News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 8th February - 15th February 2007
Briton battles blaze
Hotel owner made heroic effort to save guest
By David Eade
A GUEST AT THE BRITISH-OWNED ATRIUM HOTEL IN SAN ROQUE DIED AFTER THE HOTEL OWNER’S EFFORTS TRAGICALLY FAILED TO SAVE HIM.
Fifty-three-year-old Juan Agustín Morales Gallardo perished in his room during the fire, which is initially believed to have been caused by a cigarette he was smoking in bed.
Mike Lett, who owns the hotel together with his wife Jean, told the Costa del Sol News: “I braved the smoke to try and rescue the victim but had to give up as my own life was endangered. However, I am pretty sure that he was already dead by that time.” Another guest at the hotel was treated at La Línea hospital for smoke inhalation.
The fire was confined to the victim’s room on the third floor of the hotel, but by the time firemen from Guadacorte arrived, the hotel was already filled with smoke. The fire teams split into two groups, one fighting the blaze while the other searched for any guests trapped in their rooms.
It was during this search that firemen found the man’s body at the foot of his bed, where he had been overcome by the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning.
The fire teams were at the scene for over three hours and had to use breathing equipment due to the heavy smoke. In addition to the scorched bedroom, some of the public areas of the hotel were affected by smoke and ashes.
Mr and Mrs Lett did not wish to make any detailed statements to the media regarding the fire and death, saying they felt any comments would be inopportune at this time. However, Mr Lett told CDSN that the hotel will be closed for a while as the necessary clean-up and repairs are carried out.The Atrium Hotel, located in Calle General Moscoso, is very popular with both British and Spanish visitors to San Roque. It was originally built as a Spanish General’s residence in the 19th century, when San Roque was a large military town. Believed to have once served as a Guardia Civil post and the area’s courthouse, it is now listed as a protected historic building.
Sex attack allegations at Benalmádena school
Parents say schoolmate assaulted their 13-year-old daughter
By Oliver McIntyre
THE PARENTS OF A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL AT THE CERRO DEL VIENTO SECONDARY SCHOOL IN BENALMÁDENA HAVE FILED A POLICE REPORT ACCUSING A 16-YEAR-OLD STUDENT AT THE SCHOOL OF VERBALLY AND PHYSICALLY ATTEMPTING TO FORCE HER TO HAVE SEX WITH HIM.
The abuse went on for some 20 days, getting physical to the point of “attempted rape” on two occasions, on January 25 and 29, according to the father’s complaint to police.
He says the girl reported the harassment to the school administration but appropriate action was not taken to address the situation. “If she hadn’t broken down we wouldn’t have known anything about it because the school advised the boy’s parents before us,” he said.
The father says that on the advice of the children’s rights group Prodeni, he sent a letter to the school and to the Junta de Andalucía’s provincial Education Department, which informed him an inspector would be sent immediately to look into the situation.
The head of the provincial Education Department, José Nieto, confirmed that as soon as the department received word of the accusations an inspector was sent out. However, since a formal complaint was also filed with the police, “it is they who will have the final word,” he said. The father has stated that if the alleged aggressor is not expelled, his daughter will not return to the school.
New warning on gas inspection frauds
By Dave Jamieson
Nerja town hall has issued a new warning about bogus gas inspectors in the area. The Foreigners’ Department says that at the start of this month they received many complaints from residents who had been visited by representatives of a company calling itself Complementos del Gas. The fake technicians insisted on entering the homes to inspect gas appliances, and then presented the homeowners with invoices ranging from 280 to 300 euros.The town hall advises residents to never let anyone claiming to be a gas company inspector into their home, except by appointment. Gas appliances need only be checked for safety once every five years, and an appointment can be made with one of the two gas companies in the town – García and Hijos (Repsol) in Calle Antonio Millón or Cepsa in Calle Ruperto Andúez. An estimate for the work to be carried out will be given, with the changing of gas tubes usually costing around 40 euros. If additional work is required, the inspector will advise of any extra cost before proceeding.
Train protests highlight Bobadilla woes
Residents say only transport options are private car or taxi
By Oliver McIntyre
AS PROTESTERS CONTINUE TO DEMAND BETTER TRAIN SERVICES FOR THE GUADALHORCE VALLEY, RESIDENTS IN THE BOBADILLA AREA OF ANTEQUERA SAY THE FAILURE OF THE CERCANÍAS LINE TO REACH THEIR TOWN IS JUST ONE EXAMPLE OF THE AREA’S LACK OF PUBLIC TRANSPORT.
