Costa del Sol News - 11th October 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 11th October - 17th October 2007


By Matt Horsman

Catalan theatre company La Cubana celebrates its 25th anniversary with a tour of Spain, showing its popular Cuban musical revue, Cómeme el Coco, Negro - an explosion of singing and dancing showgirls with feathers, sequins, fun and laughter aplenty at Málaga's Teatro Cervantes from October 16-21.


Savings bank triples cash reserves ahead of expected loan defaults

By Dave Jamieson

ONE of the country's biggest savings banks is reported to have taken precautionary steps ahead of a possible sharp increase in defaults on loans. The news comes days after a Valencia property developer went bust owing 748 million euros.

The Caja de Ahorras del Mediterraneo bank (CAM) has set aside the entire profit of 168 million euros it made from the sale of its share in another property firm, Metrovacesa, putting it into a reserve account instead of banking it as profit. Observers say the move has almost tripled the bank’s reserves and the action has been taken because its directors are anticipating an increase in both business and private loan defaults.

The property developer Llanera, which has 600 employees, declared itself insolvent on Tuesday of last week (see Spain in the UK Press, page 14) leaving six schools and 124 low-cost municipal homes in Valencia unfinished. The Banco de Valencia confirmed that it had granted Llanera 12 million euros of funding and would continue to support the housing project while CAM confirmed it would continue financing another Llanera project in the same region. Like Northern Rock in the UK, Llanera was dependent on the short-term money markets which have had serious problems in recent weeks.

In December 2005, Llanera signed a sponsorship deal with London’s Charlton Athletic Football Club, worth £6.6 million over four and half years, but the club’s Chairman Peter Varney said last week that the firm’s collapse “would not be a problem for us cash-wise.”

News of CAM’s move came as Britain’s Daily Telegraph claimed that British holiday homes owned abroad have fallen in value substantially in the last three months. Spain, it reported, is the worst hit country with prices in Alicante down two per cent and in Cádiz down 15 per cent. The UK’s National Statistics Office issued new figures last week which showed that, compared with five years ago, 60 per cent more Britons now own second homes abroad.In addition, a report from a London firm of analysts says high prices and local corruption is causing Britons to turn away from the Costa del Sol. Richmond Green Marketing presented their findings last Friday at Málaga’s Conference Centre during a session on selling Spanish property in the UK. They called for a marketing campaign to assure potential visitors and purchasers that such problems had to be solved.

Briton found guilty of Mijas double murder

Prison sentence should be announced next week

By David Eade

A BRITISH MAN, who has not been named for legal reasons, who stood accused of murdering a married couple of the same nationality, with whom he lived in Mijas, has been found guilty by the jury.

The slaying took place on March 18, 2005 at the couple's house in Mijas. The events happened after an argument between the three. First the wife was killed in the home then the husband fled as far as the road where he was stabbed to death. Investigators found 68 stab wounds on his body. The accused man then allegedly set fire to the house, which was completely destroyed, in an attempt to hide evidence. The woman's body was so badly burned it was only identified after forensic tests.

The Briton is said to have a criminal record in the UK and he has served sentences for these previous crimes. He has denied having murdered the couple, and says he was very good friends with them and refutes ever having had a row with the husband and wife.Now the jury has reached a guilty verdict the man will be sentenced, probably this week. The prosecutor has sought a 28-year prison term, 26 year for the murders and another two for the damage to the house. He will also have to pay compensation to the family of the murdered couple, although the exact amount still has to be decided by the court.

Father of drowned child says he remembers nothing

Court releases him from jail a day after his baby daughter's funeral

By David Eade

THE FATHER of the 14-month-old girl who tragically died in Istán during the village's annual fair has been released by the Marbella court pending trial. The court decided on his release last Wednesday, the day after his daughter was buried at the cemetery in San Pedro, where he and his family live.

Over 200 people attended the ceremony but the father was not amongst them. He had been held by the court since his detention the previous Sunday and although he sought permission to attend, it was denied by the in-vestigating judge, Gonzalo Dívar.

