News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 8th March - 14th March 2007
United we come
UK football clubs strike lucrative Costa property deal
BY DAVID EADE
BRITISH FOOTBALL FANS LOOKING FOR A COSTA BOLTHOLE COULD SOON FIND THEMSELVES RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH SOME OF THEIR FAVOURITE PREMIERSHIP HEROES.
A number of top football clubs have come together to endorse a luxury residential and sport development outside Estepona called The Village at Valle Romano Golf and Resort. It is to include 1,100 apartments and penthouses, a 27-hole PGA standard golf course and a football academy run by England goalkeeper Paul Robinson, among other sport and spa facilities.
Backing the project are Aston Villa, Bolton Wanderers, Celtic, Rangers, Leeds United, Newcastle United and West Ham and Sunderland. The company behind the development, Football Village, says negotiations are underway for more clubs to sign on.
As part of their involvement in the development, the clubs will use The Village’s facilities for their warm-weather training. So not only will homeowners at the resort have a chance to see some of their favourite players, they could end up being neighbours.
Around 60 properties have reportedly already been sold and among the players taking them up are Paul Robinson, Fulham’s Michael Brown and Blackburn’s David Bentley. Golfer Severiano Ballesteros and Sky Sports commentator Jeff Stelling have also bought in and are actively endorsing the development.
The apartments, fully furnished one- and two-bedroom homes, start at 215,000 euros and are expected to be ready for delivery at the start of 2009. They will be constructed in three-storey blocks with 25 flats in each building.
ARSENAL ALREADY HERE
While billed as a new concept for Costa tourism – which traditionally centres on sun and sand – The Village is not the first development of its type here. Arsenal already have a project at Pueblo Real Golf in Casares, where 96 apartments surrounded by sports facilities went on offer to supporters and players in 2005.
Muscular dystrophy patient ro be allowed to die
Prosecutor seeks one-year prison sentence and ban from holding office
By David Eade
THE CONTROVERSIAL MAYOR OF GAUCÍN, FRANCISCO CORBACHO, FACES A MÁLAGA PROVINCIAL COURT TRIAL AFTER THE MÁLAGA PENAL COURT SAID IT DID NOT HAVE THE JURISDICTION TO TRY HIM.
The mayor stands accused of misappropriation of public funds and obstruction. The prosecutor is seeking a one-year jail sentence for Sr Corbacho’s alleged use of council funds for his own benefit, plus a six-year ban on holding public office for not allegedly not providing councillors with information they should have had access to. The opposition Partido Popular at Gaucín town hall is bringing a private prosecution and is asking for a six-year jail sentence.
Francisco Corbacho holds his mayoral post as an independent. At the time of the alleged misdeeds he ruled with the Socialist (PSOE) party’s support. The PSOE subsequently withdrew its backing, but he topped the poll at the 2003 election and now governs with the support of the Partido Andalucista.
The case against the mayor dates back to December 2002, when he allegedly borrowed town hall funds for his own use. It is claimed that while the town hall accountant was on holiday the mayor ordered several cheques totalling 200,000 euros to be made payable to the bearer, and then cashed them.
MUNICIPAL SALARIES UNPAID
The mayor purportedly intended to pay the money back a short time later, and in fact some of the money was repaid, but it appears that he was unable to return the whole amount. At the end of January 2003 Gaucín found it lacked sufficient funds to pay municipal salaries and other costs, and the situation was reported to legal authorities. Francisco Corbacho is said to have borrowed money from relatives and friends to enable him to settle his town hall debt. However, when the PP councillors asked to see the documentation about the movements of the funds the mayor is said to have refused to supply the information. In March of 2003 he allegedly refused to discuss the matter at a council meeting then ordered the municipal police to evict everybody from the chamber.
Málaga’s high-tech Holy Week
By Dave Jamieson
The city of Málaga will be using 21st-century technology during this year’s Easter week processions. An experiment last year using a global positioning system (GPS) to track the progress of the processions was a success and will be extended during this year’s Semana Santa events, from Palm Sunday, April 1, to Easter Sunday, April 8.
