Costa del Sol News - 18th October 2007

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Week 18th October - 25th October 2007


By Dave Jamieson

UK launches drive against Spanish holiday club scams

BRITISH holidaymakers on the coast have been warned of the activities of “bogus holiday club scams” in Spain. The UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said last week that October is the peak time for their operation, and joined forces with Trading Standards officers to remind tourists to remain vigilant.

A team from the OFT is visiting British airports during the month, handing out scratch-cards of the type often used by holiday club reps to lure potential clients. Typically, a couple are approached while relaxing on holiday in the sunshine and offered a free scratch-card. Those who uncover three matching symbols, and unsurprisingly that means all of them, are whisked off by private car to collect their prize of a cheap holiday. However, on arrival, they are subjected to a lengthy presentation, sometimes lasting hours, and pressurised into signing a contract which promises luxury holiday deals at low prices. But, says the OFT, the holidays offered turn out to be available on the Internet for the same price, and often cheaper. By then, however, the client has parted with a cash deposit of around £500 or more and agreed to regular payments totalling tens of thousands of pounds.

Unfortunately, the con-tracts are legal and, unlike timeshare deals, there is no 14 day cooling-off period as required by law. While the OFT is lobbying to make holiday clubs illegal, it warns that 400,000 holiday makers fall victim to these scams every year in Spain with an average loss of £3,000.
The OFT’s website gives the following advice: “If you are approached by a scratchcard tout or go along to a presentation ask three simple questions. Can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure? Is everything you were promised in the presentation in the contract? Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then simply walk away.”

Man arrested after swiping 6,000-euro envelope

Thieves duped victim by telling him he’d dropped some money

By Oliver McIntyre

POLICE in Torremolinos have arrested a man who, along with an accomplice, allegedly snatched 6,000 euros in cash after distracting the victim, who had just withdrawn the money from the bank. The alleged accomplice is still at large
The incident took place last Wednesday afternoon when a pair of local police officers on patrol spotted two men running down the street and managed to stop one of them for questioning. As they were checking his ID, the victim ran up and told the officers the man had just grabbed his envelope full of cash.
The victim described to the officers how two men had called out to him as he was getting into his car in Calle Marqúes de Salamanca, alerting him that he had dropped eight five-euro notes on the street. When he got out of the car to look for the fallen notes, one of the men snatched the cash-stuffed envelope from his pocket and the two thieves ran off.

Over 14,000 euros found on suspect
Police found on the suspect not only the envelope containing the 6,000 euros but also a further 8,295 euros, which officials suspect came from other robberies or illegal activity. The arrested man was identified as A.P.P.Z., of Venezuelan origin.

Over 2,000 people protest against Marbella's PGOU

Residents angry over ‘punishment’ of owners of illegal properties

By David Eade

MORE than 2,000 people took the streets of Marbella on Monday night to protest against the new local development plan (PGOU) that could penalise many of them for being the owners of illegal properties.
Carrying banners with slogans such as ‘No to a PGOU that punishes 50,000 people’ and ‘Where was the Junta when they built my house’, the residents marched through central Marbella in a protest organised by the Plataforma de Ciudadanos Afectados por el PGOU.

Taking part in the mass demonstration were residents of the Potril – Guadaiza areas of Marbella as well as urbanisation managers, representatives of residents’ associations, and homeowners. They are angry at the proposed system of compensation for the legalisation of their homes, which will see many property owners losing some of their land and others facing demolition.
The march stopped at the doors of the Delegación de Urbanismo, which once was the town hall’s planning office. Here the spokesperson for the action group, José Ortiz, read a manifesto deriding the new PGOU as “unfair” and “inhuman.”

More protests planned
The success of Monday’s protest and the anger over the new PGOU has led the action group to announce that further protests will be held in San Pedro. In addition, they have not ruled out marching in the Andalucía capital of Sevilla to bring their case to the regional government.Meanwhile, as the public comment period for the new PGOU drew to a close the mayor of Marbella, Ángeles Muñoz, stated that around 6,000 submissions had been received. Many were made in the last week as local residents and business owners queued to hand in their petitions, many from owners of the estimated 18,000 illegal homes in the municipality.

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.

