News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week February 2nd to February 8th 2006.
NO MERCY ON ILLEGAL HOMES
Homeowner face prison sentence, as well as a fine and house demolition
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
THE PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE IS SEEKING A YEAR IN PRISON AND A 2,700-EURO FINE FOR A WOMAN ACCUSED OF THE ILLEGAL CONSTRUCTION OF A HOME IN CÁRTAMA. THE PROSECUTOR WILL ALSO REQUEST THAT THE BUILDING BE DEMOLISHED.
According to the prosecutor, at the end of 2004, María José E.P. began building a 110-square-metre house on a 1,872-square-metre plot owned by her father in the rural El Cano zone. The plot is classified as non-developable and the woman had no municipal licence or permit. Nonetheless, she began construction, laying a large concrete pad and erecting part of the structure of the house, according to the charges.
The prosecutor says it is impossible to retroactively legalise the construction because the minimum plot size for building a house in the zone is 9,054 square metres. In addition, the house sits just two metres from the boundary line when the legal minimum is 15 metres.
4,000 ILLEGAL HOUSES IN CÁRTAMA
The case marks the most recent in a string of illegal-construction cases in Cártama, including the demolition last June of an illegal home in Finca el Ratón (CDSN, June 16 – 22). That demolition sparked protests from residents and calls for the Town Hall to take measures to regularise the situation of the thousands of illegally built houses in the town. Just weeks later, 20 people, some of them foreign residents, were charged with illegal construction of homes in a flood zone of the Dehesa Alta-Maguarra zone. The Town Hall has estimated that there are as many as 4,000 illegal homes in the municipality, mostly in rural areas.
EXPATS' HOMES IN DANGER
Cártama and other Guadalhorce Valley towns, due to their rural nature and proximity to Málaga and the Costa, have in recent years seen an influx of full-and part-time residents seeking a country home. But much of the land in the rural zones of these towns is classified as non-developable. In many cases land owners have knowingly built illegal homes in the hope that they would either go unnoticed or, if detected, be able to legalise the home retroactively by paying fines. In other cases, buyers of homes or properties – in many cases foreigners – have unwittingly been sold illegally built homes or told that they could build on a plot when in fact the land was classified as non-developable.
REZONING A SOLUTION
In Cártama, officials have indicated that the town's new local development plan (PGOU) will include the rezoning of certain areas to allow the legalisation of some of the thousands of illegal houses. But others, particularly if built in protected ecological or agricultural areas, or in flood zones, will no doubt remain outside of the legalisation process.
Local officials in Cártama and other inland towns have repeatedly urged potential buyers of houses or property, or those considering building on a property already in their possession, to contact the Town Hall before doing anything.
Outcry over continued power cuts
Benalmádena residents get together and collect over 200 signatures
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
BUSINESSES AND RESIDENTS ALONG AVENIDA JUAN LUIS PERALTA IN BENALMÁDENA PUEBLO HAVE COLLECTED AROUND 200 SIGNATURES ON A PETITION DEMANDING THAT ELECTRICITY COMPANY SEVILLANA-ENDESA TAKE MEASURES TO FIX THE "CONTINUOUS" POWER CUTS IN THE ZONE.
The signature campaign was sparked by a 15-hour power outage last week that left local businesses and residents without electricity from 19.00 Wednesday evening to mid-morning Thursday. Bars lost customers as droves of football-watching patrons headed for home. Once home, residents sat cold in the dark, using candles to shed a little light, if not much warmth. Freezers defrosted, leaving puddles to be mopped up off of floors.
SIGNATURE PETITION TO SEVILLANA-ENDESA
María del Carmen de Luque, owner of Cafetería Avenida, one of the affected establishments, has spearheaded the signature drive. "This is not the first time such a power cut has occurred," she said. "Last year it happened several times, during times of high electricity use [due to heating or air conditioning] or inclement weather." Frequent power outages have occurred for years, she said.
She and other business owners and residents hope the petition to Sevillana-Endesa will move the company to make improvements to the local power network and put an end to the frequent cuts.
Murder rate down but crime still on rise
By Oliver McIntyre
Despite the impression given by what seem like ever-increasing reports of mafia murders or 'pay-back' killings among criminal gangs on the Costa, 2005 actually saw a nine per cent drop in the number of murders and attempted murders in Málaga Province, according to official data. In fact, many types of robbery and violent crime showed reduced numbers in 2005, though the overall rate of 'delitos' (the more serious of Spanish law's two types of offences, 'delitos' and 'faltas') increased by 3.3 per cent. The figure represents a slowing down of rising crime rates, which in recent years have seen annual increases of around six per cent.
