News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 11th January - 17th January 2007
PROPERTY PRICE CUTS
Real estate 'rebajas' may be first sign of falling house prices
By Oliver McIntyre
THE TORREMOLINOS AND MARBELLA BRANCHES OF A NATIONAL REAL ESTATE AGENCY HAVE JOINED THE CHAIN’S ‘REBAJAS’ CAMPAIGN, IN WHICH SOME OF THE LISTED PROPERTIES ARE OFFERED AT DISCOUNTS OF FOUR TO 26 PER CENT.
The ploy, while on the one hand clearly a marketing tool tied in with the traditional January sales in the retail sector, also suggests the first hint of a potential downward trend in what has for years been a steeply climbing property market.
The real estate ‘rebajas’ have been made possible in part by the fact that properties are taking longer to sell. Until now, most sellers have been willing to wait rather than consider lowering their selling price, but the markdown campaign suggests that owners are now more flexible on price in order to make a quicker sale. The agency got property owner approval for the price reductions, which were then certified before a notary so that buyers have proof that the ‘discount’ is real. In the case of luxury properties, the ‘rebajas’ can represent a price reduction of as much as 50,000 euros, says the company.
Other factors related to the real estate market paint a mixed picture. On the one hand, a new report from the Spanish Mortgage Association (AHE) says that mortgage debt reached 896 billion euros in November, a 24 per cent year-on-year increase and nearly equal to the country’s gross domestic product, estimated at nine trillion euros. The figure suggests that families now face an overload of debt, a situation that the European Commission has in fact warned Spain about on several occasions. And yet the construction boom, at least in Málaga province, continued last year. Construction plans for more than 45,000 homes were registered with the Málaga Architecture Board, the greatest single-year figure ever and up 9.3 per cent from 2005, which had seen a seven per cent dip from the previous year. Meanwhile, new-home prices in Málaga and other parts of the country rose by an average of just under 10 per cent in 2006, a significant increase, but well below the major price jumps seen in recent years.
Lisbon-Dakar rally speeds through Málaga
By Suzan Davenport
Rally enthusiast John Smith and partner Lynne Chadwick were thrilled to meet the Lisbon-Dakar Red Bull team on the Las Pedrizas run into Málaga last Sunday evening. The couple from Villanueva del Rosario had been watching the cars, motorbikes and trucks speed past Casabermeja en route to Morocco from Portugal when several drivers, including former world rally champion Carlos Sainz, pulled over for a pit stop at the local garage. “We were amazed to see them all pull up and stop right there, it was great to see the drivers, cars and bikes up so close,” said John. Sr Sainz, taking part in the Dakar rally for the second consecutive year, was in first position in the car category at the time of going to press, with fellow Spaniard Marc Coma leading the motorbike section. Coma and other competitors expressed deep sadness over the death of fellow rally biker, South Africa’s Elmer Symons, who was killed on Tuesday. The rally ends in Dakar on January 21 after a gruelling 16-day competition.
Woman faces 21 years for killing abusive husband
Wife allegedly fired shot after hired hit man couldn't pull trigger
By Oliver McIntyre
THE PROSECUTOR’S OFFICE HAS ANNOUNCED IT WILL SEEK 21 YEARS AND NINE MONTHS IN PRISON FOR A MIJAS WOMAN ACCUSED OF KILLING HER ABUSIVE HUSBAND AFTER AN AMATEUR HIT MAN SHE HAD HIRED TO DO THE JOB WAS UNABLE TO PULL THE TRIGGER.
The murder took place on July 16, 2003, at the home of the woman and her husband, who allegedly had a history of abusing her both verbally and physically. According to the prosecutor’s case, the woman hired a man, through a work contact, to kill her husband for 15,000 euros. While the husband was taking his afternoon nap, she allegedly mixed four tranquilizers into the medicine he always took upon arising from his nap, and then sent a mobile-phone message to the hit man telling him what time to come over. He showed up at 18.00, but once in the sleeping man’s bedroom could not bring himself to fire the gun, so the woman grabbed it and shot her husband fatally in the head, according to the prosecutor.
