News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week December 1st to December 7th 2005.
EXPATS INVEST IN SPAIN
Andalucía accounts for 40 per cent of all tourist housing in Spain
By Dave Jamieson
THE BUOYANT FIGURE WAS REVEALED AT THE OPENING OF LAST WEEK’S HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL PROPERTY FAIR IN MÁLAGA BY JOSÉ PRADO, PRESIDENT OF THE ASSOCIATION OF CONSTRUCTORS AND PROMOTERS IN THE PROVINCE (ACP).
The five-day Mediterranean Real Estate Exhibition, held for the second year at the city’s prestigious new convention centre, brought together 114 businesses in the sector for a series of lectures and round-table discussions on the state of the foreign property market in the region.
Sr Prado confirmed that the region has enjoyed another dynamic year with increases generating a total of 405,000 direct and 610,000 indirect jobs, which together constitute 15 per cent of the workforce of the region. Málaga’s Mayor, Francisco de la Torre who opened the fair, talked of its ability to boost business which was important to the economy of Andalucía.
SECOND FAIR SUCCESS
Figures show that the first fair last year, which attracted 15,000 visitors and generated around 20 million euros of new business, has been massively superseded with around 70,000 visitors during the week plus at least a doubling in the volume of business.
The foreign property sector was estimated to be worth 3.5 billion euros last year, three times its value in 1995, while house prices have risen around an average of 90 per cent in the same period, according to Funcas, the Savings Banks Foundation. Construction this year is estimated to have risen by 10 per cent with prices up by an average of 16 per cent.
BRITS TOP THE LIST
At 52 per cent of all foreign buyers, Britons make up the biggest national group buying property in the region, followed by the Germans and the French on 22 and eight per cent respectively. Barclays Bank recently estimated that a million more Britons were actively planning to buy property in Spain, joining around 300,000 who already spend all or most of the year on the Costa del Sol.
Reforms to the pension schemes in the UK also augur well for the Spanish real estate market. For the first time, people taking part in self-invested personal pension plans (SIPPs) will be able to put money into residential property at home or abroad, which could include buy-to-let properties or holiday homes. The new legislation is due to come into force next April.
Further 'Ballena Blanca' arrest in Portugal
By David Eade
PORTUGUESE POLICE HAVE ARRESTED FRENCHMAN, MICHEL ALAIN PAUL CURTET, WHO WAS AMONGST THOSE IMPLICATED IN THE ‘BALLENA BLANCA – WHITE WHALE’ INTERNATIONAL MONEY LAUNDERING INVESTIGATION.
Michel Curtet was seized along with five other people, four French and a Colombian, along with a haul of 6,100 kilograms of cocaine.
The Marbella judge investigating the ‘Ballena Blanca’ case had already frozen Curtet’s bank accounts and embargoed his home where police raids are said to have found a large amount of incriminating documentation.
In October, officers of Spain’s organised crime and drugs squad met with their French counterparts in Paris to open a joint investigation of Curtet who was believed to be involved in drugs trafficking and money laundering. The same Spanish police unit has also been liasing with their Portuguese colleagues and are now believed to be receiving information on his arrest and the implications this could have for the ‘Ballena Blanca’ operation.
AWARD FOR DEL VALLE
The Chilean-born lawyer, Fernando del Valle, who is considered by police to be the mastermind behind the ‘Ballena Blanca’ scam, has been honoured by his colleagues in the Málaga College of Lawyers.
Del Valle was released from jail on September 26 after posting 600,000 euros in cash as bail, some of which was raised by his fellow lawyers. On Monday, the Málaga lawyers presented him with a medal and diploma to mark his 25-years of service to the profession.
Wedding helicopter crash pilot didn’t have licence
By David Eade
Spain’s aircraft accident investigation commission (CIAIAC) has been looking in to the helicopter crash that killed three people in Istán on December 12 of last year. The helicopter collided with La Concha mountain behind Marbella and the pilot and a newly married British couple died at the scene.
In a preliminary report in to the tragic accident the investigators have taken the view that the flight was of a commercial nature. That being so it has been disclosed that whilst the pilot was licensed to fly the helicopter he did not have a commercial licence and therefore should not have been carrying fare-paying passengers. A Dutch citizen did survive the crash and he is alleged to have stated that the pilot charged the two Britons 1,500 euros for a three-hour flight in the helicopter.
