News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week January 5th to January 11th 2006.
CONSTRUCTION STRIKE THREAT
Quarry conflict leads to general building strike called for January 9-15
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE FIVE-WEEK-OLD STRIKE BY QUARRY WORKERS OVER THE COURT-ORDERED CLOSURE OF FOUR AHAURÍN DE LA TORRE QUARRIES IS SEVERELY AFFECTING THE CONSTRUCTION SECTOR, LEADING TRADE UNIONS TO OFFICIALLY CALL A GENERAL CONSTRUCTION STRIKE FOR JANUARY 9 – 15.
In addition, the union plans a major protest demonstration on January 11, beginning at 10.00 and marching around to various Junta de Andalucía and provincial government offices in Málaga before ending in front of the Partido Popular headquarters.
The CCOO (Comisiones Obreras) trade union blames both Alhaurín Town Hall and the Junta de Andalucía for failing to resolve the quarry situation. While it charges the Town Hall of disregarding a Junta proposal for the granting of municipal licences to allow the quarries to reopen, it also states that the two entities "are passing the ball back and forth" in a political standoff while ignoring the plight of workers.
Meanwhile, in Alhaurín the quarry situation continues to cause increasing tensions. On Friday morning of last week municipal officials arrived at the Town Hall to find the building's façade had been pelted with balloons filled with paint. There was also paint on the ground and on other buildings surrounding the plaza, in some cases including graffiti with insults against the Mayor. Graffiti was also painted on the road at the entrance to the town.
QUARRY WORKERS STILL CAMPING OUT
A group of the striking quarry workers is still bunkered down in front of the Town Hall, having passed both the Christmas and New Year's holidays camped out in tents and sleeping bags. At press time there had been no announcements of progress on the quarry quagmire, and mayors from numerous towns, including Alhaurín itself, had begun issuing statements about public works suffering stoppages and delays due to the strike.
POT plan off to rocky start
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (POT) FOR THE MÁLAGA METROPOLITAN AREA GOT OFF TO INAUSPICIOUS BEGINNINGS AS MAYORS FROM TWO OF THE MUNICIPALITIES IT CONCERNS EITHER FAILED TO ATTEND OR ABANDONED THE MEETING SET UP BY THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA TO PRESENT THE DRAFT PLAN.
Málaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre did not attend at all, claiming he had never received an official invitation, though this claim was refuted by Junta officials, who said they had both faxed and mailed information about the meetings to Málaga Town Hall. Nonetheless, the Mayor has already expressed misgivings about some elements of the POT, including two proposed water desalination plants in the capital, one at the mouth of the Guadalhorce River near the city's Sacaba beach and the other in the La Araña zone. The Mayor claims better solutions could be found by improving the management and treatment of rainwater from the region's rivers.
Torremolinos Mayor Pedro Fernández Montes arrived at the meeting with some of his staff, but then abruptly left. He later issued a written statement saying he rejects the whole process of the creation of the POT because Torremolinos Town Hall was not consulted or allowed to participate. "We do not feel obligated to respect its conclusions," he said. "We take legal measures to prevent any sort of invasion or usurpation of jurisdiction."
TWO-MONTH PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD
The Málaga Metropolitan Area POT affects Málaga, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Rincón de la Victoria, Totalán, Casabermeja, Almogía, Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande and Cártama. Before being approved in its final form, it will soon be put up for a two-month public comment period, during which the town halls can submit their suggestions.
San Pedro underpass project is underway
By David Eade
The minister of public works, Magdalena Álvarez, has been true to her word and gave the go-ahead on the last day of 2005 to the long-awaited underpass on the A-7 (old N-340) as it passes through San Pedro de Alcántara. On New Year's Eve the State bulletin (BOE) gave the official go-ahead for the project with a budget of 68.6 million euros, double the amount previously allocated. It will be completed in 30 months.
More than 65,000 vehicles travel through San Pedro on the A-7 every day and the underpass and tunnel will signal an end to the long traffic tailbacks and congestion that has been the trademark of this section of the road for the past decade or more. Companies wishing to tender for the project have until January 27 to make their bids.
The project will see the elimination of the existing roundabouts on this stretch of the A-7 with a 1,075 tunnel carrying the traffic through the centre of San Pedro. The tunnel will now be twice its original planned length after the minister listened to the submissions of Marbella Town Hall and local residents' groups who demanded the elimination of the existing three crossings.
