol's major hotels. They plan to launch a special campaign to bolster the image of Marbella because of its importance to Andalucía and the Costa del Sol as a premier resort. The minister observed: "We live in a society of designer labels and Marbella is a designer label."
Coach cleaning sparks Nerja noise complaints
By Dave Jamieson
Residents in Nerja town centre have complained to the Town Hall about excessive night-time noise from the town's bus station. A homeowners' association president, Antonio Martín López, says that coaches are cleaned from midnight onwards, while motors are started before 6.00 and left running for long periods. Describing the disturbances as "unbearable," he said a formal complaint was made to transport operator Alsina Graells a year ago. Action was promised but, as yet, "Absolutely nothing has been resolved," he said.
Daytime noise is also a problem as coaches arrive and leave the area known as the bus station, but which in reality is no more than two large parking spaces on the sides of the main road. There have been calls for a custom-built facility for years, with the former municipal market at one time chosen as the new site. However, the plan was dropped after the project was deemed too expensive by the Junta de Andalucía when it was formally submitted in the spring of last year. A Partido Andalucista councillor at Nerja Town Hall, Antonio Manuel Navas, has now called upon the Tpwmn Council to arrange a meeting with Alsina Graells and local residents to seek a solution to the problems.
Sound barriers to be installed along A-7
By Oliver McIntyre
The Ministry of Development has put out to tender a project for the installation of sound-barrier panels along stretches of the A-7 where road noise has long been a complaint of nearby residents. The 22.6 million-euro project will see the erection of Plexiglass panels up to six metres tall along portions of the A-7 in Estepona, Marbella, Mijas, Fuengirola and Málaga.
The points where the panelling is to be installed are those where testing has shown noise from traffic to be above permissible levels for populated areas. The goal of the sound barriers is to bring noise levels in residential areas below 65 decibels during the day (60 in hospital or school zones) and 55 decibels at night.
The panels are to be installed between km. 153 and km. 177 (Estepona-Marbella); between km. 183 and km. 212.5 (Mabella-Mijas-Fuengirola); and along Málaga ring road, from the Torremolinos border to the El Palo exit. Noise levels in these zones were measured at above World Health Organisation recommended levels as far back as 2001.
NEW RING ROAD
Meanwhile, officials last week inaugurated the new eastern ring road in Coín, a two-kilometre bypass connecting Carretera del Arco to the A-355 Coín-Cártama road. The new bypass cost 3.8 million euros to build. It came as part of the Junta de Andalucía's global 244 million-euro roads programme, which will also include a northern ring road for Coín, as well as other projects in the Guadalhorce Valley, such as improvements on the MA-419 from Guaro to Monda and on the MA-403 and MA-404 from Casarabonela to the A-357 motorway.
San Pedro car park brick tower
Britain and Gibraltar in constitutional talks
The Rock celebrates National Day
DELEGATIONS FROM BRITAIN AND GIBRALTAR ARE MEETING IN LONDON TODAY AND FRIDAY IN THE SECOND PHASE OF TALKS ON A NEW CONSTITUTION FOR THE ROCK.
The working document that forms the basis of the talks is the one that was unanimously agreed by the House of Assembly after widespread consultations with all sections of society in Gibraltar. The aim is to maintain the sovereignty link with Britain but at the same time achieve decolonisation.
The Gibraltar delegation will be led by Chief Minister Peter Caruana and will include the leaders of both elected opposition parties, former chief minister Joe Bossano for the GSLP and the Liberal's Dr Joseph Garcia. The same group attended the first round of talks in London in December and after the two-day meeting expressed its satisfaction at the progress made.
The delay in holding the second round of talks is said by some observers to reflect the sensitivity of negotiating a new constitution at the same time as Gibraltar is engaged in tripartite talks with London and Madrid. Spain wants to establish good relations with the Rock via the tripartite talks in hope of drawing the Rock closer to itself. It would not be supportive of the constitutional talks, as the aim for Gibraltar is to establish semi-independence.