The bricklayer father, 32, was released by the court after giving testimony in which he stated that he could not remember what happened on the night that his daughter perished. It is alleged that he was drunk and that his daughter was in his care. He faces charges of manslaughter.

The hearings surrounding the case are being conducted in secrecy and both the girl’s mother and father have appeared before the judge. It is understood that the father still enjoys the full support of his family, members of which were at the court awaiting his release.

Events still unclear
The circumstances sur-rounding the girl’s death are still unclear and the court is waiting for further invest-igations and forensic tests. The father is said to have been for a walk with his baby daughter but hours later contacted the Guardia Civil in a distressed state. The Istán feria was halted whilst hundreds of people joined the search for the youngster. When she was finally found in a small stream in difficult terrain she was still alive but in a serious state and medics failed to revive her. The lawyer representing the father is still confident that he will be cleared on any charges.

Mayor watches Marbella home demolitions

The torn down homes were not among those awaiting court rulings

By David Eade

THE MAYOR of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, last Wednesday visited a site in Las Chapas where six beachfront homes were in the process of being demolished. She stressed that the demolitions had nothing to do with the pending court decisions concerning illegal properties in the municipality. Rather the constructor, who is one of those implicated in the Malaya corruption case, had decided to take down the homes in order to have others in the same development declared legal.

The six homes being removed are part of a development of 12 that were built on El Arenal beach near Los Monteros. Residents living nearby had filed legal complaints against their construction and in 2003 the then mayor of Marbella, Marisol Yagüe, halted the work as the six homes infringed the Andalucía land law (LOUA). In April of this year the interim management commission at Marbella town hall ordered the demolition of the six illegal properties.

Businesses speak out over PGOU
The businesses located on the various industrial estates in Marbella have formed an action group to demand changes to the draft local development plan (PGOU). They claim that if the document is approved as currently formulated it would bring ruin to the industrial zones of the town.The businesses say the new document does not allow for any new industrial zones and that the existing estates of La Ermita, Las Albarizas, Costasol and Incomar would have to create green zones, meaning many of the existing companies would be forced to close down to make way for them. The businesses remaining would be forced to pay compensation to those that had to demolish their units and move out, they say.

Private hospital for Coín hits more delays

Town hall rejects plans because they exceed maximum allowable construction

By Oliver McIntyre

PLANS for the creation of a private hospital in Coín have been delayed after the company’s initial design plan was rejected by the town hall because it exceeded the maximum allowable construction for the site. The project previously spent a year and a half in limbo due to complications in acquiring the land where it is to be built, a problem that was solved in February when the company, Diamar Sanitaria, purchased a 230,000-square-metre property near the La Trocha mall.

The initial plan for the complex included a 240-bed hospital, a specialised clinic for paraplegics and quadriplegics, a nursing home for the elderly, a children’s specialty clinic and a 150-bed, four-star hotel to serve as accommodation for patients’ families. The company says that it has now resubmitted the design plan, reducing the number of residential nursing-home units, from over 200 to 120.

Revised plan must now be formally approved
Coin’s mayor, Gabriel Clavijo, confirmed that the town hall has received the revised design plan and that after a preliminary review it appeared that “there should be no problems.” It must now be formally approved by the town hall and then get sign-off from the Junta de Andalucía.

In February company and municipal officials said they expected the hospital and hotel to be completed sometime in 2008, while the nursing home and children’s clinic would be built in a second phase, with completion in 2009 or 2010. There has been no indication on how the current set-back will impact those timelines.Although the hospital is to be a private facility, it will provide free A&E treatment to Coín residents, based on an agreement between the town hall and the company.

Senior citizen can get fit for free at outdoor gym

Regular low-impact exercise can help people with arthritis

By Oliver McIntyre

PEOPLE passing by a new outdoor facility along Alhaurín de la Torre’s Travesía road can be forgiven for thinking that it is a playground. However the collection of brightly coloured equipment is in fact not for children at all. Quite the opposite – it is a new free outdoor gym aimed at helping the town’s senior citizens stay fit.

