News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
In association with
Week 10th May - 16th May 2007
Money and politics
Dispute over homeowner charges used for political advantage,says Estepona Golf owner
BY DAVID EADE
ESTEPONA GOLF OWNER RORY LEADER HAS STATED CATEGORICALLY THAT INFRASTRUCTURE CHARGES BEING IMPOSED ON HOMEOWNERS AT THE URBANISATION ARE LEGAL AND ACCUSED OPPOSITION POLITICIANS AT THE TOWN HALL OF USING THE ISSUE FOR POLITICAL ADVANTAGE IN THE UPCOMING MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS.
The situation concerning the infrastructure charges at Estepona Golf and other urbanisations in the municipality, as well as further afield in San Roque, have commanded many column inches in the Costa del Sol News in recent months.
At the forefront is Estepona Golf, where various developments are planned by a number of different developers. They will include apartments, townhouses and villas, and one of the developers also has permission for a hotel.
With the local elections fast approaching, the residents have been urged to vote for the Partido Andalucista, headed by mayoral candidate Rafael Montesinos, who has spoken out against the charges. Estepona 2007’s Rosa Dias also recently supported a demonstration by the property owners in the town centre. However, the Socialist (PSOE) mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos, has stated that the infrastructure charges are legal.
CDSN asked Rory Leader – who as owner of Estepona Golf itself is the largest landowner at the urbanisation and thus its de facto leader – what he makes of the political manoeuvrings and whether he feels under political threat.
“To say that I’m disappointed with both Rosa Dias and Rafael Montesinos is an understatement,” said Mr Leader. “The words ‘self publicity’ and ‘forthcoming political elections’ spring to mind. I can only conclude that Estepona’s mayor appears to be the only person who has looked into this subject in any detail. In answer to your specific question, I don’t think our plans to upgrade the urbanisation are under political threat for one moment.”
ARE THE CHARGES FAIR?
CDSN then asked Mr Leader if the infrastructure charges, whether legal or not, are just, given that property owners on Estepona Golf and other urbanisations purchased their property with the understanding that the infrastructure was intact. Now, in many cases a decade or more on, they are being asked to make heavy additional payments, whether they like it or not and whether they benefit or not. In some cases they simply cannot afford to do so. How can this be justified?
Mr Leader was adamant: “They are legal, and will therefore withstand scrutiny. They are just, and they’re most certainly legal. It’s important to remember that none of the residents have contributed anything to maintain the infrastructure at Estepona Golf since its inception in 1989, which in turn means that expenditure required to put it right is more than it need have been. Why wouldn’t the residents pay? Because without a Junta de Compensación, some would pay – most wouldn’t. In our case, despite our best efforts, nobody would, and it shows. Estepona Golf now has more residents than ever, and much of the infrastructure, particularly sewage, is at the point of collapse. For residents to describe our infrastructure as ‘intact’ would have been a euphemism, even in the early ‘90s. Importantly, the majority of residents bought their properties at substantially below market price purely because of the sub-standard infrastructure, and the urbanisation’s associated reputation because of it. Once the infrastructure is completed to modern legal standards, residents’ properties will unquestionably benefit from a substantial increase in market value.”
Broken gas line shuts down Cercanías
Accident caused two-hour break to neighbouring towns’ gas supply
By Oliver McIntyre
THE CERCANÍAS TRAIN LINE WAS SHUT DOWN BETWEEN BENALMÁDENA AND FUENGIROLA FOR ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF LAST WEDNESDAY AFTER AN EXCAVATOR MACHINE AT A CONSTRUCTION SITE BROKE A NATURAL GAS MAIN.
Benalmádena firefighters and police rushed to the site – a plot where a new hotel is being built in the Holiday World complex – at around 09.30 and cordoned off a 100-metre safety perimeter. Firefighters ordered Renfe to shut down the nearby Cercanías line due the danger that a spark from the train could ignite pockets of accumulated gas. Some roads in the area were also temporarily closed to traffic.
The gas line was shut off at the main valve in Los Boliches, Fuengirola, while the broken pipe was repaired, leaving all of Benalmádena and Torremolinos without natural gas for about two hours. Firefighters blamed the accident on the “negligence” of the excavator operator, noting that the gas main is easily identifiable by its bright yellow colour and is buried a metre underground, beneath a layer of gravel and white substrate. The ‘bomberos’ were also dissatisfied with the response time of the gas company, saying its technicians did not arrive on the scene until 40 minutes after the break.
