News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Week 28th December 2006 - 3rd January 2007
New law bans price rounding and other 'unfair' practices
By Oliver McIntyre
THE SPANISH GOVERNMENT PASSED A NEW CONSUMER-PROTECTION LAW LAST WEEK THAT, AMONG OTHER THINGS, BANS THE PRACTICE OF ROUNDING UP THE NUMBER OF MINUTES CONSUMED FOR TIME-BASED SERVICES SUCH AS PHONE CALLS OR PARKING.
The law “will address real, day-to-day problems” faced by consumers, said the health and consumer affairs minister, Elena Salgado. It will give them stronger legal protection and enable authorities to take action against unfair practices, she said.
In addition to prohibiting the rounding up of charges, the law requires companies to make it as easy to terminate a service contract as it is to set one up. In other words, it should be as quick and simple to cancel your internet, telephone or mobile-phone service as it was to contract it in the first place. Further, companies’ customer-service lines must give callers access to a person, not just a series of automated messages.
The law requires that advertisements include the true, final price of the goods or services offered. This is aimed at eradicating the practice of some companies – notably airlines but also many others – of advertising low base prices without mentioning obligatory supplements, fees or taxes that will be tacked on at the time of purchase.
The legislation also addresses unfair practices in real-estate transactions. It specifies that the buyer cannot be obligated to take on the mortgage of the seller and that transaction costs or taxes that are the responsibility of the seller cannot be transferred to the buyer. In addition, the buyer should not to be stuck with the costs of hooking up basic services to the home.
CONSUMER GROUPS REACT
The Consumers and Users Association (OCU) called the new law the “greatest advance in the last 20 years.” While acknowledging that it is “not a major reform,” the group said the law “introduces improvements that will permit greater efficiency in defending the rights of consumers.” Other consumer-protection groups, including Facua and Ausbanc, were less enthusiastic, saying lawmakers missed an opportunity to bring wider-sweeping reforms.
Protests over Ronda domestic violence death
Man allegedly stabbed ex-wife to death
By David Eade
AROUND 100 PEOPLE GATHERED FOR A SILENT PROTEST IN MÁLAGA’S PLAZA DE LA CONSTITUCIÓN ON SATURDAY AFTER THE DEATH OF A WOMAN IN RONDA, ALLEGEDLY AT THE HANDS OF HER FORMER HUSBAND.
The demonstration started at 19.30 with a short address by Dolores Rodríguez, president of the action group Violencia Cero, who said the death marked the third domestic-violence killing in the province this year.
A second demonstration was held in Ronda’s Plaza del Socorro at 18.00 on Christmas Day, organised by the town hall and several associations in the municipality that work to protect women from violence and abuse.
The 44-year-old victim, identified only by her initials, A.M.A.M., was buried in Ronda’s San Lorenzo cemetery on Saturday. Her 58-year-old former husband, who is believed to have carried out the crime, is being held by the National Police.
An autopsy showed that woman’s death was caused by a violent knife attack. Her ex-husband had a restraint order banning him from approaching within 300 metres of her, but it had been lifted at the beginning of this month with the woman’s consent. The fatal attack took place on Friday at 30 Calle Península Ibérica in the Dehesa zone of Ronda.
King sentenced to 19 years
By Oliver McIntyre
Briton Tony Alexander King has been sentenced to 19 years in prison for the murder of Mijas teenager Rocío Wanninkhof, who was stabbed nine times while walking down a local road on the night of October 9, 1999. The judge in the case issued the sentence last Thursday, eight days after the jury pronounced King guilty of the murder, but not guilty of attempted sexual assault.
The prosecutor as well as the private prosecution, brought by the victim’s family, had sought a sentence of 26 years and nine months (20 years for murder plus six years and nine months for attempted sexual assault).
The sentence also orders King to pay the victim’s family a restitution payment of 252,000 euros.
King, who is already serving 36 years for the 2003 murder of 17-year-old Sonia Carabantes in Coín plus seven years for an attempted rape in Benalmádena, now faces a total of 62 years in prison. He previously spent time in jail in the UK after being convicted for a series of sexual assaults for which he was dubbed the ‘Holloway Strangler’.
The sentence in the Wanninkhof case included a summary of the jury’s findings, the most controversial of which was the indication that King acted in the company of unidentified third parties.
The victim’s mother, Alicia Hornos, announced that she was “very content and happy” with the sentence but that “they now need to find the other people involved.” The family’s lawyer has indicated they intend to file a lawsuit demanding that the investigation be reopened. Sra Hornos has long insisted that her ex-girlfriend Dolores Vázquez, who was initially convicted of the murder but later had her conviction overturned, was involved in the crime. King’s lawyers have indicated that they will appeal his conviction, arguing that he only acted as an accomplice.