The 300-square-metre fenced-in area, located next to the petanque court across from the Fuensanguínea roundabout, includes 11 machines to exercise different muscle groups, from pecs and abs to legs and back. The machines are geared toward low-impact exercise that can help people with illnesses like arthritis, says the town hall.

“This facility is the perfect compliment to the daily walks that so many of the town’s elderly take along the Travesía road – which is now known by many as ‘Cholesterol Way’,” said the councillor responsible, María José Sánchez.

Exclusive use
The installation of the equipment is complete and the only finishing touch left is the posting of the description and instructions for each machine. Councillor Sánchez reiterated that the outdoor gym, created at a cost of 18,000 euros, is for the exclusive use of the elderly, “and we request that it not be taken for a children’s playground.”

Ronda golf course to invest 10 million euros in re

Pipeline to carry water from new sewage treatment plant

By David Eade

THE CLUB de Campo y Golf de Ronda has announced it will invest over 10 million euros in bringing recycled water to the controversial development. The treated water will be piped from Ronda’s new water treatment plan to the site at Los Merinos.

During the recent inauguration of the sewage plant, the director of the Andalucía water authority (CMA), Antonio Rodríguez Leal, stated that the treated water could be used for irrigating golf courses. He added that this could solve the municipality’s problem with regard to such developments that had no independent water supplies.

The pipeline from the treatment plant to Los Merinos will run 16 to 20 kilometres, with two or three pumping stations along the way. It will be able to carry around 6,000 cubic metres of treated water a day, which may also be used by other golf courses or urbanisations. The work to lay the pipeline will probably start in the first quarter of next year.

Highly controversial
The Los Merinos golf development has been highly controversial since it was announced, with major objections from environmental groups and residents of Cuevas del Becerro and Arriate. They argue that the water needs of the golf course and its planned residential development of nearly 800 homes and a luxury hotel will drain the aquifers that supply both Ronda and the two other municipalities. It is doubtful that this latest move to utilise recycled water will put an end to the protests. The water can be used for irrigating the golf course and gardens but drinking water will still be required for the homes and hotel. Meanwhile, the regional government is appealing a court decision that ruled against a request that work on the site be halted until the developers can guarantee a water supply that will not damage local resources.

Nerja's third successful seabed clean-up

By Jon Peatey

THE BUCEO Costa Nerja Dive Centre on Burriana Beach was the centre of operations for the third annual seabed clean-up operation last Saturday.
This year, more volunteers than ever took part and three boatloads of divers returned with impressive amounts of rubbish collected from the depths.
Whilst they were hard at work underwater in conditions that were far from ideal because of poor visibility, another clean-up was underway onshore along some of the other beaches in the area. The land-based participants also returned with large amounts of rubbish, all of which was deposited in a huge skip outside the dive centre’s premises on Burriana’s paseo to be hauled away later.

Nerja’s councillor for beaches, Jonathan Méndez, took part in the first dive of the day and later commented that the clean-up operation had been the biggest and the most successful so far. “The amount of rubbish collected this year has reflected the state of the seabed following the huge storm of September 21,” he told Costa del Sol News. “This clean-up exercise has gone some way to address that unfortunate situation but there is still a long way to go.” Plans for an even bigger event next year are already underway, perhaps over two days instead of one, he said.After the last of the clean-up teams had safely returned, everyone enjoyed a hearty and well-earned lunch provided by one of the beach merenderos. All volunteers also received written recognition of their participation from Nerja town hall and from Project Aware – Aquatic World Awareness.

Connick Jr heads south for Málaga's 22nd jazz fest

American guitarist John Scofield also on the bill

By Dave Jamieson

HARRY Connick Junior is headed for Málaga. The 40 year old “crooner” will be in the city next month as part of its 22nd International Jazz Festival.

Seven concerts between November 4 and 16 promise to bring a wide range of jazz music and artists to the coast which, according to the festival’s director will be “historic and splendid.” Javier Domínguez was speaking last week at the launch of this year’s festival programme but added that lack of available dates at the Teatro Cervantes means there will be no local artistes participating. He added that it had always been the intention to feature local talent, and its absence this year was not to say that it would be precluded from future festivals.