Industrial estates want video against prostitution

Businesses say streetwalkers give bad image and scare off customers

By Dave Jamieson

BUSINESSES on Málaga’s industrial estates are asking for video surveillance to improve security and fight prostitution. The demand came last Wednesday from Ana López, president of their trade body, in a meeting with town hall representatives.

The Association of Málaga Industrial Estates says that security cameras, similar to those installed in the city centre earlier this year, should be available to them. Business owners say that the number of prostitutes using the estates often dissuades their clients from coming into these zones. Sra López reported that the councillor responsible, Manuel Marmolejo, promised a viability project would be undertaken in response to her demands.

The association represents 10 estates that account for over 70 per cent of land used for commercial purposes in Málaga. Sra López said that prostitution was “possibly the most flagrant problem we face every day,” adding that the Guadalhorce industrial estate, where more prostitutes gather than anywhere else, has “an inappropriate image.”

Other issues
he meeting also touched on the level of robberies suffered by businesses on the estates, the poor condition of some access roads and the intention to construct a Social Internment Centre on industrial land.

Esperanza Oña demands public apology

PSOE case against Fuengirola mayor is dismissed by Regional Supreme Court

By Suzan Davenport

THE PARTIDO Popular mayor of Fuengirola, Esperanza Oña was visibly pleased to announce, at a press conference on Monday that the Andalucian Supreme Court has dismissed the lawsuit brought by the Fuengirola branch of the PSOE party against her for alleged misconduct and favouritism. The judicial writ states clearly that there is no indication that the socialists’ accusations have any truth.
Satisfied by the judge’s decision, Sra Oña said: “Truth will always win over lies and it is now up to the local branch of the PSOE to apologise to the public for trying to deceive them.”

The mayor went on to say: “It is clear that this lawsuit was politically motivated as it was filed on the first day of the municipal election campaign with a clear intention to cause as much damage as possible.” Sra Oña also said that the PSOE had repeatedly made accusations of misconduct, favouritism and criminal behaviour, “even though privately some socialists, who are lawyers, admitted that the lawsuit wasn’t going to go anywhere. It was clear that the intention was to do harm.”

No legal countermeasures
The mayor declared that she had no intention of taking legal measures against her accusers, “although all the false accusations are certainly motive enough, but I don’t like to bring legal wrangling into politics.” Referring to PSOE’s Fuengirola branch, Esperanza Oña concluded: “They have had their comeuppance when the judge dismissed the case, showing that they have lied.”

Muted first birthday celebration for Vélez tranvía

By Dave Jamieson

AS THE FIRST tranvía in Andalucía completed a year of operations, the mayor of Vélez-Málaga warned of drastic action if the regional government refused economic assistance.

The light transport system which links Vélez-Málaga with Torre del Mar started carrying passengers on October 11 last year, but has proved to be controversial having suffered 30 accidents in its first 12 months. In addition, fewer people than expected have used the trams. The director of mobility in Vélez, Luis Lorenzo, said last week that between January and September, almost 650,000 people used the tranvía with only July and August exceeding the target of a minimum 90,000 per month. The total is around a fifth fewer than the figure anticipated before the system, which cost more than 18 million euros to build, was operational. Sr Lorenzo said the disappointing figures were because the tranvía “does not satisfy users,” adding that there did not exist the same need for mobility between Vélez and Torre del Mar which there is between, for example, Marbella and San Pedro. He maintained that with one tram only every 45 minutes, many people still prefer to travel by private car.

The mayor of Vélez, Francisco Delgado Bonilla, agreed that the tranvía’s first year had been “poor” and that the town hall was analysing the reasons for this. He added that a meeting was to be held with Travelsa, the company which operates the tranvía, and the Junta de Andalucía to address the 390,000-euro debt which has accumulated as a result. The true cost of running the service is reckoned at 1.42 euros per ticket, but to maintain parity with local bus services, passengers pay just 1.30 euros. The contract between Vélez town hall and Travelsa guarantees that the additional 12 cents will be paid to the operator from municipal funds.Sr Delgado said last Thursday that the town hall could not continue to support the deficit being generated by the tranvía, warning that, if the Junta de Andalucía refused to contribute to the maintenance of the system, the council might decide to abandon it altogether. He added that the debt would only increase with the opening of the second phase, a 1.3 kilometre extension in Vélez-Málaga as far as the old railway station, which is now expected to open at the end of the year. The project is some six months behind schedule.