Protesters have been staging a series of marches recently to demand an improved train service on the C2 Cercanías line, which they want extended from its current terminus at Álora, with new stops at Las Mellizas, El Chorro, Gobantes, Bobadilla and Antequera. They are now preparing the last of four scheduled marches, for February 17, from the Los Prados station to the provincial government headquarters in Málaga city.
For people in the Bobadilla area, the lack of a local train service is just one of a series of transport inadequacies, say residents. The creation of the new AVE (high-speed train) station in Santa Ana has left the Bobadilla station with less service, they say, and officials have failed to provide promised links between Bobadilla and the Santa Ana station.
“In reality we have no transport links, except private car or taxi,” Bobadilla Estación resident Janet Shepherdson told Costa del Sol News. In addition, she says, “since the new station opened, a lot of Talgo trains have ceased to operate, forcing people to use the new AVE train, which is more expensive.” There is even concern among residents that the Bobadilla station could be closed completely once the AVE link from Santa Ana to Málaga is finished.
Apart from the train issues, Bobadilla Estación lacks even a regular bus link to Antequera. “Students aged 16 and 17 have to pay 75 euros a month to get the bus to college,” said Mrs Shepherdson. And this despite the fact that Bobadilla residents “pay substantial taxes to Antequera town hall,” she said.
Holiday-home sales drop nearly 60 per cent
NEWS Staff Reporter
A major source of real estate sales on the Costa appears to be drying up. Sales of holiday homes to foreign buyers dropped by 57 per cent last year in Málaga province, according to preliminary figures presented last week by the Málaga Builders and Developers Association (ACP).
In 2005, 12,450 holiday homes in the province were sold to foreign buyers for a total of 1.85 billion euros, representing 40 per cent of the national total of 4.56 billion euros. Last year, the figure in Málaga dropped to 5,500 homes for 800 million euros, just 20 per cent of the four billion euros brought in nationwide from home sales to foreigners.
As shown by the figures, the sharp decrease in Málaga did not simply reflect an overall fall in holiday-home sales across the country, as the national revenue figure was down just 12 per cent. The trend of buyers increasingly choosing other locations over Málaga is demonstrated by the fact that, for the first time, it was beaten by other provinces such as Alicante and Murcia. The ACP, which presented the preliminary 2006 figures at last week’s FITUR tourism tradeshow in Madrid, says there are many factors at play in the decline in sales seen in Málaga. One obvious one, it says, is the ‘Malaya’ town hall corruption case in Marbella and the concern it has generated over the possible demolition of thousands of homes, creating a “climate of insecurity.” The association says the Junta de Andalucía’s planning and land-use policies are also creating an “unprecedented sense of uncertainty” among builders and developers.
Nerja's population confirms four extra councillors
New INE figures mean increased government funding
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA WILL HAVE FOUR EXTRA COUNCILLORS AFTER THE MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS IN MAY.
Last week’s confirmation from the National Statistics Institute (INE) that the town’s official population has topped 20,000 means that the town council will expand from the present 17 to 21 members. Aware that such an increase was likely, the Council chamber at the town hall was remodelled and expanded in spring 2005.
The news that Nerja now officially has 20,361 inhabitants means that four additional councillors can be appointed since the number of local councillors a municipality may appoint, which is always an odd number, is determined by the size of its population. A minimum of five is required by law for a community of up to 250, increasing to 25 for municipalities of 100,000 citizens. Above this, one more councillor is added for every 100,000 residents or fraction thereof, adding a further one if the result is an even number. In addition, the new INE figures for Nerja mean that the town will receive increased annual funding from central government in Madrid, a sum which is also allied to a municipality’s official population.
The statistics show that 49.4 per cent of Nerja is male and 51.6 per cent female, and that the total has increased 4.4 per cent in a year. More than a quarter of residents are non-Spanish, including 3,517 from the EU who are predominantly British, and 1,256 from other countries.
EU RESIDENTS SHOULD REGISTER BEFORE APRIL 16
The town hall has advised that foreign EU residents eligible and wishing to vote in May’s elections should register by April 16 if they have not already done so. Norwegian residents must register by February 27. The Foreigners’ Department says that registration can be carried out at their office on the ground floor on Mondays and Thursdays between 10.00 to 13.30.
Insurance policy offered against demolition of ill
By David Eade
The company IFG Spanish Solutions, a union of the two British companies IFG and First Title, has launched an insurance policy that will compensate homeowners, who have their illegal homes demolished in Marbella, to the tune of 30,000 euros. The protection is specifically offered to properties acquired in Marbella where the licence has been denied because the property does not meet the conditions laid down in the 1986 local development plan (PGOU).