The Robinson R-44-II helicopter left Axarquía airport at 12.20 on the morning of the crash and flew to a golf course in Estepona where the married couple bordered the flight. The Britons had been wed in Gibraltar that morning and were expected at a reception at a beachside restaurant at Mijas Costa. Given that their family and friends were waiting for them it is not clear why they would have contracted for a three-hour flight.
It is understood the CIAIAC preliminary report has ruled out the weather as a cause of the crash but has blamed a mechanical failure. The helicopter was seen near the top of La Concha where it flew in an erratic manner, collided with a Holm oak tree then plunged in to a ravine.
Bomb threat puts Málaga on full alert
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA AIRPORT WAS PUT ON FULL TERRORIST ALERT ON SATURDAY MORNING AFTER A PASSENGER ON BOARD AN INCOMING FLIGHT FROM SWEDEN CLAIMED TO BE CARRYING EXPLOSIVES.
The incident began aboard Sterling flight SNB705 which left Stockholm’s Arlanda Airport for Málaga at 7.30. Less than an hour into the flight, a crew member was told by one of the passengers, travelling with two companions, that he was carrying explosives in his luggage. Concerned that the safety of the flight was at risk, the steward advised the captain who in turn contacted his company. Málaga airport activated its local emergency plan at 9.15 which alerted the control tower, all the emergency services, medical teams and State Security to the potentially dangerous situation.
When the flight touched down at the airport at 11.38, it taxied to a remote spot north of the terminal where it was immediately surrounded by about 20 police vehicles carrying explosives experts and officers with sniffer dogs. Guardia Civil officers went on board and detained the three passengers whose conversation had aroused the steward’s suspicions, while the remainder of the 94 passengers on board were able to disembark from the Boeing 737 and continue their journeys normally. The aircraft remained immobilised on the tarmac for most of the day.
The passenger who began the incident is believed to be in his early 20s and of Swedish nationality but Moroccan origin, while his companions were from Morocco and Ceuta. All three were interrogated, but by 12.45 it was clear the incident was a false alarm and the emergency plan was called off. Other airport operations were not affected.
The individual whose false claim sparked the incident was detained pending a court appearance and is reported to have previous convictions for various offences, including threatening behaviour. His companions were freed without charge.
The Minister for Development, Magdalena Alvárez, who was in Málaga on Saturday on departmental business, later praised the “excellent coordination” between the ground crews at the airport and the calm manner with which the crew aboard the Sterling flight had handled the situation.
Álora reacts to “botellón” complaints
By Dave Jamieson
Álora Town Hall plans to take steps to control the nuisance caused by open air drinking parties in the town centre. Residents have complained about the night time gatherings of young people, known as “el botellón” – a phenomenon which has plagued many towns and cities in recent years – and now councillors belonging to the Partido Popular (PP) have had a motion passed which will see a study made of ways in which the problem can be alleviated. People living near the Renfe rainway station have talked of excessive noise from unsilenced motorcycles and loud sound systems in cars, as well as of individuals vomiting and urinating in doorways.
Pilar Jurado of the PP said that the first move would be to increase vigilance in the area where around 200 young people habitually gather on weekend evenings, although, she added, it was the minority whose unsociable behaviour caused inconvenience to residents. She said the town’s Mayor should order local police to patrol the zone, but acknowledged the difficulty that this poses as only two officers are on duty at night. The Town Hall’s youth department is also to start an awareness programme to encourage “botellón” participants to act more responsibly.
Cash crisis at Benalmádena hospital project
Cost soars from 14 million to 22 million euros
By David Eade
ALARM BELLS ARE RINGING AT BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL AS THE COST OF THE NEW STATE-OF-THE-ART HEALTH FACILITY HAS SOARED FROM 14 MILLION TO 22 MILLION EUROS.
The main blame for the price hike is laid at changes that have been made to the plans over the past two years.
Benalmádena’s councillor responsible for health matters, Enrique Moyer, intends to meet urgently with representatives from the regional government’s health service. He is hoping to persuade the Andalucía health authority to pay the eight million euros cost difference.