Brit strangler sentenced to five years
NEWS Staff Reporter
A young British man has been convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to strangle to death a 27-year-old woman, also British, after the two spent the night together in the woman’s Mijas home.
The provincial court heard how the man, Justin W., now 29, met the victim one night in December 2005 at a Fuengirola disco and the two later went back to the woman’s home in the La Ponderosa urbanisation. The next day at around 15.00 the man attacked the woman “for no reason and with the intent to kill her,” hitting her repeatedly in the face and head with a drinking glass, a glass ashtray and an electric space heater, according to the court’s findings. He then strangled her unconscious with the heater cord before fleeing over the balcony as a neighbour began knocking at the door in response to the noise and screams. As he fled the man stripped off his bloody shirt and later threw his shoes and socks into the sea.
The neighbour found the woman lying unconscious in a pool of blood with the cord still wrapped around her neck. She spent six days in hospital, part of the time on a respirator, and had multiple injuries, including a broken nose. In addition to the prison sentence, Justin W. was ordered to pay the victim a 20,000-euro restitution payment plus another 1,700 euros in compensation for the time she spent recovering from the attack. The prosecutor had originally been seeking a nine-year prison sentence and 31,000 euros in restitution.
Eviction notice for the dead at Álora cemetery
Graves delay castle restoration project
By Oliver McIntyre
PEOPLE BURIED IN THE OLD CEMETERY AT ÁLORA’S CASTILLO DE LAS TORRES HAVE SIX MONTHS TO FIND A NEW PLACE TO REST IN ETERNAL PEACE.
The town hall has long been working to empty the cemetery, which poses an obstacle to a comprehensive restoration project planned for the castle. Local officials say that in recent years family members have been urged to move their loved ones’ remains to the new municipal cemetery, an effort that has resulted in around half of the graves being transferred.
Last week the Provincial Bulletin published the official closure notice for the castle cemetery, setting a six-month period for people to move their loved ones out. After that, the town hall will have authority to exhume and transfer to the new cemetery any remaining graves at the castle site.
LAST BURIAL WAS 10 YEARS AGO
However, the town’s mayor, José Sánchez Moreno, insists the official closure notice is not a strict ultimatum for families with relatives buried at the castle cemetery, saying the town hall will continue urging them to voluntarily move the remains and may give some leeway on the timeline. “I’d like to see [the cemetery] completely emptied by mid to late 2008, he said. The last burial at the castle took place 10 years ago this October.
Nerja town hall apologises over election error
Municipal website still showed wrong information at the beginning of this week
By Dave Jamieson
NERJA TOWN HALL HAS APOLOGISED FOR ISSUING MISLEADING INFORMATION ON HOW TO CAST VOTES IN THE FORTHCOMING MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS, BUT THE ERROR REMAINS ON THE TOWN HALL’S WEBSITE.
In early April, a press release in English issued by the Foreigners’ Department indicated that ballot papers should be marked to show which party voters wished to support. However, writing anything on the ballot paper will immediately nullify its validity with the vote counted as spoiled and therefore lost.
A later press release from the same office apologised for the error. However, the town hall’s website at the start of this week was still giving advice to postal voters which included the phrase, “After marking the political party you wish to vote and putting it in the attached envelope …” [sic] although it later adds, “We Apologises for this mistake voting papers should not be marked as this null the vote. Just placed the list of candidates inside the envelope.” [sic]
To clarify, on polling day voters will be presented with a number of slips of paper, each listing the candidates who are standing for one particular political party. Each voter should choose a party, not a candidate, to vote for and select the list which corresponds to that choice. The list, with nothing written or marked on it, should then be placed in the envelope provided and handed to one of the electoral officers who will place it in the ballot box.The Partido Popular, which is hoping for a fourth term in office after election day, May 27, has arranged a meeting, specifically for Nerja’s non-Spanish electorate, at which voting procedures will be clarified and questions can be answered. It is to be held next Wednesday, May 16, at 20.00 in the Balcón de Europa Hotel.
Proposed expansion for Axarquía natural park
NEWS Staff Reporter
A natural park in the Axarquía may be expanded to take in an EU designated site of community interest (LIC, in its Spanish acronym). The Junta de Andalucía’s Department of the Environment says that after the municipal elections it will be contacting the town halls at Alfarnate and Alfarnatejo to discuss incorporating the Camarolos LIC into the Sierra Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park.