The illegal property cover has been launched by representatives of First Title which in turn is a subsidiary of the US-company First American Corporation. The company, a leader in property insurance in the UK, offers clients the possibility of receiving the maximum payout if their property is demolished under a court order.
To qualify for a payout the policy holder has to be served a judicial demolition order on a dwelling that has a licence of first occupation and that was purchased in good faith. The company also has to be satisfied that there were no known legal problems when the purchase of the residence was made.
Elaine Higgins of First Title told the media that the policy was not available to developers nor would it cover commercial units. In addition, to be granted a “Homeowner’s Marbella Planning Protection” policy the insurance company would first study each case to evaluate the risks. The price of the policy will depend on the value of the property and the risk of possible demolition. However it is understood that a property valued at 300,000 euros would command a policy payment of around 350 euros a year.
Briton robbed, injured and stranded
NEWS Staff Reporter
A British man is finally back in the UK after a disastrous visit to Málaga during which he was robbed, hospitalised and stranded at the airport.
The 27-year-old arrived alone about two weeks ago aboard a low-cost carrier, but on leaving the airport was attacked and beaten-up by unknown assailants who also stole his luggage, money and return flight ticket. He was taken to hospital in the city for treatment where staff diagnosed that he suffered from schizophrenia and prescribed medication to help.
After three days, he left their care, but was without cash to buy the drugs or food. However, the British Consulate came to his rescue, contacting friends and relatives in the UK to send money for a return flight and for the medicine he needed. After a visit to the nearest pharmacy, he returned to the airport last Wednesday to await his departure time the following day. However, next morning, having taken the strong drugs and not having eaten properly, he fell into a deep sleep and missed boarding his flight. He awoke four hours later, lost and disoriented, and then had to wait for the next flight home. Although, safe back in the UK now, he will be counting the cost of his 10-day break in Spain.
Gibraltar remains Britain's largest overseas base
The Rock continues to play a major role in Britain’s defence planning
By David Eade
THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT HAS STATED THAT GIBRALTAR HAS THE LARGEST CONTINGENT OF ROYAL NAVY PERSONNEL OUT OF ALL THE UK’S OVERSEAS BASES.
The statistics were issued at a time when there is major concern on the Rock over the future of its naval base. This stems from the announcement that Serco, a listed UK company, had been awarded a £50m five-year contract for support services in Gibraltar whilst an in-house alternative has been rejected. This is all part of an increased drive for efficiencies in the cash-strapped Ministry of Defence.
There are 200 British navy staff stationed in Gibraltar performing roles from logistics management to intelligence gathering. In addition there are 90 RAF personnel and around 50 Army members. This would seem to indicate that Gibraltar continues to play a major role in Britain’s defence planning. The next largest overseas deployment of Royal Navy personnel is in Italy, where NATO has its naval headquarters for the Mediterranean region and the navy has 110 staff stationed there.
Many military observers believe that Gibraltar is now even more important to Britain’s military strategy. They point to the developments in the Middle East and West Africa, unstable regions rich in natural resources, and the Rock’s close proximity to both ensures that it remains a major defence asset. Gibraltar’s naval base has also proved important in the Iraq war and Lebanon conflicts as an important supply and refuelling post.
Small bars benefit from revised copyright fees
By Dave Jamieson
Eight hundred small businesses in the province of Málaga are expected to benefit from a new deal on copyright payments for playing music in public. All public places where music or television is provided for the entertainment of clients are required to pay towards the rights of the author or composer, and last week’s arrangement, which is effective until 2015, has reduced the obligations on smaller establishments.
The accord was signed between Rafael Prado, president of the Málaga Association of Catering Businesses (Aehma), and the Andalucian director of the Society General of Spanish Authors (SGAE), Luis Lozano. It introduces a sliding scale of charges for smaller bars and cafés. Those with an area of up to 50 square metres will pay 14.40 euros per month, those between 51 and 100 square metres will pay 16.80 and those of more than 100 square metres will pay 24 euros monthly. In addition, reductions of up to 15 per cent will be available to Aehma members and those who pay promptly.
The new deal for small establishments, the first of its kind in Andalucía, is also different in that it is a blanket agreement covering all forms of musical entertainment, including the use of television and any reproduction system. Luis Lozano said it would apply to about 800 of Aehama’s 1,500 members in Málaga and would produce a reduction of 25 per cent in their payments. However, he added that of the 9,000 establishments in the province which use music, about 30 per cent fail to make copyright payments to SGAE and that efforts would continue to recover outstanding fees.