Fraud crimes dropped by 13.4 per cent, falsification offences by 10.3 per cent, violent theft by 18 per cent, petty theft by 3.5 per cent and home robberies by one per cent. The type of crime that increased most, and contributed significantly to the overall increase in 'delitos', was domestic violence, which surged 22.5 per cent. Law enforcement officials say this dramatic increase was due "in part to the effectiveness of the measures taken in different areas to favour the reporting [of the crime] by victims."
The overall number of arrests in 2005 was up six per cent to 14,366, compared to 13,536 in 2004. The success rate in solving crimes increased by 12.7 per cent, according to officials.
Nerja quits Axarquía association
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja has formally left the Mancomunidad de Municipios de la Costa del Sol – Axarquía, the association of Axarquía municipalities, but with an alleged debt hanging over the Town Hall.
In December 2004, a motion to abandon the group, of which Nerja was a founder member, was carried by the Town Council, although opposed by all the opposition parties. The reasons then given by the Town Hall were the association's "constant inactivity and continuing instability" and a "lack of organisation in the distribution of resources" to benefit Town Halls. Nerja's ruling Partido Popular party expressed its unwillingness to continue funding such an operation, saying that the town paid in much more than it got out of the association. Nerja's departure was formally approved by the Mancomunidad last month, leaving its new composition including only Rincón de la Victoria, Vélez Málaga, Algarrobo and Torrox, although around a dozen other municipalities in the region are presently being invited to join the group.
However, Nerja's dealings with the association are far from over, since the Mancomunidad is claiming that the town owes it a million euros. The association's president José Jesús Domínguez Palma, a former socialist mayor of Rincón, has described Nerja as a member of the group "in the French manner", adding that details of the alleged debt would be clarified immediately.
Odyssey says initial phase of exploration complete
Company threatens legal action against boat owners and media
By David Eade
ODYSSEY MARINE EXPLORATION HAS ANNOUNCED THAT IT HAS COMPLETED THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL SURVEY THAT WAS THE INITIAL PHASE OF ITS EXPLORATION OF THE HMS SUSSEX WRECK. The US-based company says the survey included gathering archaeological evidence to identify the site believed to be HMS Sussex, which was lost in 1694 whilst carrying a cargo of gold coins. Odyssey says that if the analysis of this evidence supports the presumption that the site is the Sussex, a report will be submitted to the British Government and, if approved, will be sent on to the Spanish Government as agreed with the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on July 28, 2005.
Odyssey states that it received a Spanish diplomatic communication on January 26, 2006, requesting that it suspend operations until the Andalucía regional government appointed an expert to observe operations on the site. It was further declared that the regional government had not appointed an expert because it believed that Odyssey was working without appropriate authorization.
Odyssey says it submitted a Project Plan to the Spanish Government through diplomatic channels that it believed complied with all applicable requirements. The company says it began operations on the Sussex in good faith after assurance by the Spanish Government that the failure of the Andalucía government to appoint an expert to join the operation would not be considered a failure of Odyssey to comply with the agreement. In addition, Odyssey received assurances as recently as January 13, 2006, that there would be no interference with operations relating to the Sussex. However, the recent diplomatic communication from Spain appears to be a contradiction of that position, and Odyssey says it trusts that the inconsistency has resulted from ambiguity and miscommunications relative to jurisdictional issues.
LEGAL ACTION In the meantime, Odyssey is planning to file legal action against boat operators who have endangered their own vessels, the company's ship Odyssey Explorer and its crew by violating numerous maritime regulations. Greg Stemm, co-founder of the company, told CDSN: "We have been very disappointed in the unprofessional and dangerous behaviour that some of the local vessels have engaged in during the course of our operations... On numerous occasions during the past weeks, we have seen small local boats approach our ship in a careless manner, apparently not realizing the danger of their actions. The thrusters that are engaged during dynamic positioning operations present a serious threat to small vessels that come too close, which is why we request a safe working perimeter. We are seeking legal redress to prevent this from happening in the future in order to avail ourselves of every avenue available before someone is seriously hurt or worse." Odyssey is also exploring possible legal options to deal with news organizations and their sources who have promulgated false and misleading information and printed libellous claims against the company.
Whilst the future operations relating to the Sussex shipwreck site are sorted out, the company has temporarily moved the Odyssey Explorer to start work on another project in the Western Med. However, the research vessel RV Odyssey is remaining in Gibraltar to continue support operations in that area.