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.

Ecologists oppose airport for Campo de Gibraltar

They propose greater use of Gibraltar airport

By David Eade

THE ENVIRONMENTAL group Agaden says it opposes the creation of a new airport in the Campo de Gibraltar. The idea has been proposed by both the Federation of Businesses and the Partido Popular because of the problems faced in the development of flights from Gibraltar airport.

The ecologists say that the most sensible move would be to improve the hours of flying from Gibraltar’s airport, where the air traffic system has to meet the needs and schedule of the British Ministry of Defence. Agaden also points to the investment being made to a new terminal at the Rock’s airport.
The spokesperson for Agaden, Javier Gil, pointed out that in the past airports in the Campo de Gibraltar had been proposed for Marajambú in Castellar and the Vega de Barría in Jimena and neither proved viable.

The environmental group believes that improvements at Gibraltar’s airport are a priority and dismisses the notion that another airport should be built, noting that the area is also served by existing airports in Málaga, Jerez and Sevilla. In some cases these airports are as close to the Campo de Gibraltar as those serving Madrid and Barcelona are to those cities.

Improve local transport
Meanwhile, the councillor for urban mobility in Algeciras, Javier Soto, says he is saddened by the suspension of the Madrid-Gibraltar service by Iberia. He also says that the transport system in the Campo de Gibraltar needs to be rapidly improved, saying it is ridiculous that passengers can fly from the capital to Gibraltar in 50 minutes but then take over half an hour to go from La Línea to Algeciras. He also questions why the last bus leaves La Línea just as the passengers landing at Gibraltar are collecting their cases. The councillor for tourism in Tarifa, Javier Mohedano, says that many tourists come from Madrid but few know there are direct flights to Gibraltar because the service has not been effectively marketed in the nation’s capital.

Guadalhorce housing boost for Cercanías train

By Oliver McIntyre

THE REGIONAL devel-opment plan (POT) for the Málaga metropolitan area is to include a housing boost – much of it subsidised housing – along the Cercanías train corridor heading from the capital up the Guadalhorce Valley.

Towns like Álora, Pizarra and Cártama, as well as the lowlands of Alhaurín de la Torre and parts of Málaga’s Campanillas and Puerto de la Torre districts, will see large tracts of land near the tracks set aside for residential development. Some 50 to 60 per cent of the housing will be government-subsidised units, according to the guidelines in the POT, which is to be presented in the coming days to the mayors of the 13 towns it affects and is expected to be approved by the Junta de Andalucía by the end of October.

Officials say the increase in housing along the train corridor is aimed at better balancing population growth throughout the metropolitan area and creating residential zones geared toward the use of public transport for commuting to the city. The housing will be clustered near the stations along the Cercanías line.

Requested by town halls
The increase in land reserved for residential use is one of a number of local town hall suggestions that have been incorporated into the POT since the draft version was presented to the mayors. The towns affected by the metropolitan area POT are Málaga, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Rincón de la Victoria, Totalán, Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande, Coín, Cártama, Pizarra, Álora, Almogía and Casabermeja.

Roadworks uncover ancient tools

Antequera autovía work unearths new archaeological site

By Dave Jamieson

REMAINS of a prehistoric settlement have been uncovered during motorway construction work near Antequera. Over 50 underground structures have been revealed which are thought to be around 4,500 years old and may have been inhabited by the people who constructed the nearby dolmens.

The municipal archaeologist, Manuel Romero, said last week that infrastructure work, such as the building of the new A-45 autovía to Córdoba, had produced more important finds in the past five years than in the previous 50 years. The latest site at Los Silillos, about nine kilometres from Antequera, covers around 180,000 square metres of which about a fifth has already been excavated in a programme during July and August.

The discovery of tools made from copper suggested a link with the dolmens and first estimates date them from 2,500 B.C. although more precise data is awaited from a specialist laboratory in Uppsala where samples have been sent. Some of the metals have also been sent to the Basque country for lead isotope analysis.

Conclusions due in December
Antequera town hall plans to publish details of the analysts’ conclusions in December while it is hoped that visitors, especially school groups, will be able to see a temporary exhibition at the site in the spring.