Meanwhile, Gibraltar held its National Day celebrations last Saturday with a major rally in Casemates Square. Under a giant banner declaring 'Self-determination is democracy', locals and visitors packed into the square to hear speeches from the chief minister, British MPs and other distinguished guests.
Chief Minister Peter Caruana told the crowds that this is the day "when we tell the world that Gibraltar is our homeland. This is our small country, our small nation."
Labour MP Lindsay Hoyle, chairperson of the all-party Gibraltar Group in the British parliament, pointed out that Gibraltar is a country older than Australia. The Conservative deputy chairman of the group, Eric Pickles, told Gibraltarians: "We stand absolutely with you on the question of self-determination," whilst Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes talked of "the people of the nation of Gibraltar."
The celebrations were of a very festive nature, with the crowds dressed in the red and white colours of Gibraltar. At the end of the rally 30,000 balloons were released in to the air, one for each Gibraltar resident, to the sound of the Rock's anthem.
Rubbish and abandoned cars mar San Pedro
Business leaders speak out against unkempt streets
By David Eade
APYMESPA, THE ASSOCIATION OF SMALL AND MEDIUM-SIZE BUSINESSES IN SAN PEDRO DE ALCÁNTARA, HAS SPOKEN OUT AGAINST A LACK OF RUBBISH COLLECTION IN THE TOWN AND THE ACCUMULATION OF ABANDONED CARS DUMPED IN NUEVA ALCÁNTARA.
Apymespa, which has recently raised protests over the disruptions caused by the construction of the Avenida Marques del Duero underground car park (CDSN, Sept. 8 – 14), is now turning its attention on the day-to-day blight caused by insufficient sanitation services.
The business group has taken photographs of various locations in San Pedro where rubbish is piled up in the streets, often because the collection lorries cannot gain access to the bins. Other photographs show abandoned cars with broken windows, left to rot in full view along main streets. Apymespa says that the Nueva Alcántara area is becoming a car cemetery, with at least four vehicles dumped there whilst others have been abandoned by the main bus station.
PUBLIC HEALTH RISK
The San Pedro traders are concerned that this situation not only creates a bad image for visitors to the town, but is also unpleasant and potentially even unsafe for local residents as well. The rubbish forms a fire risk and is a danger to public health, says Apymespa. The group says that it has requested action from Marbella Town Hall and the departments responsible for these matters, but little has happened to date.
Málaga gets Aduana for fine arts museum
Conversion of the 18th-century Custom House to cost 70 million euros
By Dave Jamieson
AFTER ALMOST A DECADE OF NEGOTIATIONS, THE GO-AHEAD HAS BEEN GIVEN FOR THE CONVERSION OF MÁLAGA'S PALACIO DE LA ADUANA INTO A FINE ARTS MUSEUM.
The Junta de Andalucía and central Government last week agreed details of the historic project which will see work start towards the end of next year. The deal involves a property swap and a new base for the regional government, whose present offices in the Aduana will be moved to the former 'July 18' hospital in the La Caleta building, which is presently being renovated.
Once the Palacio de la Aduana is vacated, surveyors can move in and the conversion programme should be licensed by the end of this year, according Spain's minister for Culture, Carmen Calvo. Work is expected to be contracted by next May or June and construction started by late 2006. The final cost of the two- or three-year project is expected to be between 60 and 70 million euros.
Built in 1788 as the city's Custom House, the future fine arts museum was designed by Manuel Marín Rodríguez in a neo-classical style. It originally stood on the water's edge before land was reclaimed at the end of the 19th century during a major transformation of Málaga. The building was a barracks for French troops in 1810, during which time serious damage was caused to the inside of the building. Later it became a tobacco factory and subsequently housed state offices. In 1922 a fire completely destroyed the interior, but is has since been restored and is widely appreciated for its fine patio and impressive marble balustrade.
Málaga has had a fine arts museum since 1903, and from 1961 it was based in the Palacio de Buenvista. However, in 1997 it was closed by the Junta de Andalucía in preparation for the creation of the Picasso Museum, and its collection of art works was stored in Palacio de Aduana, where a small exhibition hall has displayed a limited number of them. When the new museum opens in a few years, the curators will have 9,000 square metres of space on two floors.