Two of the present intersections at El Ingenio and Marqués del Duero will be incorporated in to the tunnel project whilst the third at the junction with the Ronda road will have a link at a different level. The work will start to the south east of San Pedro on the outskirts of Puerto Banús and the actual tunnel section will run from the bus station to the El Ingenio crossing.
Fuengirola-to-Manilva link moves forward
Government commissions study to define details
By David Eade
THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT'S PUBLIC WORKS AND TRANSPORT DEPARTMENT HAS COMMISSIONED AN INITIAL 900,000-EURO STUDY ON THE INTERMEDIARY ROAD THAT WILL EVENTUALLY LINK FUENGIROLA AND MANILVA.
This is the important first step in the normally 10-year-long process involved in a public works project of this magnitude, said officials. The contract to perform the study is expected to be awarded within the next five months.
The proposed road will be more than 60 kilometres long and will run between the existing A-7 (old N-340), known as the 'Autovía del Mediterráneo', and the AP-7 toll motorway.
It is hoped that the new road will alleviate the traffic congestion that will get worse over the next decade with the continued growth of the western Costa del Sol. The project is being given high priority by the regional government as it believes it is the key to mobility in the coastal zone.
The new road will cross the municipalities of Fuengirola, Marbella, Estepona and Manilva. It will have two lanes in each direction and will include pedestrian crossings as well as bicycle lanes. The road will be built in three stretches. The first, 25 kilometres in length, will run from Manilva to the west side of Estepona. The second will cover 20 kilometres from Estepona to the west side of Marbella. The final section will be 15 kilometres, linking Marbella to Fuengirola.
The study will look in to all aspects of the construction of the road and define its exact route, identifying necessary land expropriations and determining what viaducts and tunnels will be necessary.
A spokesperson for Public Works acknowledged that there was not a lot of space for a road between the A-7 and the existing toll motorway. In some cases it may be necessary for the new road to go to the north of the toll motorway, but the intention is to make it very much an urban road rather than a motorway, he said.
Accord reached on historic Vélez convent
By Dave Jamieson
The oldest Franciscan convent in eastern Andalucía has been saved following agreements reached between the Junta's Culture councillor, Vélez-Málaga Town Hall and the Bishopric of Málaga.
The Santiago de Vélez convent, known as San Francisco, dates from 1498 and was built by the Catholic kings on the site of an old mosque. The convent's cloister has Mudejar archways on the ground floor and arches on the upper floor. It was declared a building of important cultural interest in 2004, but its deterioration has been a cause of concern for several years, and is now to be the subject of a 1.3 million-euro restoration programme. The cost is to be shared equally between the regional government and the Congregation of Franciscan Brothers. Work will start this year on what is to be the last of six such projects to upgrade religious centres throughout Málaga and will take 18 months to complete.
Announcing the accord last week, Culture councillor Rosa Torres also commented on the stalled restoration project at Vélez parish church, Santa María la Mayor. She said an agreement had now been reached for a further 491,000 euros to be made available from the Junta for its completion. Finally, Sra Torres confirmed that a project was underway to develop a restoration plan for the Triana café-theatre in the town.
Guadalhorce hospital moving forward
The centre will count with 23 outpatient surgeries and four operation theatres
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE HEAD OF THE JUNTA DE ANDALUCÍA'S HEALTH DEPARTMENT, MARÍA JESÚS MONTERO, THE PRESIDENT OF THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT, SALVADOR PENDÓN, AND CÁRTAMA MAYOR JOSÉ GARRIDO LAST WEEK OFFICIALLY SIGNED THE AGREEMENT FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE NEW GUADALHORCE VALLEY REGIONAL HOSPITAL.
The basic agreement had already been established back in May, but with last week's signing the project is now set to move forward immediately.
Under the agreement, Cártama Town Hall will provide the 44,000-square-metre property for the hospital and contribute six million euros to the 19.2 million-euro construction cost. The provincial government will pay 7.2 million euros toward construction, while the Junta de Andalucía will pay the remaining six million euros and be responsible for the hospitals operations and maintenance once built.
The hospital is to be located in the Casapalma area. "We consider this the most ideal zone for ease of access for the majority of the residents of the [Guadalhorce Valley] region," said Health chief María Jesús Montero.
The facility will include an emergency room with two defibrillator machines, seven surgeries – one of them specialising in paediatrics – and 15 observation beds. The hospital will have 50 single rooms that, if necessary, can be used for double occupancy. Thee will also be four operation theatres, 23 outpatient surgeries and a radiology unit with two x-ray machines, two ultrasounds a mammography machine and a CAT scanner. The hospital will offer a range of medical specialisations covering "80 per cent of the procedures for the illnesses that are treated in a regional hospital," said Sra Montero.