Alhaurín mall project moves forward

Council gives initial approval to 15 million-euro plan

By Oliver McIntyre

for a commercial and entertainment centre in the Tabico zone of Alhaurín de la Torre moved a step forward last week as the town hall gave initial approval for the project. The mall, the town’s first, is to be located across from the main roundabout at the south-eastern entrance to town on the Travesía road.
Preliminary plans call for the three-storey mall to have over a hundred premises including stores of all types and sizes, a multiplex, a bowling alley, a post office, restaurants and bars, and a large gym. There will also be two underground storeys with 1,100 parking spaces. In all, the mall will have 68,000 square metres of built space on a plot of 22,000 metres.

No need to travel out of town
“All Alhauriños will now be able to find a wide-ranging offer of shopping and entertainment without having to travel to other towns,” said the town hall in a statement. It says the centre, to be called Centro Comercial Santa Clara, will represent a 15 million-euro private investment in the town and will generate 350 direct jobs. The local business association, ADICAT, has signed an agreement with the developer establishing that hiring preference will be given to local applicants.

Controversial law removes Franco from public view

‘Historic Memory’ law aims to make amends for Civil War atrocities

By Dave Jamieson

announced last week sets out to make amends to victims of the Spanish Civil War. The government announced last Thursday that provisions of the Law for the Recovery of The Historic Memory will include the removal of all statues, street names and other symbols honouring the country’s former dictator Francisco Franco.
The prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, whose grandfather was killed by a firing squad during the war, promised to break the silence on Spain’s past when he came to power in 2004. He has made the subject a priority and wants to get the draft bill passed before the general election next March. His PSOE party, with the support of six of the smaller political parties, is unlikely to be defeated when parliament votes on October 30, but is meeting strong resistance from both the Partido Popular and the Catalan nationalist party.
Opponents accuse Sr Zapatero of “opening old wounds” and “denying Spain its history.” While speaking in stormy debate in parliament last Wednesday, a Catalan member accused the PSOE of allowing, “the crimes of Franco’s regime to go unpunished.”
The new law would require all levels of government to remove symbols honouring Franco in public places and would be the first legislation ever to condemn his regime. However, because it also states that private entities exhibiting such symbols would risk losing state aid or subsidies, the bill sets the government on a collision course with the church, which receives some state funding. Some Catholic churches in Spain bear plaques with names of pro-Franco fighters including the phrase ‘Fallen for God and for Spain’.

Mass graves
The bill would also provide for funds to be made available for finding dozens of unmarked mass graves and giving the bodies found in them a proper burial, as well as enabling the families of those sentenced by Franco’s courts to have those rulings overturned. Summary judgments by Franco’s tribunals would be declared illegitimate, although it will not annul them as a matter of course, as some parties had demanded.

Animal protesters turn on politicians

Assaulted councillors give evidence after protest turns violent

By David Eade

Cádiz councillors, one from the Partido Popular and another from PSOE, gave evidence in court on Tuesday after an animal rights protest outside the Santo Domingo church in the city turned violent and they were injured. The demonstration had been organised by the animal protectorate El Refugio as members of the council led by Mayor Teófila Martínez attended a cere-mony in honour of the city’s patron.
The protest turned violent when a number of the people entered the church and shouted insults at the mayor and other members of the council. In the melee that followed a Cádiz woman and an Italian man were arrested and have been held in police cells while the incident is investigated. Teófila Martínez was also due to give evidence in the case but was prevented from doing so because of regional parliamentary duties.
The background to the protest is a Guardia Civil investigation into cases of alleged ill-treatment at the dog pound and kennels in neighbouring Puerto Real. These were initiated after reports that animals there are being destroyed in an inhumane manner. Acc-ording to the animal welfare group, El Refugio, dogs and cats are being given injections which paralyse them but leave them conscious as they die slowly and agonisingly of asphy-xiation.

Dog fight kills family pets
An Italian couple has also reported the privately-run establishment to the police after leaving their three pets there for a few days in September. When they returned, they were told that several animals had escaped the day before, had begun fighting among themselves, and it had only been possible to recover the body of one of the couple’s dogs. The Guardia Civil’s environmental squad, Seprona, has carried out tests in the kennels, and has allegedly found that one of these dogs had been given the Mioflex muscle paralysing drug. In recent days many other people who had left their dogs at the kennels for short periods returned to collect them because they were con-cerned about their safety. Other people turned up to adopt dogs and save them from being destroyed.