CONFESSION TO POLICE
Both the woman’s work contact and the would-be hit man face charges for helping to plan and carry out the murder and for illegal possession of a firearm, the 9mm Parabellum pistol used in the shooting. The prosecutor says that when the woman was interviewed by police, “she confessed her participation” as well as that of the two men. In his case summary, the prosecutor says the woman decided to have her husband killed because his abuse had become unbearable and she saw his murder as a “last-ditch defence of her own life and that of her 11-year-old daughter.”
Motril brokers deal for world’s ‘smallest state’
By Dave Jamieson
The world’s smallest state is up for grabs in Motril. Inmonaranja, an estate agent which specialises in selling islands, is representing the owners of Sealand, a former anti-aircraft platform seven miles off the English coast, which was taken over in the 1960s by a retired Army major, Paddy Roy Bates.
The current ‘head of state’ is Mr Bates’s son Michael, who said that Sealand needed “a bit of rejuvenation.” It was derelict when his father declared the 5,920-square-foot (550-square-metre) platform an independent nation forty years ago, but now has its own flag, passports, currency and stamps. The UK government does not recognise the sovereignty of Sealand, since the extension of the country’s territorial waters from three to 12 miles brought Sealand within its official boundaries. While it has been in the hands of the Bates family, Sealand has survived an attempt by the British Royal Navy to evict the family, as well as an attempt by a group of European businessmen to seize the platform by force. On its website, Inmonaranja, which sells islands across five continents as well as properties in the province of Granada, says that Sealand is not for sale but is available “for transfer,” referring to it as a “principality” rather than a state. A condition of the deal is that the new owners should not affect nor interfere with the interests of the United Kingdom, although the agents distances itself from the legality of the property. Anyone interested in acquiring the platform off the Essex coast at its asking price of 750 million euros can contact Inmonaranja at its offices at Santísimo 109, Motril.
Early taxpayers get discount in Fuengirola
NEWS Staff Reporter
Fuengirola town hall is offering a five per cent discount to all local people who pay their municipal taxes and fees before the due date. The move was approved at a council meeting in December and applies to taxes and fees to be levied in 2007.
The payment dates to receive the five per cent ‘early-bird’ discount are as follows. The IVTM motor-vehicle tax must be paid between February 19 and March 30; the IBI real estate tax from May 2 to June 15; the ‘vado’ vehicle-entrance fee between February 19 and March 20; and the Resol or solid-waste collection fee from May 2 to June 15.Fuengirola taxpayers can also get the five per cent discount by setting up a direct-payment order at their bank for paying the municipal taxes and fees. This is not an additional five per cent discount, but rather a method of ensuring the ‘early-bird’ discount, as the direct-payment order will mean each tax or fee is automatically paid before the due date.
Underage alcohol sales unpunished for 18 months
Processing problem at Málaga town hall is letting offenders off the hook
By Dave Jamieson
DUE TO A PROCESSING GLITCH AT THE TOWN HALL, BUSINESSES OR INDIVIDUALS CAUGHT SELLING ALCOHOL TO MINORS IN MÁLAGA ARE NOT BEING FINED AS THE LAW DICTATES.
The city’s counsellor for social welfare, Mariví Romero, confirmed that no sanctions have been issued for the last 18 months and that the majority of the 95 citations issued for the offence during that period have now expired. The counsellor also confirmed that no further action would be taken until internal processing systems at the town hall were “functioning correctly.”
In 2005, Málaga town hall took over from the Junta de Andalucía responsibility for handling offences relating to the sale of alcohol in the city. Managing the data generated from enforcement has required a redesign of the software used for tracking and acting on citations, according to Sra Romero. A further problem arose because any cash raised from fining offenders must go towards funding the region’s anti-drugs programme, and there has been difficulty separating these funds from others generated by fines for other types of offences, she said.
However, the counsellor promised that new systems to rectify the situation have already been under trial and, “at present, the programme is totally complete.” But she did not indicate exactly when the new systems would come online allowing the alcohol-sales fines to be implemented.