Málaga’s municipal transport company, EMT, has been appointed by the organisers to apply GPS systems to the processions for the next five years and will plant a GPS transmitter on the penitent who bears the cross leading each procession. The system will allow real-time data on the progress of the procession to be displayed on more than 150 information panels at bus stops and inside buses around the city. A further 27 panels will be erected at points which traditionally attract most spectators, including Calles Larios, Granada, Tejón and Rodriguez. In addition, mobile phone users will be able to get information by text-messaging the word ‘Tronos’ to 7210, at a cost of 90 cents. Internet users will be able to track the progress of the processions in real time on the EMT website (www.emtsam.es, available in English); a map of the city will show exactly where each one is at any given time. The accuracy of the system is said to be much more precise than in last year’s experiment, with a margin of error of just a few metres.
Police nick local civil servant
One man, 200 thefts, and a million euros of goods
By Dave Jamieson
STOLEN GOODS WORTH MORE THAN A MILLION EUROS HAVE BEEN FOUND IN THE HOME OF AN EMPLOYEE AT RINCÓN DE LA VICTORIA TOWN HALL.
National Police say that the 36-year-old man arrested last week could have been responsible for more than 200 break-ins across the entire Axarquía in towns including Rincón, Torre del Mar, Chilches, Benajarafe and Cajiz.
Investigators began working on the case more than two years ago, but it was given recent impetus when a number of suspicious objects were found in two second-hand shops in the city of Málaga. Then last week, police received an emergency call from a resident of Benajarafe who heard breaking glass and surprised a thief who had broken into his house and attempted to flee. Officers responded quickly and were able to detain the man as he tried to get to his car and make an escape.
When his house in Benagalbón was searched, an Aladdin’s cave of stolen property, valued at more than a million euros was discovered. Thousands of items of jewellery and rings, portable computers and DVD players, music centres, hundreds of games and movies, more than 40 video consoles, two imitation firearms and an air pistol were found among bottles of oil, packs of toilet paper, hams, crockery, cutlery, furnishings and books. The highest value items were two Rolexes, each worth more than 50,000 euros, among a collection of about 30 wristwatches.
BANK ACCOUNT FROZEN
Investigators, who think the detained man’s illegal activities may have been going on for at least nine years, have also frozen a bank account of 36,000 euros. They believe that he only broke into properties which he believed to be empty at the time and may have used his work clothes in order not to arouse suspicion. Officers think that his detailed knowledge of rural roads and countryside tracks enabled him to move easily around the area undetected. Police also detained the man’s 40-year-old wife, who works as an administrative assistant at Nerja’s local police station, on suspicion of handling stolen goods and of being involved in selling some of them in second-hand shops. She denied any knowledge of her husband’s alleged activities but claimed that he suffers from schizophrenia, although his condition has not been medically diagnosed.
Prosecutor to investigate Ronda's mayor
Move follows formal complaint against town hall’s approval of the Los Merinos development
By David Eade
THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROSECUTOR IN MÁLAGA IS TO INVESTIGATE WHETHER THE MAYOR OF RONDA, ANTONIO MARÍN LARA, HAS COMMITTED ANY OFFENCE IN HIS ADMINISTRATION’S APPROVAL OF THE CONTROVERSIAL GOLF DEVELOPMENT AT LOS MERINOS.
The mayor and his government have been firm backers of the project and the investigation will seek to establish whether any laws against town planning, the use of natural resources or the environment have been broken.
This Málaga investigation is a direct follow-on from the case at national level that was recently opened after a formal complaint by Izquierda Unida. The State Prosecutor, Cándido Conde Pumpido, passed the case to the State environment prosecutor who in turn has launched an investigation through the Málaga environmental prosecutor.
The IU has also enlarged its formal complaint against the mayor of Ronda and his administration claiming a fraudulent breach of the law. The project at Los Merinos would see 800 luxury homes, a commercial centre, three five-star hotels and two golf courses built on the rural site close to Cuevas del Becerro. The additional complaints are based on new facts presented by the party’s provincial co-ordinator, José Antonio Castro, that relate to town planning and water resource matters.
