Costa del Sol News - 7th February 2008

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

News Archive

In association with

The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Week 7th February - 13th Feburary 2008


NEWS Staff Reporter

SAN PEDRO fishermen were amazed to see a distressed 15-metre (50 ft) Finback whale appear off the beach at lunchtime on Tuesday. The 30-tonne cetacean had been badly cut by rocks in the area and although vets from the Andalucian marine rescue centre (CREMA) tried to help the weakened whale while volunteers kept it wet, the Common Rorqual, as the species is also known, died at 8pm. Experts believe it was suffering from either an internal injury or disease. Finback whales are the second largest living animal after the Blue Whale and can reach 27 metres long (88 ft). It is the first time a whale this size has died on a Costa beach.


Possible link between drug haul and Estepona shooting of Irish gangster Paddy Doyle

By Oliver McIntyre

Police are investigating a possible connection between an eight million-euro cocaine haul and the murder of Irish gangster Paddy Doyle in Estepona on Monday.

Doyle, 27, from Portland Row in Dublin’s north inner city, was shot twice in the head when trying to flee on foot from a BMW 4x4 that came under fire in the Cancelada area of Estepona. Both Doyle, who was a passenger, and the driver, believed to be Gary Hutch, another Irish gangland figure, ran from the vehicle after it was riddled with five shots.

The gunmen went after Doyle and shot him at close range.

It is understood that Hutch suffered only minor injuries and was later interviewed by Spanish police.

Despite Doyle’s involvement in Dublin’s Crumlin-Drimnagh gangland feud, in which he is alleged to have been involved in the death of at least two rival gangsters, it is believed his murder was more likely linked to Costa del Sol drug activities than to the dispute back home.

Following the murder, police arrested at least seven people in Estepona, most of them British and one believed to by Irish, in relation to the seizure of a 115-kilo shipment hidden in a lorry.

“All the signs point to a connection between the drug haul and [Doyle’s] death,” said government spokesman Juan José López Garzón.
However, Irish Garda investigators, who are closely following the case and collaborating with Spanish officers on the investigation, cautioned that to date no definite link had been made between the drug bust and the murder.

One way or the other, Irish police believe Doyle’s violent gangster life finally caught up with him. One Garda officer told the Irish Independent: “Here [in Dublin] he was a big fish in a small pond. Over there, he was a small fish in a big pond but didn’t realise it.”

Alhaurín shop sold 'marijuana lollipops'

An abandoned rucksack started the investigation that led to the discovery

By Oliver McIntyre

A DRUG BUST last week in Alhaurín de la Torre took a surprising twist when officers discovered that the alleged dealer, a local shop owner, was selling not only bags of marijuana but also ‘pot’-flavoured lollipops believed to contain THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis.

The discovery of the alleged drug dealer, A.J.G.S., 42, was the indirect result of an anonymous call to the local police from a concerned citizen. On Monday of last week officers responding to the phone call searched an empty lot near the La Capellanía secondary school and found a knapsack containing 13 prepared packets of marijuana. They staked out the zone and waited for the owner of the bag to return. The 19-year-old man who showed up was arrested and turned over to the Guardia Civil.

Follow up investigation
It was the Guardia Civil’s follow-up investigation that led to the shop owner, and a search of his home and his store turned up 220 packets of marijuana and 450 of the alleged marijuana lollipops.

A family member of the arrested man claims the lollipops are in fact a legal hemp-flavoured product. They sold at the shop for 1.50 euros apiece.

Fruit juice investigation follows man's death

Juice may have been bought online or in Mexico

By Dave Jamieson

Health authorities have been investigating a Mexican fruit juice which may have been responsible for the death of a 40-year-old Granada man. The victim is reported to have taken the drink on previous occasions but last week it appears to have caused an immediate allergic reaction.

A sample of the drink was sent to the Toxicology Institute for analysis. It was labelled as Tahitian Noni, made from the fruit also known as Indian or Beach mulberry, which grows as a small shrub or tree and is spread extensively throughout the Pacific Islands. Investigators are uncertain whether the victim bought the product on the internet or during a recent visit to Mexico.

The Junta de Andalucía’s health department issued an alert about the drink which, according to its label, was manufactured in the US and imported to Mexico by a company called Morinda International. They said the batch number and sell-by date were illegible, but added that it was “improbable” that the problem was widespread. The Safety and Nutrition Agency, AESAN, called for the product to be located and immobilised.

The victim, who lived in Ogíjares, 15 kilometres outside the city of Granada, is reported to have suffered double vision and muscular paralysis almost immediately after drinking the juice at breakfast time on Sunday, January 27. His wife called the emergency services but they were unable to save his life.

A representative of the distributor in Europe was quoted as describing the fruit juice as, “totally safe” for human consumption, adding it had passed all necessary controls before going on sale to the public. Its US producer confirmed that the drink had been approved by the European Food Safety Authority in 2003.