The opening night, Sunday November 4, will feature the five-piece experimental group Tortoise, described as on of the most eclectic in the festival. The band includes everything from electronic to jazz and rock in its repertoire. The following night, the American pianist Uro Caine will play a mixture of jazz and classical music with his band, Bedrock 3, while on Tuesday 6, Harry Connick Jr takes to the stage with his 12 piece band. His style has been likened to that of the “crooners” although he has experimented with funk music and is also an accomplished composer and actor as well.

And there’s much more…
Richard Bona is a jazz musician and bassist from Cameroon. He currently holds a professorship of music at New York University and will be at Teatro Cervantes on November 7. There are no concerts on November 8 or 9, but the next night one of the most popular young jazz performers, 34-year-old Rufus Wainwright, will present some of his own songs. As well as performing with a seven-piece band, he accompanies himself on piano and guitar, sometimes swapping between them during a number.

American guitarist John Scofield will star on November 10. He has played and collaborated with many of the biggest names in jazz, including Miles Davis, George Duke and Billy Cobham, and will be in Málaga with his trio, augmented by three brass players. The closing night on November 16 will feature Dianne Reeves Strings Attached, in which the singer will be accompanied by guitarists Russell Malone and Romero Lubambo. Reeves is considered one of the most important female jazz singers of the present time and is better know for her live performances than for her recordings.Ticket prices vary between seven and 42 euros and are available from the Teatro Cervantes box office or website: www.teatrocer

Successful overture signals curtain up in Granada

Opera house plans go ahead

By Dave Jamieson

A LONG-AWAITED arts project in Granada came a step closer on Friday when an agreement was signed between the town hall and the Junta de Andalucía. A successful meeting between the mayor and the regional culture councillor means that the construction of an opera house in the city is now nearer to starting.
Although no time-scale has yet been set, last week’s accord is an important move forward in a process which has already been under discussion for a lengthy period. As the mayor of Granada, José Torres Hurtado, put it, “Bricks are laid quickly. At times, bureaucracy moves much more slowly.” However, he added that the process would provide city with a “top level” opera house of national standard.

Under the agreement, the city is obliged to cede land for the construction of the new facility, while the regional government will be responsible for the construction project. The site of the opera house will be an 11,000 square metre plot next to the headquarters of CajaGranada, of which the new building will occupy 6,600 square metres.

Designs short-listed
Rosa Torres, cultural councillor for the Junta who signed the agreement along with the mayor, explained that between five and eight of the designs submitted for the new centre would be short-listed and discussed in detail before a final choice was made. She added that proposals most likely to be of interest were expected from multi-discipline groupings, including architects, engineers and sound technicians, who could guarantee the quality of presentation required by opera and dance. Councillor Torres also emphasised the importance of local input during the final selection process, and said that the Royal Academy for Fine Arts and the Granada College of Architects would be represented on the selection committee.

Club de Hielo to reopen under same management

By Oliver McIntyre

BENALMÁDENA’S Club de Hielo, the source of this summer’s deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, will partially reopen on October 15 under unchanged management, municipal officials announced last week. Both the indoor pool and gym will be reopened while the ice rink, the cooling tower of which was the source of the Legionella bacteria, will remain closed.
The centre will continue under the operation of Gecosol Wellness, a Group Vera subsidiary, which holds the concession contract to run the municipal facility. The town hall did not rescind the contract because it considers that the company “was not directly responsible for the Legionnaire’s outbreak,” said the sports councillor, Fransisco Artacho. Municipal officials say the responsible party was the subcontracted maintenance company, which the town hall has ordered Gecosol to replace. However, Gecosol could still face a fine of up to 30,000 euros, said councillor Artacho.