TOWN HALL CONTINUES TO SUPPORT GOLF PROJECTS
However Ronda town hall is still keeping up the fight for the project to go ahead. Signs have appeared on lampposts in the town supporting the golf projects. The message on these signs is the same as that carried in a recent march through the town where demonstrators called for a better future for Ronda and its region by supporting the “Golf sí” campaign.
Rincón campaigns for Málaga metro extension
By Dave Jamieson
Rincón de la Victoria has launched a month long campaign for a rethink on the future terminus of the Málaga metro in the town. Mayor Francisco Salado described the present plan as, “a clear discrimination” between the east and west coasts, and that for the latter there was “no sparing of resources.”
The existing project shows Line 3 of the metro system stretching into Rincón as far as Huerta Julián, 3.5 kilometres from the town centre. Here it is planned to share an interchange with the tranvía, the Vélez-Málaga tramway system which it is proposed to extend west along the coast from Torre del Mar. However, for Sr Salado, this will create “first-class and second-class citizens” and will “destabilise the area of Torre de Banagalbón.” He added that that having two different means of rail transport in the same town is not desirable.
The mayor recalled that in September 2005, the town council asked the Public Works and Transport department at the Junta de Andalucía for an assurance that the Málaga metro would cover the entire municipality, and this was given by Councillor Concepción Gutiérrez in February last year. However, six months later, the Junta opted for an extension of the Vélez tranvía with the metro terminating on Rincón’s outskirts.Rincón’s campaign is aimed at convincing the public that the metro should be extended as far as Los Rubios in Torre de Benagalbón, a project which would cost an extra 30 million euros.
Coastal motorway races to completion
Algeciras to Barcelona by autovía in 2009, says Minister
By Dave Jamieson
THE COASTAL AUTOVÍA WILL BE COMPLETE BY 2009. THE ASSURANCE CAME FROM THE DEVELOPMENT MINISTER DURING HER VISIT TO THE REGION LAST THURSDAY WHEN SHE FORMALLY INAUGURATED THE STRETCH FROM NERJA TO LA HERRADURA.
Magdalene Álvarez said work to extend the autovía further east to meet the existing road at Adra was progressing well, and indicated that in two years, it will be possible to drive on a motorway-class road all the way from Algeciras to Barcelona and on into France and Italy. The Nerja to La Herradura stretch is the first of eleven which will eventually combine to cover the final 80 kilometres to Adra, all of which are at different stages of development. The Minister was accompanied at the opening ceremony by the Mayors of Nerja, Almuñécar and Motril who expressed their delight at the opening after five years of construction which has cost 150 million euros.
TOP SECURITY ARRANGEMENTS
Ahead of the road opening to traffic, emergency services staff were briefed on security arrangements in the tunnels along the 9.4-kilometre stretch. Together, these account for almost two kilometres and fire crews from Nerja, Motril and Almuñécar were shown over them in detail by representatives of the construction companies. Marchante Tunnel, the longest at 1,400 metres, has security cameras, sensors and extinguishers, as well as emergency telephones every 150 metres and evacuation points every 300 metres. It was described by the Development Minister as “probably the safest tunnel in Europe.” Operation of all the tunnels is handled from the recently opened control centre at the Nerja – Frigiliana exit from the motorway.
Inland schools to get extended hours
NEWS Staff Reporter
Initially envisioned for the busy schedules of parents in the city and big Costa towns, the extended-hours programme at state schools is now to be extended to a significant number of schools in smaller inland towns in Málaga province. Schools that are included in the scheme have before- and after-school activities and are open from 07.30 to 20.00.
Of the 82 new schools to be added to the programme in the 2007-08 school year – bringing the total in the province to 326 – around 20 are in inland pueblos such as Almáchar, Cortes de la Frontera, El Borge, Istán and Sierra de Yeguas.
The provincial head of the Junta de Andalucía’s Education Department, José Nieto, says the move to include smaller inland towns is due to changing demographics, with more working mothers, and the fact that many parents have long commutes to bigger towns.
With the 82 newly added schools, the extended hours programme will be available to 120,000 students province-wide. Málaga city has the greatest number of schools in the programme, with 119, followed by Vélez-Málaga and Marbella. Also next school year, bilingual classes will be available to 30,000 students at 64 schools in the province. The majority of the bilingual schools have English as the second language, but there are also some that offer French or German.