Marbella train line to go underground
By David Eade
The plans for the extension of the cercanias railway line from Fuengirola to Marbella are now near to completion and it has emerged that the connection to Los Monteros in Marbella and then to San Pedro will be around 80 per cent underground in order to minimalise the impact on the high density of construction in the area and road traffic flows.
The regional government’s Ministry of Public Works gave the go-ahead in June 2005 for the carrying out of the plans with an 18-month time frame. That period is now up and just the final touches need to be added before the plan is presented to the Andalucian authority. Once approved, the go-ahead is expected to be given by this summer for a scheme that will cost more than 1,100 million euros.
Not all the plan has been made public although it is known that the regional government started the process of inviting designs for the ten stations last month. It is also understood that the line will have two tracks and be to European standard width. The system will also be able to handle the AVE high-speed trains although it is understood that they will not travel at their full speed along this line. However it will mean that passengers will be able to board in Madrid and travel to Marbella without having to change.The regional government has stated that it intends the service to be operational three years from the time the works start. The connection between Fuengirola and Marbella will be around 21.2 kilometres, of which 18 kilometres will be via a tunnel that will end at the Los Monteros station close to the Hospital Costa del Sol. The final stretch between Los Monteros and San Pedro, around 14.5 kilometres will be totally underground.
Foreign residents demand properties be saved
By David Eade
MANY FOREIGN PROPERTY OWNERS IN MARBELLA HAVE JOINED A GROUP THAT HAS BEEN FORMED TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF THOSE WHOSE PROPERTIES COULD BE DEMOLISHED BECAUSE THEY WERE BUILT ILLEGALLY.
Among the communities represented are Banana Beach, Río Real Golf Playa, Cerrado de Elviria, Dama de Noche, Señório de Aloha and Edificio Independencia,
Around 50 representatives of these communities attended a recent meeting during which they agreed a plan of action to defend the interests of more than 200,000 property owners. They also expressed their anger over the way the authorities at the time allegedly failed to comply with the law. They believe it is now the innocent property owners who are being forced to face the consequences of these officials’ actions.
The communities have called on the commission managing Marbella’s affairs to support them. The group also intends to hold meetings with the regional government as well as gaining support from lawyers, notaries and other professionals and they will organise a petition among Marbella residents to demand that their properties should not be demolished.
OWNERS CONSIDER CLAIMING COMPENSATION
One of the key actions will be to see how this problem affects foreign property owners. Many people whose properties now face demolition bought them in good faith. They insist the majority are not property speculators but normal people who have fallen foul of Marbella’s town planning chaos. Indeed some of the property owners will be looking at the possibility of claiming compensation from the authorities. They have not been able to take possession of their properties nor sell or rent them because they have been embargoed by the courts.
Ladbrokes takes a bet on Spain
NEWS Staff Reporter
The well-known British bookmaker Ladbrokes is entering into a joint venture in Spain as the country moves to deregulate its betting shops. The company says it will apply for a new five-year licence being offered in Madrid after the region’s government passed a decree in December opening up its gambling market. Several more of Spain’s 16 regions are expected to follow suit, so Ladbrokes could become a familiar name throughout the country.
Ladbrokes is teaming up with Cirsa Slot, Spain’s leading slot machine company. Cirsa Slot accounts for nine per cent of the Spanish slot machine market and operates in 15,000 food outlets and 90 arcades. It is part of Cirsa Corporation, which owns and operates 22 traditional casinos, arcades and bingo halls. It employs 16,000 people across 70 countries.Christopher Bell, Ladbrokes’ chief executive, said he was confident the combination of his company’s experience in betting and the local knowledge and operational capability of Cirsa would “build a strong business.” He added, “We have formed a joint venture with a market leader in Spain that gives us access to a network of thousands of potential site operators.”