The town’s health councillor, José Villalobos, said that when the centre reopens it will pose no health risk to users or the general public.
The future of the centre’s ice rink is still uncertain, but town hall officials say a final decision on its fate will likely be made in the next couple of months.
Registration is now open for monthly membership and activities at the centre’s pool and gym. Membership cards for the month of October are being offered free of charge. The Club de Hielo was shut down on July 2 after it was identified as the source of the Legionnaires’ outbreak, which killed three people, including two Britons, and hospitalised 15 others.

Political arrests raise tensions in Basque terrori

Separatists call the government's move a 'declaration of war'

By Dave Jamieson

TWENTY-THREE leading members of Batasuna, the illegal political wing of Basque armed separatist group ETA, were arrested as they left a secret meeting last Thursday night. The group has called the government’s action “a declaration of war.”

Spain’s Home Office announced on Friday that the group had been detained in Segura, 25 kilometres south of San Sebastián, on the orders of Judge Baltasar Garzón. They were accused of holding an illegal political meeting, which El País claimed was to allow older members of Batasuna to transfer power to new, younger leaders.

Those arrested are believed to include at least one woman as well as members of Ekin, a group suspected of being behind violent street demonstrations.
Two days before the arrests in Segura, another Batasuna leader and spokesman, Joseba Álvarez, was detained on charges of organizing an illegal demonstration, while in June a prominent Batasuna leader Arnaldo Otegi was imprisoned for 15 months on charges of “glorifying terrorism.” The Home Office said that amongst those arrested last week was Joseba Permach, who has acted as Batasuna’s main spokesmen since Otegi’s arrest.

On Friday posters appeared in Basque villages calling for demonstrations, while the pro-Batasuna newspaper Gara referred to the arrests in Segura as “a declaration of war.” The phrase was repeated on Saturday by Pernando Barrena, the only senior member of Batasuna not detained, who said the arrests, which he referred to as “kidnappings”, were an attempt by the government to boost its popularity ahead of next March’s general election.
Judge Baltasar Garzón ordered 17 of the arrested to be jailed pending further investigation, allowed provisional release for two, and released the other four, including two French citizens, on bail.
The weekend also saw a wave of street violence across the Basque country in response to the arrests.

Batasuna considered terrorist organisation
Before Batasuna was banned in 2003 for failing to condemn violence and cut links to ETA, it represented around 15 per cent of the people in the Basque region on town councils and in the regional government, but is now considered a terrorist organisation by Spain, the EU and the US.

Domestic violence hotline to operate in English

By David Eade

SPANISH OFFICIALS have launched a hotline for anyone in Spain who suffers from domestic violence. The line, reached by dialling 016, can be used by victims or concerned friends and family members. Not only will the national help-line operate in Spanish and other official state languages but also in English and French.

The hotline was officially presented by the secretary general of equality issues, Soledad Murillo. The number is free and the call will not be recorded on the caller’s phone bill or the telephone’s call memory, making it undetectable to an aggressor who may have access to the user’s phone.

The 016 number entered into service in September and operates on a 24-hour basis. Apart from receiving help the caller can access a whole host of information such as employment rights, social services advice and resources for economic help. Since the service started it has received over 400 calls, the majority from women who are being abused and require legal advice and other help.

Austrian pilot dies in ultra-light

Experienced flyer was in Spain on holiday

A 30-YEAR-OLD Austrian pilot died last Wednesday when the ultra-light helicopter he was flying crashed close to Conil’s fishing port. The accident occurred at 12.40pm when the aircraft, for reasons unknown, collided with power cables then fell from a height of 300 metres into a field, hitting a concrete wall as it crashed to the ground. The tragic accident cut power supplies to the port zone for a while.

Alwin Kotzenmacher was an experienced pilot and a flying instructor in his native country. He had been in Spain for four days on holiday and on the day of the crash had taken off from the airfield at Medina Sidonia. The hybrid ultra-light he was flying is generally considered to be very safe to fly.

Wind was not to blame
However, in strong winds this type of craft can sometimes lift into the air again after landing because the propeller has not yet stopped turning, but this was not the case in this accident. Indeed, according to eyewitnesses there were no strong winds or gusts at the time of the crash. The Guardia Civil are now investigating the fatal accident.