Town hall seeks input from foreign residents

Councillor invites expats to take part in town’s affairs

By Oliver McIntyre

town hall’s Citizen Participation Department is reaching out to the foreign-resident community as part of its push to promote public involvement in local social and political affairs. Last week the councillor in charge of the department, Elena Galán, met with a group of foreign residents at the Casa de la Cultura in Arroyo de la Miel.

“Those who were born here as well as those who have chosen to live here share a common interest in making Benalmádena a comfortable, liveable and healthy place for ourselves and our children,” said Sra Gálan.

The councillor urged foreign residents to take advantage of the recently implanted ‘Buzón del Ciudadano’ suggestion boxes for submitting questions and suggestions to the town hall. Each submission is forwarded to the appropriate town hall department for response.

She also announced that a participative-budget process is to be launched for the creation of the 2009 town hall budget, so that citizens can have input on how municipal funds are spent. “They know the town’s needs better than anyone – and that ‘they’ includes residents from other countries,” said Sra Galán.
Other items discussed at the meeting included the possibility of creating new foreign-resident associations in addition to the ones that already exist. One suggestion was the creation of associations by zone – Pueblo, Arroyo, Costa – rather than by specific foreign nationality.

Among the requests by the foreign-resident representatives at the meeting was that the town hall make its website more accessible for foreigners, including the listing of contact information for the local foreign-resident associations. The councillor said she was committed to putting as much municipal information as possible – not just online but also in print materials – in a bilingual format.
Further meetings with foreign-resident associations will be planned soon.

Demolition of Prasa hotel underway

Long-delayed teardown began on Monday

By David Eade

After months of debate and inaction the demolition crews have finally moved in to remove the Prasa hotel on Estepona’s promenade. The first of the teardown machinery moved into place on Friday and although other equipment is due the work started on Monday.

The removal of the hotel’s skeletal structure is being undertaken and paid for by the Ministry of the Environment’s coastal authority at a cost of 1.2 million euros. The work has to be undertaken carefully to ensure that no damage is caused to nearby buildings.

The mayor of Estepona, Antonio Barrientos, and the president of Prasa, José Romero, signed an agreement on November 20 allowing the demolition to go ahead. The hotel invades publicly owned coastal land and exceeds its maximum allowable construction limit.

Prasa compensated
As part of the compensation package offered to Prasa, the company will be able to build a 35,000-square-metre building on a site in the Arroyo Antón area. This project is to be included in the municipality’s new local development plan and will not be able to proceed until the PGOU has obtained final approval.

How much treasure is the Treasure Cave worth?

Rincón town hall wants to acquire local caves but can’t assess value

By Dave Jamieson

Rincón de la Victoria’s Cueva del Tesoro – an important geological and historical site similar to the more famous Nerja caves – is currently is privately owned and a plan for it to be acquired by the municipality has run into problems.

Last summer, more than 10,000 people visited the six galleries of Rincón’s caves, which are owned by the Laza Palacio family, although the town hall has leased the complex since 1991. The site is listed as one of the region’s main cultural interests and regarded as one of the province’s most important areas for the study of prehistory.

Rincón wants to buy the caves and embark on a programme of investment and improvements, but the town hall has been unable to find a suitably qualified expert to value them. The councillor responsible, Javier Guerrero, has now asked the provincial government to help locate an archaeologist capable of taking on the task, although the council clearly has a rough figure in mind; the municipal budget for the next four years includes a provision of one million euros for the purchase. However, Sr Guerrero said last week that the final figure was likely to be under the million-euro mark.

Hidden treasure

The Rincón caves have stalagmites, stalactites, underground pools and Palaeolithic wall paintings and are the only visible marine caves in Europe. They are reputed to have been a prehistoric sanctuary of Noctiluca, moon goddess of fertility, life, death and hunting, and cave drawings of animals and ceramics from the Neolithic period have been discovered. The name, the Cave of Treasure, comes from a legend that in the seventh century the Arab Emperor Tasulin Ibn hid his fortune in its depths. Since then, countless treasure hunters have tried in vain to find it.

Good news for opponents of Alhaurín's northern byp

Regional officials withdraw support for the road

By Oliver McIntyre

of residents battling against a plan for a northern bypass road in Alhaurín el Grande got good news last week, with promises by some regional government officials to withdraw their support for the project.

The town’s mayor, Juan Martín, who is also opposed to the bypass road, met last week in Sevilla with the regional director general of highways, Jesús Merino, and the secretary of the regional development plan (POT) for the zone, Vicente Granados.

Following the meeting, the mayor said that, in response to the slew of complaints filed in opposition to the project, the officials had promised to issue reports “advising against and not supporting” the plan for the bypass road. In addition, they promised the proposed road would “disappear from the POT.”