Whilst the health service’s provincial delegate in Málaga, María Antigua Escalera, has agreed to meet Sr Moyer she stated that she was surprised that Benalmádena Town Hall wanted the local government to put up the extra cash. She stressed the local authority had offered to build and equip the hospital at its own cost with the health authority paying for its maintenance.
BLAMING THE TOWN HALL
Sra Escalera stated that the cost to the health service for maintaining the hospital would be equal to that of building it. She also blamed the increase in cost on decisions made by Benalmádena Town Hall, which had nothing to do with the health authority. If the cash crisis is solved the hospital should be completed by the end of next year and opened in early 2007.
New rules for Mijas traders
News Staff Reporter
Businesses in Mijas that as part of the trade use areas of the public thoroughfare outside have until December 31 to renew their licences. This can be done at Mijas Town Hall or the various council offices in the various zones of the municipality.
They will find that a new set of regulations are being issued by Mijas Town Hall in an effort to exert closer control of those businesses that use public thoroughfares as part of their trading area. The new rules covering such paraphernalia as signs, displays, awnings, machines and in the cases of bars and restaurants tables and chairs, can all be found on the website www.mijas.es.
The new rules pay special attention to narrow streets or public spaces to ensure that pedestrians and residents are not impeded by the encroachment of the businesses. The town Hall is also liasing with the association of businesses to ensure that the various different terraces keep to the same design so as to create an aesthetic union.
Arts and sciences centre for Estepona
Scheme could also include communications institute
By David Eade
PART OF THE LAND WHICH ORIGINALLY FORMED PART OF ESTEPONA’S CONTROVERSIAL NADAL INHERITANCE COULD BE USED TO BUILD A CENTRE FOR ARTS AND SCIENCES AT LAS MESAS.
The land in question is administered by the Guerrero Foundation. It was named after Antonia Guerrero, who was born in Estepona in 1848 and died in Valencia province in 1928.
She owned a considerable quantity of land in Estepona that was inherited by her nephew and niece José and Catalina Nadal. They both died childless and part of their inheritance is known as the Herencia Nadal, which over the years has created much controversy in the town. The remainder of the land was used to set up the Guerrero Foundation in 1996.
The director of the Science Museum in Valencia, Manuel Toharia, has agreed to co-operate in creating the centre and the town hall is currently discussing the design of the building with a well-known architect.
In addition to the arts and sciences centre an international communications institute could be also built on the site. It would house the town hall’s media outlets and also teach post-graduates. The projected cost of the centre and institute is over 48 million euros.
NADAL LAND SALE
There has also been an important announcement on the future of some of the land that makes up the Herencia Nadal. The Unicaja banking group has stated that it will sell half of the Nadal land that it owns to the businessman Juan José Hidalgo, who owns a major tourism company. He will now own 2.37 million square metres made up of various fincas located between the A-7 and the toll motorway.
New digital TV launched
By Dave Jamieson
Digital terrestrial television has arrived in Spain. Today sees the formal opening of the new services following the Government’s authorisation of the first channels to start broadcasting nationally.
TVE are screening both their TVE-1 and La 2 services digitally, and have added channels not available on analogue receivers including Teledeporte, Canal 24 Horas, Canal Cincuenta Años de TVE and the children’s channel, Clan TV. Telecinco has been awarded two channels, one for sport and the other for drama, plus a third which is to carry its existing analogue channel output. Antena 3 has launched Antena.Neox for children and Antena.Nova, a lifestyle channel, as well as a third channel duplicating their analogue signal. Other operators include Sogecable with three channels, plus Veo, Net TV and La Sexta with two each. Eight channels have been taken by autonomous regions and four channels are to carry local programmes.
While the digital terrestrial television network will eventually replace the present analogue system, it is thought that the two will operate in parallel until at least 2010. However, experts are warning that those who receive their television signals on a community system may have to wait up to two years before they can enjoy the new channels. They say that on such systems installed before 2003, of which they estimate there are around 50,000 in the province of Málaga, the receiving equipment will have to be replaced with new technology at cost of around 1,000 euros per installation.