Possible relief in Marbella home demolitions
Junta says it will respect the rights of those who bought in good faith
By David Eade
WITH THOUSANDS OF ILLEGALLY BUILT HOMES IN MARBELLA FACING COURT-ORDERED DEMOLITION, THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT HAS NOW SAID THAT IT WILL RESPECT THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WHO PURCHASED THEIR HOMES IN GOOD FAITH.
The Junta de Andalucía finds itself in a difficult balancing act over the demolitions issue. On the one hand it insists that the planning laws must be obeyed, but it also claims to be equally intent on defending the rights of innocent homeowners.
Just before Christmas the head of the Junta’s Public Works Department, Concepción Gutiérrez, spoke of the issue in the Andalucian parliament. She said it is right and important for the authorities to demand legality in the planning process, but at the same time offered reassurances to those whose homes are under threat.
Sra Gutiérrez said that while the courts may issue demolition orders, there are mechanisms “that defend the rights of those citizens who have bought these properties in good faith without safeguards.” However, “those who are responsible must pay,” she said.
Sra Gutiérrez spoke as it was announced that Marbella, as a town of over 100,000 registered residents, is to have its town planning controlled by a central planning office based in Sevilla. This new requirement for towns with populations of over 100,000 will affect not only Marbella but also other large non-capitals like Jerez and Algeciras. After the May 2007 local elections, when Marbella town hall takes over from the town’s current management commission, it will have to negotiate directly with Sevilla regarding its local development plan (PGOU) and other town planning issues. The organisation set up by the regional government to decide on such matters will include planning professionals, but will also give a voice to ecologists, residents and other groups.
Bolín councillor now PP candidate for mayor
By Oliver McIntyre
The complex relationship between Benalmádena’s ruling GIB-Bolín party and the opposition Partido Popular took yet another interesting turn last week as the PP announced that current GIB-Bolín councillor Enrique Moya will be the PP’s candidate for mayor at the May elections.
Up until the day before Sr Moya’s candidacy was announced, the PP had left open the possibility of offering a pact with GIB-Bolín under which the two parties would stand together at the May elections, presumably with the current mayor, Enrique Bolín, at the head of the combined candidate list. On Thursday the PP’s provincial leader, Joaquín Ramírez, announced that the party would not offer such a pact and would instead run its own candidate list. On Friday the PP named Sr Moya, who is currently Mayor Bolín’s deputy mayor and councillor for health and the environment, as the head of its list.
The naming of Sr Moya created uncertainty regarding the future of the PP’s current lead councillor at Benalmádena town hall, Jesús Fortes, who is also the president of the party’s local branch, which supported him as the mayoral candidate. But Sr Ramírez explained last week that the selection of the candidate is a decision made at the provincial level, not locally. Regarding Sr Fortes’s role moving forward, the party’s regional secretary general, Antonio Sanz, said that the PP “excludes no one, and all are welcome who wish to participate in its political programme.” At press time, there had been no official reaction from Mayor Bolín or his party regarding the naming of Sr Moya as the PP candidate. Sr Moya said he would study this week what his role should be between now and the elections, and mentioned the possibility of leaving the GIB-Bolín ranks but remaining on the council as an independent Grupo Mixto councillor.
Guardia Civil fail to halt illegal dumping oranges
Culprits change to different site but continue ditching fruit
By David Eade
SEVERAL WEEKS AGO THE GUARDIA CIVIL SENT CDSN PHOTOGRAPHS AND A REPORT ON THE ILLEGAL ORANGE DUMPING IN SAN MARTÍN DEL TESORILLO.
Now a local resident has contacted us to state that this practice is still going on.
Photographs have been sent to the Costa del Sol News of a tractor that belongs to a well-known citrus company based in San Martin. It is alleged that this tractor has been observed dumping illegally on at least three separate occasions.
Following the intervention of the Guardia Civil the Spanish local resident, who does not wish to be named for fear of retaliation, told us that the company concerned has simply altered its route and dumping site to the Casares municipal area, dumping next to the river Genal near where it meets the Guadiaro. The resident tells us: “This is blatantly obvious and marked by a trail of squashed oranges along the roads and tracks that connect the new dumping site and the company base concerned.”
The Guardia Civil in Pueblo Nuevo de Guadiaro were informed and they sent a patrol with two agents. Copies of the photographs given to CDSN were also handed over to the officers.