Public meeting scheduled for tomorrow
A group of residents, including a number of foreigners, have been actively opposing the planned bypass road, citing environmental concerns and outrage over the required land expropriations, including compulsory purchase orders on “more than 200 homes.”
The mayor and the councillor for town planning, Gregorio Guerra, have scheduled a meeting for tomorrow at 8pm at the Casa de Cultura to further explain to residents the outcome of the Sevilla meeting.

Restoration of Brenan house finally moving forward

Town hall approves 1.2 million-euro project

By Oliver McIntyre

The long-planned project to restore the Churriana home of famed British Hispanist Gerald Brenan has taken a step forward with Málaga town hall’s approval last week of the 1.2 million-euro restoration plan. Once the construction contract is awarded, the project will have a completion timeline of 18 months.

The historic 19th-century mansion, believed to have been built on the site of an old convent, will retain its original outer walls, have its decorative iron window bars replaced and get a new roof. “The house will remain essentially the same, with only some structural elements modified,” said the town hall.

The restored house is to contain a Gerald Brenan museum, as well as a section dedicated to other “romantic travellers” who visited and wrote about Andalucía, according to the town hall. There will also be an area featuring agricultural artefacts from the Churriana zone.

The 612-square-metre, two-storey house, along with its gardens, was expropriated by Málaga town hall in December 2003 with the intention of converting it into a cultural site, but the project is just now moving forward. There were several set-backs, including a renegotiation of the expropriation deal, with the old owners being allowed to keep part of the site, and some damage to the house caused by construction work the owners carried out on the portion of the site they retained.

1,200 pounds sterling
Gerald Brenan (1894 – 1987) spent some of his early writing years in the Alpujarras region of Granada, where he first began to make a name for himself as a Hispanist author. He bought the Churriana house in 1934 for 1,200 pounds sterling, and lived or stayed there for varying periods of time up till 1969, when he moved to Alhaurín el Grande. He and his wife, the American poet Gamel Woolsey, lived in the Churriana house during the early days of the Spanish Civil War, an experience that shaped later works of both writers.

Forum outlines Nerja development targets

By Dave Jamieson

Hundreds of additional hotel beds, more car parking and new access roads were some of the needs identified by a one-day business forum in Nerja last week. The conference, arranged by the local business association, AEN, aimed to define areas which should be addressed in the town’s local development plan (PGOU).
The meeting attendees suggested that the largely undeveloped zone behind the town’s El Playazo beach should be home to 550 new hotel places as a catalyst to tourism. Delegates said that front-line development along the beach should be dedicated to this sector, similar to what has been done along Burriana beach at the other end of the town. Architect Bernardo Pozuelo presented a document suggesting how Playazo could be developed in relation to the future Nerja-Torrox marina, which will be built very nearby. The zone, he said, should include green areas on both sides of the main N-340 road, which runs parallel to the beach.
The other main concern of the forum was Nerja’s chronic lack of parking.

Suggestions included a 550-space car park in Huertos de Carabeo and a 600-space lot in the area behind the old market in Plaza Ermita next to the site of the future bus station, both of which are already used informally by hundreds of vehicles daily. In addition, an 800-space underground garage is required in the Burriana beach area, and a 400-space car park at the future fairground, according to the forum.

To relieve traffic congestion, two new roads were recommended. One would be a new northern access as far as the new fairground, which is to be sited on the right bank of the Chillar river, while the other would link El Playazo beach with El Chaparil and the Paseo Marítimo at La Torrecilla.

The latest version of Nerja’s PGOU, outlining the town’s plans for the next decade, is likely to be finalised in the first half of this year. At present, it indicates that more than 6,700 new homes will be built with seven new zones being classified as residential.

Patients can now get blood test results in two day

Before the new system results could take over a week to be delivered

By Oliver McIntyre

in Benalmádena, Mijas and Fuengirola now have faster access to the results of their blood and urine analyses, thanks to a new computer system that links doctors at the local health centres directly to the laboratories at the Costa del Sol hospital, where the analyses are performed.

Within two days of the samples being taken, doctors can obtain the results by logging onto the programme using their individual security code. In the past it took at least a week for the results to be delivered to the local health centres.
The two-day turnaround is for basic blood and urine analyses; if the doctor requests more comprehensive or specified tests, the results should be available in 72 to 96 hours.

A pilot project for the computerised system was put to the test last June at two health centres and it is now being extended throughout the Costa del Sol area.

New CHARE hospital for Mijas and Fuengirola
Meanwhile, Mijas and Fuengirola got other good healthcare-related news last week with the Mijas council’s announcement that it has obtained the land for construction of the new CHARE hospital that is to serve the two towns. The land, in a growth zone near Río Fuengirola, was secured in a deal that also provides a site for the planned desalination plant. The town hall says it will speed up the cession of the two properties to the Junta de Andalucía and the Environment Ministry, respectively.