Larger businesses, classifieds as discotheques and pubs, are subject to the conditions of an agreement dating from 1996 which sets a monthly payment of 89.95 euros for those with an area up to 100 square metres. A further 22.48 euros per month is payable for every 50 square metres in excess of this area, and an additional 14.40 euros per month is charged for the use of a television.
That's no fertiliser!
Dog owners who don’t get the message may have to pay up to 3,000 euros
By Oliver McIntyre
NOT MANY ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS CAN BOAST THREE-METRE-TALL BILLBOARDS FEATURING THE IMAGE OF A GIANT DOG EXCREMENT.
But that’s just what Benalmádena town hall is counting on to grab people’s attention in its new campaign to get dog owners to clean up after their pets.
The town hall’s Sanitation Department receives over a hundred complaints a week from residents fed up with having to tiptoe through mine fields of dog poop on the town’s pavements, streets and lawns, according to the councillor that heads the department, Sebastián Carretero.
So the town council decided to launch a public-awareness campaign that in addition to being eye-catching for its scatological imagery, addresses one of the frequent rationalisations used by dog owners who leave their best friend’s ‘manure’ on lawns or in garden areas. Six billboards throughout the town show a large dog poop resting on the grass in the foreground and two happy-looking dogs in the background. The tag line, in large brown letters, proclaims, “It is NOT fertiliser.”
TWENTY-THREE PLACES TO ‘SPEND A PENNY’
But the billboard campaign is not the town hall’s only measure to address the problem. It has created 23 special dog loos in the town, with free baggie dispensers and rubbish bins in which to deposit them. The zones are cleaned and disinfected several times a week by municipal workers. Dog owners who don’t get the message may find themselves paying a steep price. Councillor Carre-tero says penalties for leaving dog excrement in public places are to be stiffened, with fines of up to 3,000 euros.
Axarquía water investigation opens
NEWS Staff Reporter
The allegation was made in October by the Partido Popular (PP) who claimed that sewage was entering the lake at three points around Los Romanes and Periana creating an “unsustainable environmental situation.” Lake Viñuela supplies water to a large part of the Axarquía as well as the city of Málaga, and the PP demanded action to rectify the situation.
At the time, the claims were rebuffed by the water authority which said that supplies from the reservoir were within the normal parameters for quality established by legislation for drinking water. Sr José Jesús Dominguéz Palma of the PSOE joined the attack in his role as president the Association of Axarquía and Costa del Sol Municipalities, and as president of Axargua, the public water and sewage company in the Axarquía, saying there had been no “quality problems” detected in Viñuela’s water, and went as far as to claim that the PP’s criticisms were “false”. Last week, the PP’s Francisco Delgado Bonilla who made the original accusation said that nothing had changed in the intervening three months. He was speaking as news came that the public prosecutor’s office was opening an investigation into the water quality at La Viñuela and expressed the hope that it would identify those responsible.
British school kids don't integrate well
Language barrier appears to foster a “negative attitude”
By Dave Jamieson
BRITISH SCHOOL STUDENTS IN THE REGION DO NOT INTEGRATE AS WELL AS CHILDREN FROM OTHER FOREIGN COUNTRIES.
A new study published by the University of Málaga suggests that families from Morocco and Latin America build relationships with their Spanish contemporaries more easily.
The findings, which come from interviews conducted with 280 students at 11 secondary schools in the province during April, May and June last year, have surprised the report’s authors who say that children from British families are more likely to forge links with others from the same country of origin. Carmen Carvajal, professor of Human Geography, and Verónica de Miguel, an expert in social networking, say that the language barrier appears to foster a “very negative attitude” towards accepting Spanish communication media.
The schools chosen for the investigation have high levels of non-Spanish pupils. In the sample, 34 per cent of interviewees came from foreign families, nine per cent from homes where one or other parent was Spanish, and the remaining 57 per cent from Spanish families. Respondents were asked to indicate anonymously their attitudes to classmates given a range of circumstances from confiding secrets to asking for help.
The authors conclude that the data indicates that Latin American and Moroccan children appeared to be more integrated than British children, and showed “no obvious discrimination” in their choice of friends or confidantes.
It is estimated that almost eight per cent of Málaga’s school population comes from foreign families, a figure which has increased notably in the last decade. Twenty thousand such students are now attending schools and colleges in the province with Britons making up the biggest single group, followed by Argentineans and Moroccans.