30 MONTHS CONSTRUCTION DEADLINE
Work on the architectural plans for the hospital is to begin early this month and be completed within three to four months, at which point the construction contract can be put out to bid, said Sra Montero. "We are working toward construction of the building taking no more than 30 months," she said.
Marbella Mayor bows down to taxi drivers
By David Eade
Marbella's taxi drivers went on strike last Wednesday at 11.00 and only returned to work at 14.00 on Thursday after the Mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, gave in to their demands. A protest was held at the feria ground in Arroyo Primero on the Thursday to coincide with a meeting between the Mayor, representatives of the Taxisol company as well as the association representing salaried drivers.
The drivers were demanding that the local police take action against private vehicles that illegally park in the ranks reserved for their cars and are also more understanding of the problems that they face such as not issuing them with fines when they were forced to double park. Sra Yagüe has now promised that the police will take strict action against these private vehicles and if need be have them towed away.
Another major concern of the taxi drivers was their security whilst parked in the taxi ranks and the Mayor assured them that an increased police presence had been ordered some months ago. She also promised to see if some of the taxi ranks could be redesigned to make them more satisfactory for the drivers to use.
The strike had a major impact on the town at the peak Christmas holiday period with no taxis available to take people to and from Málaga Airport. People who use taxis to travel to the hospital and medical centres also had to find an alternative means of transport.
Benalmádena accepts marina expansion guidelines
No discotheques or nightclubs to be permitted
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
BENALMÁDENA TOWN HALL HAS FORMALLY ACCEPTED THE CONDITIONS AND GUIDELINES SET BY THE ANDALUCÍA PORT AUTHORITY FOR THE TOWN'S MARINA-EXPANSION PROJECT.
The Town Hall agreed to the conditions after some changes were made that will allow 6,000 additional square metres of new commercial space and increase from 30 years to 35 years the concession contract for operating the marina. These changes will 'allow the project to be economically viable'" because they will allow a greater return on investment, according to Town Hall spokesman Manuel Crespo.
The commercial zone, limited before to 24,000 square metres, has been upped to 30,000 square metres. It will have shops, restaurants and taverns, but discotheques and nightclubs will not be permitted.
The Town Hall estimates the total cost of the expansion project at 65 million euros, and the Port Authority conditions establish an 874,232-euro annual lease payment for the right to operate the marina. The Town Hall intends to create a public-private partnership to manage the facility, consisting of the Town Hall and the company contracted to operate the marina.
MOORAGES DOUBLED TO 2,200
The expansion plan calls for a more than 160,000-square-metre increase in the overall size of the marina, bringing it to a total of 437,865 square metres. The number of existing moorages will be doubled, to 2,200, and the marina will be able to handle boats of up to 100 metres in length. "Our intention is to attract high-end yachts that normally go to Puerto Banús," said Sr Crespo.
Now the Junta de Andalucía must give final sign-off for construction work to be put out to bid. The Town Hall expects to be able to put the project out to bid by March, with construction starting in autumn 2006 with a timeline of three to four years.
Beaches to benefit from drought effects
By Dave Jamieson
Axarquía beaches seriously damaged by last month's strong winds and high seas are to benefit from a regional initiative to move sand from reservoirs. Several resorts east of Málaga were badly affected when the wintry weather washed large amounts of sand off the beaches, one of the worst hit being Playa Ferrara in Torrox Costa. The situation was so bad that the town's Mayor, Francisco Muñoz, issued an urgent call for the Ministry of Environment to help.
However, just a day later, plans emerged to take advantage of the current drought conditions by moving sand from exposed reservoir beds to regenerate beaches. The Costas department of the Ministry announced that a 3.8 million euro project was to be launched, starting in late January and continuing through the following month.
The head of Costas, Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada, explained that with the region's reservoirs still recording far lower levels than usual, it would be straightforward to take top quality sand from exposed areas and move it to the coast. The reservoirs will also benefit from the work when the drought ends, as the Ministry estimates that between 36 and 40 cubic hectometres of their capacity – up to 40 million cubic metres of water – is presently lost because of the high levels of solid materials on their beds.
Lake Viñuela near Vélez-Málaga already has supplies of sand available for beach regeneration following dredging operations to increase its capacity. Other supplies of sand will come from El Limonero and the reservoir system of the Guadalhorce, while the greatest amounts are expected from La Concepción.