The Sierra de Camarolos mountain range creates a natural boundary between the Axarquía and Antequera. From the highest peak, Chamizo, which is over 1,600 metres above sea level, there are views of Viñuela reservoir, the Sierra de Almijara and even the Sierra Nevada. The limestone rocks of the area have been eroded to form curious shapes with underground streams and caves, while farmland is fertile and there are many olive groves at lower altitudes.Environment’s provincial delegate, Ignacio Trillo, said the project to incorporate Camarolos within the park had already passed a public-information period and was now entering a consultation phase. He added that the area was already well protected, since its classification as an important source of water prohibits any kind of private development.
Ombudsman receives petition in support of golf
By David Eade
THE ANDALUCIAN OMBUDSMAN, JOSÉ CHAMIZO, HAS BEEN PRESENTED WITH A PETITION FROM THE PLATAFORMA EN DEFENSA DE RONDA SUPPORTING PLANS TO BUILD THE GOLF COMPLEX AT LOS MERINOS NORTE.
The 10,001-name petition was presented to Chamizo at the offices of the small and medium sized business association in Ronda.
During the 90-minute meeting representatives of the action group insisted that the golf course-hotel-urbanisation project complies with the environmental regulations and would bring much needed wealth to the Ronda. Spokesperson Martín Vivas insisted that the natural assets and environment of the area would be protected. In addition, Francisco Retamero, the architect in charge of overseeing the development, was also on hand to give the technical background on how these protection measures would be achieved.
Although Ronda town hall has strongly backed the Merinos Norte golf development the project has aroused substantial opposition in the surrounding area. Residents and ecologists fear that the golf course with its urbanisation and hotel complexes form an unsustainable development. There are also deep worries over water supply problems both in Arriate and Cuevas del Becerro where the local administrations have also voiced their opposition. The governmental environmental bodies are also examining the legality of the scheme.
For his part Ombudsman, José Chamizo, said it was his job was to listen to all sides, then to collate the information, and make a decision. He conceded that Los Merinos is a complicated case where the two sides have such completely differing views offering little room for compromise. Nonetheless he has not given up hope of achieving some consensus after holding discussions between all involved.
Vélez tram expansion delayed
NEWS Staff Reporter
The second phase of Vélez-Málaga’s tranvía, which was expected to open this month, is to be delayed by two months. The 1.3-kilometre extension, which was due to be completed by now, will take the tramway from its present terminus in Vélez as far as the town’s old railway station.The town’s councillor for infrastructure, José Luis Sánchez Toré, said last week that the delay had developed as a result of improvements which had been made to the original project. As well as the new terminus, the stretch includes two other new stations, the first at the Axarquía college and the second at the María Zambrano park. A second electricity substation, sited at Jurado Lorca park, will ensure adequate power for the system once it is fully operational. Sr Sánchez that the seven-million-euro project was now likely to be completed during June.
Free city cycles in Málaga pilot project
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA IS PLANNING TO INTRODUCE FREE BICYCLE RENTAL IN THE CITY CENTRE.
The town council wants to follow the lead of other cities, such as Córdoba and Barcelona, which provides cycles to help people get around.
A pilot scheme using 25 bikes is under consideration with two bases, at Plaza de la Marina and Plaza de Uncibay, where they can be collected and returned after use. The first 30 minutes of use will be free of charge, after which the next hour will cost 50 cents with any further use charged at one euro per hour. However, the councillor for transport, Javier Berlanga, has indicated there may be concessions for young people and for users of Málaga’s public bus service, EMT.
UNIQUE DESIGN TO STOP ROBBERY
A unique model of bicycle, made by Cemusa, is to be used to discourage theft of cycles since they would be easily identifiable if an attempt was made to sell or otherwise dispose of them. If the trial is successful, said Sr Berlanga, consideration would be given to expanding the service. The town council is already in discussion with Cemusa about operating the hire scheme and has had a similar approach from Clear Channel, the company which manages advertising on local buses. Fuller details of how the bike hire project will operate are likely to be made public shortly.
Los Pacos health centre site agreed
By David Eade
The Fuengirola town council has unanimously voted to cede a plot of land in Los Pacos to the Andalucía health authority for the creation of a new health centre. In May of last year the regional government rejected the same site, a 2,518-square-metre property located in Calle Badajoz, citing poor pedestrian access and other shortcomings. However, those problems have now been ironed out and the town hall hopes that Fuengirola will soon have its third health centre.