Ronda police officer kills former fiancée and commited suicide
NEWS Staff Reporter
A sub-inspector in the National Police killed his ex-fiancée in Ronda and then turned his official-issue pistol on himself and committed suicide. The incident occurred outside the entrance to the Unicasa estate agency where the woman worked.
Just before she was shot, the 28-year-old woman had been chatting to a friend in a café in Calle Molino near her office. Her 33-year-old former boyfriend found her there and after a heated discussion they walked back to her office and she got into his Audi A3.
Eyewitnesses reported that once she was inside the car he shot her three times and then got inside the car and shot himself. One of the shots hit a woman who worked with his fiancée as she opened up the estate agency. She was rushed to the local hospital and is now said to be out of danger.
Friends of the couple have stated that they had been dating for about two years but had broken up at the end of December. The same friends observed that they had a normal relationship other than typical couple arguments.
With morbid irony it has been revealed that the police officer was an expert in handling domestic violence cases. He had been studying the law dealing with such issues and had participated in events against domestic violence held in the municipality.
Around 400 people attended the victim's funeral on Monday and at noon a minute's silence was held outside the Town Hall. A demonstration against domestic violence was held that evening, attended by an estimated 2,000 people.
Residents angry over property damage
Third time a car smashes into a Guadalmar home
BY OLIVER MCINTYRE
IN A SLIGHTLY IRONIC TWIST ON THE OLD REFRAIN, RESIDENTS ALONG CARRETERA CAMPO DEL GOLF IN GUADALMAR ARE HOPING THE THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM – THAT THE THIRD INCIDENT OF A CAR SMASHING INTO ONE OF THEIR HOMES WILL FINALLY GET MÁLAGA TOWN HALL TO TAKE ACTION ON INSTALLING SAFETY FEATURES ON THE ROAD.
Late one night last week, Conchi Mollar was inside her home when she suddenly heard a loud crash outside. She had little doubt what it was. In the last two years, her next door neighbour, Antonio Uceda, has had the front wall of his yard smashed into twice, so the sound was familiar. As expected, when she went outside she saw her own garden wall bashed in, and no car in sight; just like the two times her neighbour's wall was crashed into, the driver had fled. There was still an acrid burning smell in the air from the car's impact against the electricity box on the wall.
Next door neighbour Antonio Uceda stopped by the next morning to commiserate. He could certainly empathise with Sra Mollar's situation. In July of 2004, a car smashed into his garden wall and knocked it down. In October of 2005 it happened again.
RESIDENTS WANT TRAFFIC LIGHTS
Residents in the zone have repeatedly requested that the Town Hall install a traffic light at this problematic spot on the road. They would also like to see speed bumps installed, pointing out that while the limit is 30kph, drivers routinely travel at much higher speeds. The residents are hopeful that this third almost identical incident will finally bring action. However, some are less than optimistic. "Until someone dies, they won't listen to us," said one.
Possible arson as Nerja compound explodes
By Dave Jamieson
Five heavy vehicles have been destroyed in a major blaze in Nerja which may have been started deliberately. Residents on the town's eastern edge were awoken from sleep at 1.30 in the morning by a series of explosions which one described as sounding like a couple of loud fireworks, then a massive blast which rattled the windows. The blaze which followed destroyed a compound owned by Hermanos Benitico close to the Fuente del Baden and Jardines de Nerja urbanisations where many people turned out into the street in their pyjamas to find out what had happened. Houses near to the fire were evacuated by police, while flames lapped at the gardens of the closest properties in Calle Vía Romana. By 4.00 emergency services had the situation under control and residents were allowed to return to their homes, although smoke and a strong smell of burning rubber hung in the air for hours afterwards.
The compound was a storage area for a number of heavy vehicles, including excavators and lorries, some of which were moved away from danger. In addition to the five which were totally lost, two motor cycles were burned out and a wall collapsed. Two diesel storage tanks were also destroyed. Guardia Civil investigators have not ruled out arson, noting that an intruder alarm had been disabled, the compound gates were open and a window in one of the buildings had been smashed. Hermanos Benitico has estimated its losses at 360,000 euros.
Emergency drought plans scarcer than rain
NEWS Staff Reporter
Alhaurín de la Torre Town Hall announced last week that its emergency drought plan will not be finalised until at least the end of next week, well beyond the January 7 deadline dictated by the Junta de Andalucía. Alhaurín is not alone in missing the deadline, and says the reason is the short time given by the Junta and the amount of work involved.