Technicians are presently testing the quality of the sand being taken from the reservoir beds, with the coast's beaches – particularly those east of Málaga and including Torrox Costa – expected to be fully recovered by the spring.
Nerja springs new year surprises on cancer survivo
BY DAVE JAMIESON
ON JANUARY 14, 1999, RICHARD OLDFIELD WAS DIAGNOSED WITH NON-HODGKIN'S LYMPHONA, A CANCER WHICH AFFECTS THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM. HE WAS IMMEDIATELY ADMITTED TO GUY'S HOSPITAL IN LONDON AND PLACED IN A SINGLE ROOM IN THE ONCOLOGY DEPARTMENT.
Within three days, Richard was informed by the senior consultant, Dr Chris Hoyle, that the cancer was very aggressive and that he had just six months to live. He was given palliative care, consisting of chemotherapy and morphine treatments, to give and preserve his life for as long as possible.
Also working in the same department at Guy's was Professor Steven Schey, who, the following month, attended a world symposium on the treatment of cancer in New York. He returned to London with news which would save Richard's life: a new treatment was available.
The drug of which Professor Schey had learned of in America had been developed from the eggs of starfish, but, at the time, had only been laboratory tested. Richard agreed to become the first human patient to be given "Code X-M mix Valcristian", and received the first dose on February 26, exactly six weeks after being diagnosed.
"The five months of treatment", says Richard, "were long and hard, but the results were amazing. I was one of 15 terminal cases trialling the drug, and 13 of us survived. Within three months of beginning the treatment, the symptoms had gone."
Richard left hospital at the end of August 1999 and was back at work full time by October. He still has to take the drug every day and to attend Guy's for a check up twice a year.
Three years later, Richard left London for Spain and found himself living in Nerja where he and his partner John opened a successful business, the Café del Mar on the town's Burriana Beach – and that's when the coincidences began to happen.
In October 2003, two customers came into the café and started chatting to Richard. He was interested to learn that Jeff Jenssen and Mike Desimone were from New York and that Jeff was a research scientist in cancer treatments. Suddenly during the conversation, Jeff realised that Richard was the first patient to use the drug which he had helped to invent in America. He knew all about the case and had copies of his medical notes in the laboratory. New friendships were forged and Jeff and Mike have become regular visitors to Nerja where they now own a holiday home.
But a further coincidence was to follow, when, on December 30, 2005, Richard was called from the kitchen to meet a client who wanted to speak to him. The visitor was his senior consultant from Guy's, Dr Chris Hoyle, who is spending a New Year break in the area. The two had not met since Richard was discharged from hospital six years before and a tearful reunion followed. To complete the story, just 15 minutes later Jeff and Mike happened to stroll into the café and were introduced to the London doctor with whom Jeff had exchanged many e-mails, but never met. As Richard says, "It's the kind of coincidence that could only happen in Nerja!"
The drug which saved Richard's life is now being manufactured by Roche and is about to be licensed in the U.K., distributed under the name Mabthera.
Campamento Benítez plans outlined
NEWS Staff Reporter
The design of the future park and museum complex at Campamento Benítez, the old military base that sits alongside the Plaza Mayor mall and the old N-340 road between Torremolinos and Málaga, is to be selected by an international competition. The basic plans for the site, as well as the idea for the design competition, were presented last week by Development Minister Magdalena Álvarez.
The 28-hectare site's main feature will be a transport and public works museum. The initial idea is that it will have various wings or pavilions organised by theme (land, sea air, road safety, etc.), and will house permanent and temporary exhibits, some of them outdoors. Additional facilities could include an IMAX theatre. The rest of the site will be parkland, including garden areas, large open spaces, bicycle and walking paths and possibly even an area for hot-air balloon rides. There will be a Cercanías train stop at the park/museum complex.
The design competition will begin in about six months, according to Sra Álvarez. Between now and then, the group of government agencies and administrations to take part in the project will be formed and begin working on general guidelines.
Málaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre last week expressed general support for the plans, although he maintained his stance that ownership of Campamento Benítez should rightly be returned to the Town Hall, which ceded the property to the central government in 1923 for the creation of the military base. He also reiterated his idea for a marine-studies centre at the site, which he said could possibly co-exist with the planned museum.
Ikea boosts its investment in Jerez
By David Eade
THE SWEDISH MULTINATIONAL FURNITURE RETAILER, IKEA, HAS NOW SIGNED ITS AGREEMENT WITH THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT AND JEREZ TOWN HALL TO BUILD ITS LARGEST STORE IN THE WORLD.