Military studs return to Coín
By Oliver McIntyre
For the third year running, a small stable of purebred horses owned by the Spanish army has arrived in Coín to provide stud services to mares from throughout the Málaga region. The six Spanish purebreds will be housed at the old Finca de Juan Huertas until the end of mating season in late May. They are available, free of charge, to breeders who want their mares impregnated, either by physical mating or via artificial insemination.
The horses were brought from the army’s stud farm in Jerez de la Frontera. The military loans them out for breeding as part of a programme to help perpetuate purebred gene lines in the region’s equine stock. Another group of army horses is stationed in Ronda as part of the same programme.When the programme was first re-launched in Coín in 2005 after a 30-year hiatus, the military steeds, plus a purebred donkey that was brought that year, impregnated 219 mares and 28 female donkeys. Programme director Daniel Gómez told Costa del Sol News he expects at least 160 mares to be impregnated this year, about 25 per cent via natural breeding and the rest by artificial insemination. In order to ensure an orderly and efficient process throughout the season, breeders wishing to use the service must make an appointment in advance by ringing Sr Gómez on 655 614 619.
Marbella hospital to be top medical centre
By David Eade
Marbella’s Costa del Sol Hospital is to undergo a 27-million euro expansion programme that will transform it into one of the most important specialist centres in Andalucía. The plans for the work are now ready and the project will soon be put out to tender. The work will take about four years to complete.
The 400-bed Marbella hospital opened its doors to the public in 1993. However the increase in population on the Costa del Sol has made expansion an urgent priority. The work will give the hospital 150 more beds, all of which will be in single rooms.
The expansion will also provide important specialist units offering a far wider range of top care. These will be in addition to outpatients consulting rooms and operating theatres. The work will be carried out in various phases to try to minimise the inconvenience to staff and patients.The plans provide for the construction of an annexe to the present hospital. This will be connected to the existing main building by walkways. There will also be a three-storey underground car park.
Illegal building blocks access between beaches
Mayor asks government for temporary walkway
By Oliver McIntyre
THE MAYOR OF BENALMÁDENA, ENRIQUE BOLÍN, HAS ASKED THE ENVIRONMENT MINISTRY’S COASTAL AUTHORITY TO BUILD A BEACH-LEVEL PEDESTRIAN WALKWAY.
The path would go around the front of the Marymar building so that people can walk between the Los Maites and Sunset beaches without having to go up to the coast road.
The Marymar building, deemed illegal because it invades protected shoreline land, has for years been slated for teardown, but the central government has yet to carry out the demolition. In announcing his request last week for the pedestrian pathway as a temporary measure to unite the two beaches, the mayor also reiterated his request for the government to move forward with the demolition of the building, which would allow the existing Paseo Marítimo to be extended.
The mayor said that over the years as many as four environment ministers have “committed to the demolition of the building whenever they visited Málaga, but they still haven’t fulfilled the promise.”
Meanwhile, another of the town’s longstanding requests to the Coastal Authority appears closer to becoming a reality. The agency has confirmed that in the coming months it expects to begin work on breakwaters to prevent the sand loss experienced each winter during stormy weather. The project has received initial approval and is awaiting an environmental impact report, according to Javier Carnero, the opposition Socialist (PSOE) party’s candidate for mayor in the town, who recently met with Coastal Authority chief Juan Carlos Fernández Rañada. The work is to include beefing up the existing breakwater at Santa Ana beach and installing a new semi-submerged structure between Santa Ana and Malapesquera.
Massive protests over Delphi closure
By David Eade
AT THE END OF FEBRUARY, DELPHI AUTOMOTIVE SYSTEMS ANNOUNCED THE IMMINENT CLOSURE OF ITS PUERTO REAL PLANT.
It has blamed high costs and continuing losses as the reason. The news came as a dreadful shock to the 1,600 employees who would lose their jobs if the factory closed. Demonstrations have been taking place in the Bay of Cádiz with 50,000 people taking to the streets of Cádiz last week. Politicians from throughout the area and the bishop of Cádiz took part in a march from Cortadura, along the Avenida, to the government representative’s offices to demand that the factory remain open.