There has been a fierce political debate over illegal properties being built in San Martín and the war of words between the local administration, controlled by the Partido Popular, and the socialist town hall in Jimena de la Frontera within which boundaries the village lies. Hence it comes as no surprise to be informed that despite grants from the Andalucía regional government and loans from Unicaja, the citrus company’s store and plant were built without the relevant building permissions and is completely illegal with various court cases outstanding.
WASTE WATER AND SEWAGE
The resident said: “Even the waste water from the industrial process and sewage are drained straight into the canals at the side of the road. This action has been denounced to the authorities and ignored by the town hall representatives. It is not simply a case of dumping citric waste illegally, which may be seen as inoffensive “natural” waste, but also the damage that these actions can do to the environment. Apart from the unsightly visual invasion, the most obvious and blatant is the provision for flies, worms and other plagues to develop a perfect breeding area. This in turn will need to be countered by excessive use of insecticides, with a long list of knock-on damage effects.”
Torremolinos plans 10,000 homes in sierra
By Oliver McIntyre
Torremolinos officials expect to approve the town’s new 10-year local development plan (PGOU) in mid-January. The document, the draft version of which was approved in February and has since received some 90 comments and suggestions, provides for the construction of 12,650 new homes in the town, around 10,000 of them in the sierra to the north of the A-7 motorway. It envisions a doubling of the population, from the current 60,513 to 120,000.
Other aspects of the PGOU include plans for two 18-storey mixed-use buildings at the site of the old municipal market. The document also calls for converting the old N-340, from the eastern entrance to the town to its western border with Benalmádena, into a large shopping and residential avenue.
Regarding the construction of homes in the sierra to the north of the motorway, the PGOU lays out requirements for the developers to perform reforestation work on the parts of the mountainside not slated for development. Eighty per cent of the town’s sierra is bare of trees. The mayor, Pedro Fernández Montes, acknowledges that building north of the A-7 will cause “a battle with the Junta de Andalucía,” but insists that it is “the only non-developed land left in Torremolinos.”
Junta says Nerja golf would be safe for the caves
By Dave Jamieson
The saga of Nerja’s proposed golf course has taken a final twist as 2006 nears its end. One of the concerns about the planned sports, residential and leisure development was its proximity to the famous caves at Maro, but now the Junta de Andalucía has acknowledged that it would have no impact on the caverns.
The Heritage Commission of the regional government’s culture department last week reported that the proposed constructions would not adversely affect the caves which, apart from their historical and scientific importance, are the third most-visited tourist attraction in the country. The announcement was the first good news about the golf course for some time and was welcomed by Nerja’s mayor, José Alberto Armijo, who declared himself very satisfied with the outcome of the Junta’s study.
He immediately called for the government to revisit the plans which were dealt an almost fatal blow in April when land on which the golf course was to be built was declared a public zone making it unable to be used for such a development. Months of debate and negotiation came to nothing and last month Medgroup, the developer of the planned complex, declared the project unviable and demanded the return of their investment so far, around 10 million euros, plus interest and costs.Last week’s news has given impetus to the town’s efforts to rescue the golf course project from what seemed an impossible position. Sr Armijo said he trusted that the Junta would now “reconsider its position and give permission for the progress which was approved in our development plan.”
Mijas nativity-scene controversy reaches Vatican
By Oliver McIntyre
THE VATICAN’S PREACHER TO THE PAPAL HOUSEHOLD, FATHER RANIERO CANTALAMESSA, SPOKE OUT LAST WEEK ON THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE PUBLIC DISPLAY OF NATIVITY SCENES DURING THE CHRISTMAS SEASON, ASSERTING THAT THE IMAGERY RECALLING THE BIRTH OF JESUS IS NOT OFFENSIVE TO MUSLIMS.
The priest’s comments, made on Vatican Radio, came following several recent incidents surrounding nativity scenes in Italy and Spain, including the case of a Mijas school headmistress removing a nativity scene that had been created by students during religion class (CDSN, December 21-27).
Father Cantalamessa said the claim that nativity scenes are offensive to Muslims is a mere “pretext” used by “secularists who do not want these symbols [displayed].” Muslims themselves have no cause to be offended, he said, citing a “beautiful, poetic” page of the Koran describing the birth of Jesus. He also said he had “read in an Italian newspaper comments made by an Islamic person saying that he who does not believe in the miraculous birth of Jesus in Nazareth is not a Muslim, and many of them want a nativity scene in their home.”