Green light for Ronda golf
Developers to start work in January
By David Eade
DESPITE THE PROTESTS OF ECOLOGISTS, FARMERS AND THE PEOPLE OF CUEVAS DEL BECERRO THE PROJECT TO BUILD A GOLF COURSE AND LUXURY URBANISATION AT LOS MERINOS NORTE IN RONDA WILL START IN JANUARY.
Ronda town hall has given its approval of the scheme and once the necessary paperwork has been completed the developers should have the licence to start work as of January.
The project allows for the construction of two golf courses of 18-holes, 785 luxury homes and three five-star hotels. To date the development has also been approved by the regional government but it is conceivable that could be reversed.
The controversial golf-residential-tourism scheme was officially published in the Provincial bulletin (BOP) on November 18, which opened a period of one month in which objections could be lodged.
It would be surprising indeed if those who have protested against the project so far should now fall silent. This is especially so as the main objection to the golf course urbanisation is that it will deplete the water aquifers on which the people of Cuevas del Becerro and the local farmers depend. The ecologist group Silvema has already stated that it will be lodging objections.
MAYOR DEFENDS PROJECT
Nonetheless the mayor of Ronda, Antonio Marín, has stated that the project was of great importance to the town as it would create almost 1,000 jobs. In addition he claimed it would be “impossible” to block a project that was now included in the local development plan.
New cultural centre for Nerja
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja’s new cultural centre is to go ahead at a cost of five million euros. The Town Council last week approved the project to demolish the existing Giner de los Ríos centre in calle Diputación and to replace it with a new facility which will offer 3,700 square metres of space. The existing building, which dates from the 1960s and houses numerous cultural and sporting groups, is to disappear in favour of a three storey centre with two basements, which will house a large auditorium for meetings, a library, music school, orchestra rehearsal room, children’s painting studio, exhibition hall, administrative offices, meeting rooms and other facilities. A large patio area will be available for outdoor activities and for use by the town’s outdoor cinema in the summer. As well as access from calle Diputación, there will be entrances from calles Granada and Manuel Marín. The project, which has been developed by the architect Joaquín López Valdano, is likely to begin in the second half of next year, after demolition work is complete, and to continue for two years. The councillor for culture in Nerja, Antonio Villasclaras, said the new facility would cover all the town’s requirements and would open new opportunities for conference tourism.
Cádiz gets organised crime squad
By David Eade
THE MINISTER OF THE INTERIOR, JOSÉ ANTONIO ALONSO, HAS ANNOUNCED THAT A ‘GRECO’ POLICE UNIT WILL BE ESTABLISHED IN THE PROVINCE.
The announcement has come after recent calls for a toughening up of the police force to meet the challenges posed by organised crime in Cádiz.
The Greco unit, which specialises in fighting organised crime will be based in Chiclana. It will be responsible for controlling the western part of Andalucía, as its counterpart in Málaga does on the Costa del Sol. Indeed many crime experts believe the success of the Málaga unit has been responsible for the increased presence of organised crime gangs in Cádiz as they have moved west to avoid the attentions of the Costa del Sol squad.
Sr. Alonso made the announcement during a speech at a conference on organised crime held in Jerez. He stressed that the government will not tolerate this type of activity, which includes drug smuggling, people trafficking and money laundering. He praised the work of the police and the Guardia Civil, saying that the authorities are trying to improve their resources to make their fight against crime less difficult.
Computer technology loans for families
News Staff Reporter
Families with school-age children could be in line to receive a Government loan to purchase a computer system. The development follows an agreement signed last week between the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, José Montilla, the banking entities La Caixa and Banesto, and CECA, the association of Spain’s 46 savings banks.
The proposal is to make available interest-free loans of 1,000 euros over three years for the purchase of computer equipment and a high-speed Internet connection. Participants in the scheme will also receive a CD, developed by the banks, containing software for use on the system. 118,000 homes are expected to benefit from the plan, with availability being distributed proportionately, according to each region’s population. Only those families with children learning at pre-university level are eligible, and in the case of large families the grant could be increased to 1,200 euros.
The Government is to invest 100 million euros in the project, with 30 million from La Caixa, 37 million from Banesto and 33 million from the savings banks.
Sr Montilla said the initiative, which is part of the ongoing drive to make the Internet more generally available, would guarantee the spread of computer technologies in the education sector and encourage their use in children’s formative years.
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