90 million euro waterworks scheme for Mijas
Mayor announces three major projects for this year
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CENTRAL GOVERNMENT IS TO SPEND 90 MILLION EUROS ON THREE MAJOR WATER INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS IN MIJAS THIS YEAR, THE TOWN’S MAYOR, AGUSTÍN MORENO, ANNOUNCED LAST WEEK.
The projects include the enlargement of two existing wastewater treatment plants and the construction of a 60- million-euro desalination plant that is to serve not only Mijas but the entire western Costa del Sol.
“These works will guarantee the potable water supply, permit the reuse of treated wastewater for irrigation and contribute decisively to keeping the beaches clean,” said Mayor Moreno. The large investment by the central government will make 2007 “a historic year for the town, which will have the most complete wastewater treatment system on the Costa del Sol,” he said.
The enlargement of the Cerros del Águila treatment plant is to be completed and put into a testing phase before the end of the year. Once up and running at capacity, it will serve the populations of both Mijas and Fuengirola. The enlargement of the La Cala plant will also get underway this year, but will not be completed until next year. When it comes online, the enlarged plant will provide recycled water for irrigating golf courses and other green zones in the zone.
NEW DESALINATION PLANT
The biggest project, the construction of the desalination plant, will begin this year and be completed in 2008. The plant is to be located on a 20,000-square-metre municipal property next to the Cerros del Águila treatment plant. It will be capable of generating 20 hectometres of potable water a year – similar to the existing desalination plant in Marbella – and will contribute to the supply of 11 towns.
Further expansion plans for Málaga airport
By Dave Jamieson
ALTHOUGH THE PRESENT PROGRAMME OF UPGRADES AT MÁLAGA AIRPORT IS FAR FROM COMPLETE, THERE IS ALREADY TALK OF FURTHER EXPANSION TO ACCOMMODATE THE TRAFFIC EXPECTED BY 2020.
Five-year-old projections of passenger volumes now appear to have been seriously underestimated.
The airport, which is the main point of entry for tourists visiting the Costa del Sol, has seen traveller numbers double in a decade: from 6.6 million in 1996 to an estimated 13 million last year. However, the development plan approved in 2001 estimated the actual 2006 total would not be reached until 2010 and that it would rise to 15 million five years later. Estimates now suggest that as many as 20 million passengers will use the airport by 2015, with a staggering 24 million expected by 2020.
Figures for November, however, showed a drop in the number of Britons and Germans passing through the terminals. Totals fell by 1.52 and 5.05 per cent respectively compared with the same month in 2005, although visitors from other countries were on the increase. There were 25.1 per cent more Danish arrivals, an additional 25.4 per cent from Belgium and a huge 54.3 per cent extra from Italy.
Málaga’s airport is the fourth largest in Spain and handles 7.3 per cent of the nation’s air traffic. Between 2004 and 2010, 890 million euros will have been ploughed into its expansion, with the Ministry of Development having invested 530 million euros in 2006 and 2007 alone.
NEW ACCESS ROADS
The latest airport project, which was given the go-ahead by the government before Christmas, is the construction of new access roads at a cost of 60 million euros. The 1.7-kilometre northern access has a budget of 15.54 million euros and will link with the city’s second ring road which is about to begin construction, while the 1.9 kilometres of the southern access will bring traffic from the A-7 road, close to the Guadalmar urbanisation, into the airport.
Coín to have organic farmer’s market
By Oliver McIntyre
Officials in Coín have announced that the town is soon to have a street market, or ‘mercadillo’, dedicated exclusively to the sale of organic agricultural products.
The new farmer’s market is part of a town hall programme to promote the growing and consumption of organic food. “We are convinced that organic agriculture can create a good commercial opportunity for a portion of our local agricultural production,” said the town’s councillor for the environment, Rodrigo Gallero. “At the same time, the organic production methods benefit the environment and result in products that are healthier to eat”.