Indeed, at the end of last week the long-awaited rain proved faster to arrive than the emergency drought plans being drawn up by 18 towns in Costa region. Three weeks after the Junta's deadline, only the city of Málaga had completed its plan – an accomplishment Alhaurín Town Hall chalked up to the city's greater resources and manpower.
Alhaurín officials say part of the delay is caused by a backlog of work at the consulting company the Junta made available to the town halls to assist in formulating their emergency plans. They say municipal water company Aqualauro has gathered all the necessary information and will present it to the consulting company at a meeting scheduled for tomorrow, February 3. The expectation is that the meeting will result in a final draft of the plan, which will then be approved by the Town Council.
The opposition Izquierda Unida party in Alhaurín was critical of the delays in creating the emergency plan, calling the governing team "ineffective" in handling the drought crisis.
Winter weather hits the coast
By David Eade
THE POLICE AND EMERGENCY SERVICES WERE THIS WEEK INUNDATED WITH EMERGENCY CALLS AS THE COAST OF SUN BECAME THE COAST OF SNOW AND RAIN.
The Guardia Civil in Málaga, the traffic centre and the 112 emergency services between them logged around 9,000 calls relating to the state of the roads and bad weather over the weekend and Monday.
Around six vehicles were reported trapped in the snow one of which was a bus travelling between Ronda and San Pedro de Alcántara. The vehicle had nine people on board and skidded on the ice causing it to leave the road but luckily there were no injuries. The heavy snow trapped a four-wheel drive car in La Maroma and the Guardia Civil rescue team (Sereim) brought two young men and a woman to safety.
Ice and snow caused more than 60 kilometres of roads in Málaga province to be cut the majority being in the Ronda region. Three snow ploughs and salt spreaders were sent to the zone. The A-397 between Ronda and San Pedro was closed but was gradually re-opened on Monday. The A-366 Ronda to El Burgo and A-367 Ronda to Cuevas del Becerro roads were also closed and chains were needed on cars travelling in the region. The new scenic route on the A-369 between Ronda and Gaucín was damaged by rain and a landslip closed the road at km 20 above Atajate.
Roads in Marbella were deep in water inhibiting travel on the A-7 (old N-340) as well as the access and central roads to the town and the arroyo El Chopo burst its banks. Estepona had 50 litre of rain per square metre and snow fell on the Sierra Bermeja 14 kilometres from the coast and on the Sierra Crestellina in Casares.
THOUSANDS FLOCK TO SEE SNOW
In Axarquía thousands of people flocked to see the snow that covered the villages at the foot of the Enmedio, Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama mountains. Similar scenes were witnessed in the villages of Riogordo, Periana, Cómpeta and El Borge that received their highest snowfalls in 50 years. The same situation prevailed inland in Antequera where the 800 metre high El Torcal was covered in snow but received few visitors as the access road was cut with some vehicles being trapped.
Málaga museum honoured by US architects
By Dave Jamieson
Málaga's Picasso Museum is one of 30 buildings around the world named by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in its 2006 Honour Awards. The judging panel, who visited Málaga last October, described the city's star attraction as "a beautiful job of restoration architecture," adding that, "it is appropriately modest, weaving a museum into the fabric of a Mediterranean city." They also commented on the way that new portions were "simply and elegantly" inserted in and around a 16th century castle. Seven of the other buildings nominated for their fine architecture are in the United States, including the Washington Convention Centre, with the remaining two in Germany.
The AIA Institute Honour Awards are the US profession's highest recognition of works which exemplify excellence in three categories: architecture, interior architecture, and urban design. The ten recipients from each, selected from over 680 total submissions, will be honoured in June at the AIA 2006 National Convention and Design Exposition in Los Angeles. The Picasso Museum was designed by Gluckman Mayer Architects of New York, in association with Isabel Cámara and Rafael Martín Delgado of Cámara/Martin Delgado Arquitectos in Málaga. They fully restored the city's 16th century Palacio de Buenavista to house the main entry and permanent collection galleries as part of a project which also included inserting six new buildings into the urban fabric to enclose around 7,200 square metres. One large building, for the temporary exhibition galleries, plus five smaller structures also created a new public plaza. The architects say that the simple geometric forms of the new buildings, rendered in white plaster, respect the scale, texture, and articulation of their existing neighbours, while they "clearly announce a sympathetic modern intervention."