The move is an historic one for Málaga and will provide the city with an "integrated and ambitious museum which can house works of great quality," according to Carmen Calvo. She said it would one of the best museums in the whole of Spain.
British architect wins Estepona theatre project
By David Eade
British architect David Chipperfield has won the competition to design Estepona’s the new theatre. The jury was presided over by the town’s councillor for Culture, Asunción López, and included representatives from the Town Hall as well as the provincial and regional governments. Sra López stated that all the designs received were of a very high standard and came from leading architects.
The London-based architect receives a prize of 40,000 euros for coming up with the winning design whilst the four runners-up will get 20,000 euros each. The Chipperfield design will be used as the basis for the new 400-seat theatre, to be built on a 3,600-square-metre site in the Parque Central zone of the town. The project is to be 75 per cent funded by the regional government, with the balance coming from the Town Hall.
David Chipperfield is a major name in modern architecture and his designs have won a number of international awards. He designed the prestigious new Berlin museum, Barcelona’s court complex, a culture centre in Ansaldo, Italy, and the enlargement of the San Miguel cemetery in Venice.
Junta passes 'botellón' headache to town halls
New law will give local officials power to control street parties
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA HAS CREATED DRAFT LEGISLATION THAT WILL HAND OVER TO LOCAL TOWN HALLS THE REGULATION AND CONTROL OF THE STREET DRINKING PARTIES KNOWN WIDELY AS 'EL BOTELLÓN'.
Once finalised and passed into law, the new scheme will give the town halls more power to decide where such public gatherings are and are not allowed, as well as greater authorisation to set and carry out fines.
The draft bill, which lawmakers say will be finalised and put into effect by the end of the administration's current term, expressly prohibits people from gathering and drinking in public places other than those specifically declared by the local town hall as legal for such activities. The town halls will have to create their own ordinances to formally identify areas where the activity is allowed, and under what conditions.
The Junta's draft legislation does lay down some across-the-board prohibitions on a few problematic behaviours often associated with the 'botellón' parties, such as performing bodily functions in public areas and failing to properly dispose of bottles, bags and other rubbish.
Municipal authorities have long been seeking guidance on how to address the street drinking parties, which in recent years have become increasingly popular with young people and are the source of many complaints by residents in the neighbourhoods where they take place. Drinking in public itself is not illegal, so the town halls have been confined to trying to control just the associated problems, like littering and excessive noise. In June the mayors of Andalucía's eight capital cities gathered in Antequera to discuss the problem and seek solutions.
Early reactions to the new draft legislation have been mixed. One worry among some town hall officials and concerned citizen groups is that, in its current form, the law would put the onus on the town halls without providing them any extra funding for patrolling and enforcement.
Government launches airline inspection plan
NEWS Staff Reporter
The Spanish Government has announced the launch of a plan that will vastly increase the number of safety inspections carried out on airlines, particularly those from outside the country, but falls short of creating public 'black list' of unsafe airlines.
The move comes following an international air-safety scare due to a spree of deadly accidents this summer. Some countries like France and Switzerland had in recent weeks published black lists, and Spain's pilots had called for the country's authorities to do the same (CDSN, Sept. 8 – 14).
Development Minister Magdalena Álvarez insisted that the new plan does not come because of a lack of existing safety, saying: "We have very good quality air inspections and we meet all the standards required by international authorities, both European and worldwide." Nonetheless, the new plan will hugely increase the number of annual inspections, from this year's expected 300 to 3,350 by 2007. The number of inspectors will be increased by a third, said Sra Álvarez.
While the number of inspections on Spanish airlines will increase, it is the foreign airlines that will receive the greatest focus. Officials will create a list of airlines considered to require extra vigilance. It will be based on ratings from the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), Europe's Safety Assessment of Foreign Aircraft (SAFA) programme and a committee of Spanish civil aviation experts, said Minister Álvarez.
But there will be no published black list of unsafe airlines or those banned from Spanish airspace or airports. According to Sra Álvarez, Spanish officials have decided against acting independently on the creation of such a list. "We will wait until the European Commission decides and then use that criteria," she said.
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