SECULAR ANDALUCÍA SUPPORTS SCHOOL HEADMISTRESS
Meanwhile, in the Mijas case, the organisation Secular Andalucía last week threw its support behind the principal of the Las Lagunas secondary school, whom the Catholic Federation of Parents’ Associations had called on officials to fire for her removal of the nativity scene. Secular Andalucía said the headmistress’s actions were appropriate because religious activities in state schools should be confined the hours specifically dedicated to Religion class, which is an optional elective course for students.The Spanish Federation of Islamic Religious Entities (FEERI) took a conciliatory approach to the controversy, recommending that children be allowed to enjoy Christmas “without the adults arguing over ridiculous things.” The nativity scenes “are welcome if they bring joy to the children,” said the group’s spokesman, Javier Isla.
Málaga's surprise present will relieve congestion
By Dave Jamieson
THE CITY OF MÁLAGA RECEIVED AN EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENT LAST WEEK WHEN THE MINISTRY OF DEVELOPMENT ANNOUNCED THAT IT HAD AWARDED CONTRACTS FOR THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE FIRST TWO STRETCHES OF THE SECOND RING ROAD.
Last week’s announcement came as a surprise to many but the news that the department, headed by Magdalena Álvarez, has moved rapidly after years of debate was greeted warmly. When complete in around three years, the road is expected to relieve much of the chronic traffic congestion from which the city presently suffers.
The first contract covers 6.3 kilometres of new carriageways from La Virreina, where the A-7 meets the A-45 near Ciudad Jardin, to the C-3310 Málaga to Almogía road. It will have two lanes, expandable to three, in each direction, and will include the construction of six bridges. The work has gone to a consortium formed by the firms Sacyr and Prinur, who have 28 months to fulfil the 70-million-euro contract.
The second project will see a further six kilometres of the ring road built between the Benalmádena toll autovía, the AP-7, and the MA-417 near Churriana. This stretch will have three lanes, expandable to four, in each direction, with one tunnel of 1.25 kilometres. The contract for this work was awarded to Ferrovial Agromán who should complete the 114-million-euro task in 29 months.
TWO MORE PROJECTS HAVE YET TO BE FINALISED
The 12.3 kilometres of these two stretches account for more than half of the total 21.3 kilometres of the new autovía. Two more projects, covering 5.1 and 3.9 kilometres, have yet to be finalised but will link those now underway which are the extreme east and west ends respectively of the motorway.The speed with which the Government has processed the contracts for the first two projects has led even the most pessimistic observers to admit that Málaga’s second ring road is now on line for the promised opening date in 2009.
Pizarra to be site of first non-motorway radar
By Oliver McIntyre
A speed-control radar is being installed near kilometre 40 on the A-357 road in Pizarra, marking the first fixed radar device on a secondary highway in Málaga province (the A-357, though gradually being converted into a motorway north of Málaga, is still just a main road in Pizarra). This and another new radar, located on the A-45 motorway on the descent to Antequera, near kilometre 120, are expected to be operational by the end of this year, said Traffic Department officials last week.
The location of the Pizarra radar, at the Zalea turnoff, has been the site of five accidents since 2005, making it what traffic officials call an Accident Concentration Zone (TCA), a classification given to stretches of road on which three or more accidents are recorded in a single year. The A-45 site is also a TCA, having registered seven accidents in the last year. Plans currently call for the creation of seven more fixed-radar points in the province during 2007, bringing the total to 14. There are four existing radars on the A-7 and one on the A-45. On the A-7 they are located near the eastbound Cerrado de Calderón exit in Málaga; the westbound lanes near the Venta La Butibamba restaurant in La Cala de Mijas; the eastbound lanes near kilometre 205 in Fuengirola; and the eastbound lanes near kilometre 155 between Benahavís and Estepona. The existing radar on the A-45 is at kilometre 165.7 of the southbound lanes, almost at entrance to Ciudad Jardín. The location of the seven radars to be installed in 2007 is still under study.
British golf project in La Janda cancelled
By David Eade
A BRITISH COMPANY HAS DROPPED PLANS TO BUILD TWO GOLF COURSES, THREE HOTELS AND 2,100 HOMES IN MEDINA SIDONIA, REPORTEDLY BECAUSE OF BUREAUCRATIC DELAYS AND THE REGIONAL GOVERNMENT’S NEW LAWS RESTRICTING GOLF DEVELOPMENTS.
The Medina Village Resort was to have been built on a site known as Pocasangre, beside the Ventorrillo El Carbón on the road leading out of the town towards Chiclana.