It is expected that the first market day will be held in March, in Plaza de la Villa, with around a dozen Guadalhorce Valley farmers displaying and selling their certified organic products. The market will at first be held monthly but, “depending on its success, we could hold it fortnightly or even weekly,” said the councillor. While initially only officially certified organic products will be allowed, the organisers are considering accepting products that do not have official certification but have been approved as organic by a panel of experts. The new market comes as part of a larger programme coordinated by the town hall and the agriculture association COAG for the promotion of organic agriculture in the Guadalhorce Valley. The programme received an 18,400-euro grant from the Junta de Andalucía, much of which is being used to launch the market. Other facets of the scheme have included classes and workshops for farmers interested in organic production methods.
Campo de Gibraltar has over 250,000 residents
By David Eade
ACCORDING TO THE LATEST PUBLISHED OFFICIAL STATISTICS THE CAMPO DE GIBRALTAR AREA HAS NOW MORE THAN 250,000 RESIDENTS.
The National Institute of Statistics shows that as of January 1 2006 the number of people enrolled on the official census (padrón) in the seven municipalities totals 253,717.
The figure shows a significant increase in the zone over the previous total issued for January 1 2005, which was 249,459. Indeed there has been a steady increase in population levels for the past ten years with the total given as 225,255 in May 1996.
The largest municipality is Algeciras with an official population of 112,937 up 1,654 people on the previous year. The port town is also the third largest in the province after Jerez (199,544 up 3,269) and Cádiz (130,561 down 1,252). Next comes La Línea on 63,026 (up 344) which is eighth in the province followed by San Roque 26,569 (up 1,021), Los Barrios 20,871 (up 752) and Tarifa on 17,478 (up 279). The two smaller zones in the Campo de Gibraltar are Jimena with 9,893 (up 139) and Castellar 2,943 (up 69) which stand 22nd and 36th in the province.In percentage terms San Roque tops the provincial increases with a four per cent rise followed by Los Barrios with 3.74 per cent. Curiously the provincial capital of Cádiz has shown a steady decline in population of just over 15,000 in the past ten years. It also now has around 69,000 fewer residents than Jerez, a fact that has heightened calls for the sherry city to form its own province. Less of a surprise is that other inland areas have shown a decrease notably Ubrique, El Gastor and Algar.
Inflation hits consumers where it hurts
Report reveals how much the single currency has really cost us
By Oliver McIntyre
THE OFFICIAL ACCUMULATED INFLATION SINCE THE EURO REPLACED SPAIN’S PESETA FIVE YEARS AGO IS 17 PER CENT, BUT THE FACT THAT MOST BASIC ITEMS HAVE SEEN THE BIGGEST PRICE JUMPS MEANS THAT CONSUMERS FEEL INFLATION MUCH MORE.
Prices for basic goods and services have shot up 60 per cent since the introduction of the euro, according to a report by the Spanish Federation of Homemakers, Consumers and Users Organisations (CEACCU), which tracked the prices of 59 goods and services from the end of 2001 to the end of 2006.
“The real sensation is that the consumer has to pay a euro for what used to cost 100 pesetas,” says the CEACCU report. At the time of the conversion to the euro, 100 pesetas was worth 0.60 euros. Common daily purchases have seen huge price increases. The price of a loaf of bread is up 100 per cent, and a ‘café con leche’ costs 80 per cent more than in 2001. The price of admission to museums and movies has doubled, as has the cost of a haircut.
Other items have seen even bigger price hikes. The minimum taxi fare has jumped by 224 per cent, and the cost of a lottery ticket is up 233 per cent. The booming real estate market has also contributed to the sensation of sharp inflation, as the per-square-metre price for homes has shot up 156 per cent.
FOOD INFLATION IN 2006
Going back to official inflation figures, the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce last week released data regarding the change in food prices during 2006. Potatoes, chicken and lettuce topped the list for price increases on fresh items, all of them seeing jumps of more than 15 per cent and potatoes more than 20 per cent. The biggest increases on packaged goods were for red wine (8.25 per cent), olive oil (7.65 per cent) and canned tuna (6.99 per cent). Foods that saw a decrease in price included anchovies (down 7.7 per cent), ‘chirla’ clams (6.7 per cent), mackerel (6.5 per cent), oranges (six per cent) and lemons (5.1 per cent).