The central and regional governments have been trying to come up with a proposal, which would persuade the company to change its mind or to modify its plans so that two of the three Puerto Real divisions could remain open. The announcement by Alberto Rojas, who is responsible for the company’s European operations, that the plant was to close had a particularly bitter aftertaste for the workers, as it came just a week after he had personally reassured staff that the factory would remain open.
Delphi says that the Puerto Real plant is not included in future plans to recover profitability because it has lost 150 million euros in the last five years. Costs are high, and it is incapable of attracting new business in a competitive manner. The American holding company insists that there is no justification in providing further financial support to these non-essential lines of business, which continue to generate losses.
Reactions to the news were immediate. The regional government wrote to Delphi to inform the company that the closure could be illegal. The regional government’s employment minister stressed that the Andalucian authority would not even consider the possibility of the plant ceasing to operate and the loss of almost 1,600 direct and 300 indirect jobs. In Madrid, the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Commerce, Joan Clos, insisted that two of Delphi’s divisions in Puerto Real could be profitable because there is demand for the equipment they produce. He expressed his hope that the company would reconsider its decision.
While the meetings went on, arguments raged over how much money the Puerto Real plant has received from the regional government and how much the losses really are. The workers and their families took to the streets in a series of protest marches, supported by the vast majority of local people who are devastated at the prospect of the closure of one of the Bay’s most important businesses.
AIRBUS PLANT WILL REMAIN OPEN
Meanwhile, there was some good news for Puerto Real as Airbus has stated that its plant there will remain open, although 400 jobs will be lost in other parts of Spain. Airbus is carrying out a major restructuring plan aimed at saving the company 5,000 million euros between now and 2010, and a further 2,100 million from 2010 onwards. A total of 10,000 European workers will lose their jobs over the next four years, most of them in Germany, France and the UK.
ETA release sparks storm of protest across Spain
By Dave Jamieson
A MAJOR POLITICAL STORM BROKE OUT IN SPAIN LAST THURSDAY WHEN AN ETA PRISONER ON HUNGER STRIKE WAS RELEASED ON “HUMANITARIAN GROUNDS”
José Ignacio de Juana Chaos, who was 115 days into his protest, was taken from a secure hospital unit in Madrid, where he was being force-fed, to a clinic in the Basque Country. The government announced that he would serve the remaining year of his sentence at home, under police supervision.
The leader of the opposition Partido Popular immediately demanded that President Zapatero should explain the move to parliament. Mariano Rajoy said it was an insult to Eta’s victims, adding that the Basque separatist group had “made the government buckle.” The Association of Victims of Terror claimed the government “has surrendered to Eta,” and that the decision was a “macabre irony, given the state of those (de Juana) murdered, mutilated, destroyed socially and psychologically”. A trade union which represents police officers described it as “terrible news” and said that if the decision had been in its hands, de Juana “would never leave the hospital alive”. A number of local Partido Popular and Partido Andalucista councillors and officials were among about 1,000 people who gathered outside Málaga town hall on Friday night in protest at the decision.
The row began in February when the Supreme Court reduced a second sentence passed on the former Eta leader who had already spent 20 years in prison, convicted of killing 25 people. Last November, de Juana was found guilty of making terror threats in articles written for a Basque newspaper while in jail and sentenced to a further detention of 12 years seven months, but, three weeks ago, that was reduced to three years. The court argued that although de Juana had glorified terrorism, he had not made any death threats, but the decision provoked a huge protest demonstration in the centre of Madrid and in other towns. This was then followed by de Juana’s release last week.
The Minister of the Interior explained that the action was taken to prevent de Juana’s death as a result of his hunger strike. Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba described it as, “not conditional freedom, but an attenuated detention.” He said he had, “thought through the consequences of my decision and, perhaps more, of what would have happened if I had not taken it.” The case has already triggered a number of copycat protests. On Friday, ten prisoners at El Acebuche jail in Almería announced they planned to start a hunger strike so that they could receive the same treatment as de Juana. All were arrested last August on drugs trafficking charges.