The councillor for town planning, Ana Mula, said the site should have been accepted by the health authority a year ago and that she expects the people of Los Pacos and Torreblanca to have access to primary medical care at the centre soon. The mayor, Esperanza Oña, said the approval of the site was reached through intense communication and offers of collaboration with the health service. She added that when the land was first offered, the health authorities said it was not good enough, but that they have now agreed to accept it despite nothing having changed in the terms of the offer.The site is located in the heart of Los Pacos, close to Los Boliches and with excellent access from both Los Pacos and Torreblanca. Just a few metres from the Avenida Finlandia roundabout, it is centrally located in a fast-growing area of the town.
Algar plans for eight-fold growth
By David Eade
THE ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP, ECOLOGISTAS EN ACCIÓN, HAS CRITICISED THE LOCAL DEVELOPMENT PLAN (PGOU) BEING DRAWN UP BY ALGAR TOWN HALL ON THE GROUNDS THAT THE POPULATION OF THE VILLAGE WOULD INCREASE DRASTICALLY.
According to the ecologists, Algar currently has 1,800 inhabitants but the plans to build 1,588 new homes could result in a local population of more than 6,500. They also claim that the municipality’s urban centre now covers about 200,000 square metres, but if the PGOU is put into effect 1,865,273 square metres of land would be reclassified so it could be built on, which means that the village would be more than two million square metres in size.
The population of Algar has been dropping in recent years, and decreased by 200 between 1981 and 2004. Ecologistas en Acción says the growth planned under the PGOU is out of all proportion, and it would be excessive to try to create a municipality, which is eight times larger than at present.
GOLF COURSE, HOTEL BUT NO URBANISATION
Meanwhile the regional government’s town planning committee has approved a project to build a golf course and five-star hotels on a 232-hectare site five kilometres from Trebujena. However it has turned down the application to build 600 homes as part of the same complex.
The 60-hectare golf course is to be built in an area called Gabela Honda, close to the marshlands, the Guadalquivir River and the Doñana Natural Park, and there will also be 400 hotel rooms split between different buildings and an equestrian centre.
The mayor of Trebujena said a few months ago that he did not foresee any difficulties in the project being approved. Last week he had to revise his opinion but expressed his satisfaction at it being given the go-ahead despite the fact that the residential part of the scheme has been rejected. The man behind the proposed complex, Bernard Devos, who also owns the Benalup Golf Resort, will now have to decide whether it is still profitable. Earlier this year he said he was tired of the bureaucratic problems involved in the project, and insisted that he is not a property speculator.
Aznar sparks ire over remarks at wine reception
By Dave Jamieson
FORMER PRESIDENT AZNAR HAS BEEN SEVERELY CRITICISED FOR REMARKS SEEN AS DEFENDING THE RIGHT TO DRIVE FAST AND DRINK AS MUCH HE WISHED.
José María Aznar was speaking in Valladolid last Thursday to a reception given by the Wine Academy of Castilla and León during which he was presented with an honorary award.
“I don’t like it when they tell me, ‘You can’t drive at that speed,’ ‘You can’t eat that many hamburgers,’ or, ‘It’s prohibited to drink wine,’” he is reported to have said to his audience who greeted his comments with laughter and applause. Sr Aznar continued, “Let me decide for myself - that’s what freedom is … The glasses of wine that I drink: let me drink them in peace. I don’t put anyone at risk.” And in reference to the recent road safety campaign slogan “We can’t drive for you”, he commented, “Who said I wanted you to drive for me?”
The following day, his remarks were described as “a total disgrace” by a co-founder of the association “Stop Accidents.” Ana María Campo, whose son was killed by a drunk driver in 1998, said, “A normal person would not be capable of saying such words. It is not right that a former president would say such a stupid thing.”
Pere Navarro, head of Tráfico, said the speech had been “irresponsible” and that the subject was not one for jokes. He added that all that was needed now was for Aznar to say it was acceptable to drive at 150 kilometres per hour. Former defence minister Jose Bono publicly recommended, after Aznar’s comments “if he drinks, he shouldn’t speak.” Sr Aznar, who is honorary president of the Partido Popular, was president of Spain between 1996 and 2004. Speaking for the present PSOE government, deputy president Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega said it was not policy to comment on past presidents’ statements but added that Aznar’s remarks “spoke for themselves.”The day after his speech, the Foundation for Social Analysis and Studies (FAES) of which Sr Aznar is president issued a statement saying that at no time did he undervalue the risks of mixing alcohol and driving.