The superstore is to be built on a site between the future commercial zone and leisure area on the town's western by-pass.
The investment is also larger than first anticipated. The director of IKEA Ibérica, Jaime García-Alegre Luzárraga, confirmed that 650 people would be employed in the new project. Four hundred and fifty of the jobs would be in the form of direct employment whilst 200 would be in services required by the company. The overall investment would be over 300 million euros.
IKEA employs more than 90,000 people worldwide. Between 3,500 and 4,000 of these work for the company in Spain and of that total more than 1,000 are employed in Andalucía.
Second blow for El Puerto
El Puerto de Santa María had hoped to be the home for the new IKEA superstore but lost out to Jerez. Now the town has received a second economic blow within weeks with the announcement that the El Corte Inglés group may change its mind about opening a store in the town centre because of the cost involved.
The company had been holding discussions with the council about the possibility of buying a 2,000 square metre building in the town centre, but according to the mayor, Hernán Díaz, this would cost about three million euros and the company may now reconsider its plans.
The exact site of the possible El Corte Inglés store has not been revealed because the mayor doesn't want to start a price war among neighbouring buildings, nor has it been confirmed which of its different stores the group was intending to bring to El Puerto, although many people believe it would probably be a branch of Sfera, the fashion and accessories shop the group has recently opened in Cádiz.
Spain enters second year of drought
Reservoir levels nationwide below 50%
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
SPAIN, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF THE FAR NORTH REGION, HAS OFFICIALLY ENTERED A SECOND CONSECUTIVE DROUGHT YEAR.
Officials stated last week that if the situation continues they do not rule out the possibility of water cuts.
"The last quarter was worse than [the same period] last year and the second year of drought has begun," said the Environment Ministry's water chief, Jaime Palop, last week. If the trend continues, he said, the current hydraulic year (October to October) "could be drier than the last one."
Were that to occur, said Sr Palop, "it would be a unique situation in Spain's drought history; an extremely dry year being followed by an even drier one." The hydraulic year that just ended in October 2005 was the driest in the last 125 years.
The scant rainfall of December reduced the aggregate level of the country's reservoirs to 45.3 per cent (24,142 cubic hectometres), reversing the slight increases that had occurred in October and November.
In Málaga, aquifer levels last week were at 20 per cent of capacity and reservoirs at 26.7 per cent, according to Junta de Andalucía authorities. This is despite the fact that the province's aquifers were some of the best-recovered in Andalucía in recent months, rising from just 14 per cent of capacity in September 2005. "Any level below 50 per cent is concerning," said Antonio Rodríguez Leal, head of regional water authority Cuenca Mediterránea Andaluza.
However, Sr Leal also recognised that the local water supply is not exclusively dependent on the reservoirs. In Málaga roughly a third of water derives from the reservoirs and on the western Costa del Sol the figure is 30 per cent, he said.
CALL TO SAVE WATER
Junta de Andalucía officials last week issued renewed calls on local town halls and the general public to take measures to save water and reduce consumption.
Spain passes anti-smoking law
CIS study focuses on Spain's major problems
By David Eade
As Spain enters the New Year unemployment and immigration are identified as the two major problems facing the country in 2006. The Centre of Sociology Investigations (CIS) asked people what in their judgement were the three major problems that exist in Spain and 54.1 per cent said unemployment, 40 per cent stated immigration whilst 25.3 per cent opted for terrorism and ETA.
Other areas of concern were housing (21.5 per cent), the economy (18), crime levels (15.1), education (11.4), the current political situation (9.8), employment relations (8.3) and drugs 5.8 per cent.
Few people think the economic situation is bad, most opting for it being OK. Just 0.7 per cent believe it to be very good, 23.8 per cent say good, the vast majority at 50.3 per cent think it's OK whilst 23.7 per cent say its bad and 6.9 per very bad.
Again the OK's are in the majority when it comes to the political situation. Only 0.8 per cent say its very good, 15.3 per cent say good, the majority at 42.9 per cent say OK, 23.7 per cent believe it to be bad with 9.8 per cent opt for very bad.
Around 6 out of ten (59.6 per cent) of Spaniards believe there are too many immigrants in the country. A third (33.3 per cent) believe there are enough but not too many whilst just 3.5 per cent say there are too few.
The CIS then asked people on a scale of 0 to 10 what values a non-Spaniard should have before being permitted to live in the country. Top ranked was work qualification at 6.40, followed by a good level of education 5.62, able to speak Spanish 5.22, have family already here 4.74 and finally 2.98 that they come from a traditionally Christian country.
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