Cádiz at Fitur tourism fair
By David Eade
THE CÁDIZ NEWS TEAM AT THE COSTA DEL SOL NEWS WERE INVITED BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE DIPUTACIÓN DE CÁDIZ, FRANCISCO GONZÁLEZ CABAÑA, TO ATTEND THE CÁDIZ DAY CELEBRATIONS AT THIS YEAR'S FITUR INTERNATIONAL TOURISM FAIR IN MADRID.
Amongst the dignitaries attending the reception was the councillor of the regional government, Gaspar Zarrías.
FITUR is one of the world's largest tourism fairs. It is now in its 26th year, and last year over 43,000 professionals from the sector and more than 100,000 individuals visited the event.
Cádiz province was well represented with a large display area inside the Andalucía pavilion to show off the beauty of the area and its many attractions. The Tourist Board is promoting the province with the slogan "Cádiz, one province, just one destination", and expected to give out 4,000 leaflets about the province and 4,000 balloons during the five day fair.
The province's tourism authorities aim to make visitors aware that Cádiz offers facilities for all types of holidays, all year round, and that there is something there for everybody. In addition to the stand at the FITUR exhibition centre the regional government also staged a display by the celebrated horses of Jerez in Madrid's beautiful Plaza Mayor, which attracted large crowds.
Spain's lowest unemployment in five years
By Oliver McIntyre
DURING 2005 THE NUMBER OF UNEMPLOYED WORKERS IN SPAIN DROPPED 11.1 PER CENT TO 1,841,300, PUTTING THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE AT 8.7 PER CENT, THE LOWEST IT HAS BEEN IN THE LAST FIVE YEARS. The figures come from the latest National Institute of Statistics (INE) survey of adults who are fit to work.
According to the survey, 894,100 new jobs were created in 2005 and by year end there were 19,314,300 employed people in the country, a 4.89 per cent increase over 2004. Women filled more than half - 461,200 - of the new jobs. But men still make up the majority of workers. The survey indicated that at the end of 2005 there were 11,549,600 working men and 7,764,700 employed women. All sectors showed a net gain of jobs except industry, which saw a net loss of 12,100 positions. The greatest gain was in the services sector, with 724,000 new jobs, followed by construction, with 158,000, and agriculture with a net gain of 24,200.
But the trend of workers being offered short-term, temporary contracts, as opposed to permanent contracts, continues. The number of employees on permanent contracts rose just 3.35 per cent, to 10,491,600, while the number of those on temporary contracts shot up by 11.29 per cent to 5,350,400. Government officials expressed great satisfaction at the drop in unemployment, though acknowledging that more remains to be done both in the quantity and in the quality of jobs created. The INE also noted that changes in 2005 to the way it gathered information for the annual survey had some positive impact on the resulting figures.
MÁLAGA FIGURES In the province of Málaga, unemployment remained higher than the national average, at 11.15 per cent, but was down two percentage points from 2004 and was the lowest recorded unemployment figure in the province in three decades. The number of unemployed eligible workers at the end of 2005 was 72,500, and the number of employed was 577,200.
Spaniards flock to home-grown cinema
NEWS Staff Reporter
Spanish audiences are increasingly supporting domestic films over Hollywood fare. In 2005, Spanish-made movies reached a 16.7 per cent market share in ticket sales, 3.5 percentage points more than in 2004 and the second-best showing in the last 15 years. Ticket sales for Spanish productions were up 13 per cent to nearly 105 million euros, and 20.9 million spectators went to see Spanish movies, 1.7 million more than the previous year.
All of this occurred in a year when overall movie attendance in Spain dropped by 18 million spectators. The drop came largely due to a reduced draw by Hollywood movies, whose market share in Spanish theatres dropped by 10 percentage points as more people went to see Spanish and other European films. On Spanish screens European productions, including those from Spain, saw a total market share of 37.18 per cent in 2005, up sharply from 27.2 per cent in 2004.
"These are very encouraging figures that inspire us to keep working," said Culture Minister Carmen Calvo. "The measures we have put in action to improve and stabilise this industry and to make cinema a cultural event for Spaniards are bearing fruit."
In 2005 the Culture Ministry increased from 33 million euros to 64.5 million euros the budget of its Cinematography Protection Fund, aimed at supporting and promoting the domestic movie industry. This year the ministry plans to spend 1.5 million euros to support the distribution of European films in Spain. Sra Calvo said that each year some 700 films are made in Europe, compared to around 300 in Hollywood. In Spain, 142 feature films were made in 2005, nine more than in 2004. Fifty-three of them were co-productions with France, the UK, Italy, Argentina or Chile.
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