Malvern Estates had planned to invest 800 million euros in the project, which also included an equestrian centre and an international school. The company is said to have become fed up at the council’s delay in incorporating the resort into the new local development plan (PGOU) for Medina. It was also concerned about new legislation, which restricts the development of residential golf projects.
The local authority will now have to refund the 1.5 million euros paid by Malvern Estates upon the signing of the agreement, but the mayor, Francisco Carrera, says this will not be a problem as the money had been banked and had not been touched. He is also confident that the company will invest in another project in Medina in the future, although reports in the Spanish press say this is unlikely. The decision not to go ahead with the development was a difficult one for Malvern Estates, as properties ranging from 300,000 euros to 900,000 euros were already being offered for sale.
FIRST MAJOR PROJECT TO BE CANCELLED IN THE PROVINCE
Medina Village Resort is the first major golf, hotel and residential development to be cancelled in Cádiz province because the developers have withdrawn from the project. A second, smaller project is also planned in Medina Sidonia, on the site known as La Canalaleja, and is also dependent on approval of the PGOU. Thirteen others are planned in the province, in Prado del Rey, Jimena de la Frontera, Castellar de la Frontera, Villamartín, Arcos de la Frontera, Algodonales, Bornos, Espera, Trebujena, Paterna, Benalup, Alcalá de los Gazules and Ubrique, but the councils and developers are now anxiously waiting to see whether they will be able to go ahead under the new legislation. The Ecologistas en Acción environmental group is opposing the construction of a golf course, hotel, commercial centre and 2,087 homes in Bornos, where the population is only 8,000, claiming that the project contravenes the regional government’s POTA land law.
Stop the bullfight carnage
Ministers views provoke anger among bullfighting fans
By David Eade
THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTER, CRISTINA NARBONA, HAS SUGGESTED THAT SPAIN SHOULD ADOPT THE PORTUGUESE METHOD AND NOT KILL BULLS IN THE ARENA.
Needless to say this has sparked a furious reaction from bullfighting fans.
Talking to the media Narbona stated that she wanted the Socialist government to force Spanish matadors to adopt the Portuguese style of bullfighting, where the animals are slain humanely after the bullfight. She observed: “We must try to avoid, at the very least, the blood-soaked finale. It will have to be done gradually, perhaps in the next legislature.”
Not surprisingly her views provoked anger among the country’s bullfighting fans. They consider Portuguese bullfighting to be a pale imitation of the art. Enrique Garza speaking for the association of bullfight organisers responded: “What the minister should be doing is defending the interests of ordinary Spaniards, including millions of bullfighting aficionados.”Also attacking the minister are opposition politicians who have criticised her for daring to attack what they say is an essential part of Spanish culture. Leading the challenge was the Partido Popular’s senate leader, Pío García-Escudero who said: “This just shows the interventionist, totalitarian instincts of the government.” However the far left Izquierda Unida party is split with its leader, Gaspar Llamazares, accusing the minister of trying to import “Anglo-Saxon prejudices” whilst the IU’s parliamentary spokesperson, Joan Herrera, stated the proposal would alter a “savage and atavistic tradition”. For its part, Ecologistas en Acción backed the move with Consuelo Polo insisting: “We need a government with sufficient courage and dignity to put an end to the macabre spectacle of people sitting down in a bullring to watch someone repeatedly stab a living animal.”
Málaga's municipalities fail connect with Tráfico
NEWS Staff Reporter
It has been revealed that no municipality in the province of Málaga has a direct link with Tráfico to report and check on local motoring offences. Six months after the new penalty points system went into operation, reports say that only the city of Málaga has plans to create a digital connection with computers at the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT).
The DGT’s director general, Pere Navarro, described the existing system as “slow and deficient” while Málaga town hall explained that reports of fines are presently sent to the DGT by fax. Traffic councillor Javier Berlanga admitted that the process “delays the management of these fines” but said the situation would change in January when the city’s council would approve the spending necessary to connect to Tráfico’s network. Once in place, local police officers will be able to report infractions instantly, as well as have the facility to access an individual’s record to discover if any points have already been lost. However, until all municipalities are part of such a system, the record of any driver may not necessarily be up to date. The DGT estimates that more than 6,600 sanctions against around 6,000 drivers have yet to be processed which, if confirmed, could result in a loss of over 23,000 licence points. However, of those which have been completed in the province of Málaga, around 470 drivers have lost almost 1,450 penalty points since the law changed on July 1. The most common offences include failure to wear a seat belt or use a safety helmet, talking on a mobile phone while driving, drink driving and travelling at speed. However, Tráfico says that no driver in the province has yet lost all 12 points on the driving licence