Benalmádena library launches bilingual reading

Benalmádena library launches bilingual reading programmes

NEWS Staff Reporter

Arroyo de la Miel library has launched a series of programmes aimed at local English speakers as well as young English learners. Organisers view the new activities as a way to “create a social forum, through reading and books, for all the nationalities living in Benalmádena.”

The first programme is an English Book Club, aimed at English speakers of all nationalities interested in reading and discussing a selected book each month. The discussions will be facilitated by Amy Young, who was a founding member of the Spanish Book Club at the Benalmádena Pueblo library and has hosted a radio book club on Onda Cero International. The English Book Club will have its initial meeting on February 18 at 11am, at the Arroyo library.

Another programme is aimed at children who are learning English as a second language. Each Thursday at 6pm they will be read aloud to from an English-language book, thus “introducing them to oral English in a simple and enjoyable manner, much the way they are introduced to their native language through books in their early language stages.”

Finally, a general story time for both English- and Spanish-speaking children is to be held the last Saturday of each month, with the English session beginning at 11am and the Spanish session at noon.

Nerja rejects residents' concerns over new health

Homeowners say new site will reduce their property values

By Dave Jamieson

Nerja’s new health centre has been a difficult project to get off the ground and has now run into more trouble, this time from its future neighbours. However, the town hall has rejected their concerns and intends to press ahead with construction.

In September 2003, the town hall and the region’s health service signed an agreement to build the new centre with a budget of 2.7 million euros on an empty site at the top of Calle Filipinas on the south side of the N-340 main road. Nerja has already received 1.2 million euros from the Junta de Andalucía for the project.

Last November, however, the town council approved an amendment to the local development plan (PGOU) which would allow the new health centre to be built on the north side of the N-340, across the main road from the original site, on land presently classified as green zone. Mayor José Alberto Armijo attributed the change to construction difficulties with the original site which would have increased the cost of the project, plus “problems” in agreeing with water authority Cuenca Mediterránea de Andalucía on the creation of a culvert along the Miso water gulley, which runs south from the new site, under the N-340 and through the original location.

Residents in the Puente del Miso urbanisation immediately objected to the move, which would bring the health centre onto their doorsteps. They point out that the site is a green zone and say that interfering with the water course increases the risk of flooding. In addition, they argue, the proposed building will block light and their views, reducing the value of their properties.

Report contradicts residents
A technical report presented to the town council last week dismissed the claims that the health centre will block either light or views, and said risks of flooding would be minimal. It added that the new site was, in fact, a better choice the original area south of the main road.

AVE direct service to Sevilla to start in two week

Twelve trains will run daily between the coast and the regional capital

By Dave Jamieson

high-speed rail services will start operating from Málaga to Sevilla on Wednesday, February 20. Details of the new route via Córdoba and plans for a new direct service from the south to Barcelona were revealed last week by development minister, Magdalena Álvarez.

There will be six AVE trains scheduled in each direction between Málaga and Sevilla every day, with a journey time of one hour and 55 minutes, over half an hour less than the existing Talgo rail journey. All will have a top speed of 250 kilometres per hour and make stops at Antequera, Puente Genil and Córdoba. There will be no non-stop service initially but the minister indicated that this could be introduced later, “depending on demand.”

The basic ticket price has been set at 33 euros for a one-way journey, with a 20 per cent discount if a return is booked. However, there are to be substantial discounts for frequent travellers with the fare dropping to 15.18 euros per journey for those who purchase a season ticket valid for 44 trips. There will also be a saving for people buying 20 tickets at a time.

For those only going as far as Córdoba, the one-way ticket has been set at 19.05 euros with a reduction to 8.76 euros in the 44 journey deal.

With 237 seats available on each train, the daily total of 2,844 between Málaga and Sevilla is more than double the present capacity. After passenger numbers on the Málaga to Madrid service showed increases above expectations, Renfe clearly believe that the Sevilla route will be similarly successful. In January, the number passengers travelling by rail between coast and capital totalled 117,700 - more than twice that in the same period a year ago.

A future development on the AVE network will see a new line between Antequera and Sevilla, so by-passing Córdoba. This new route, expected to be in operation during 2011, will reduce the Málaga to Sevilla journey time to just 75 minutes.

Barcelona route
The Minister also announced plans for AVE passengers from the south of Spain to be able to travel to Barcelona without having to change at Madrid. She said that a link was under consideration which would allow these services to by-pass the capital where the Atocha railway station is already saturated with traffic. The new link is expected to run from Getafe, south of Madrid on the Sevilla line, to Vallecas, south-east of the city on the Barcelona line. The Málaga to Barcelona direct service is then expected to have a journey time of around five hours, about half the present duration.

Fatal accident driver withdraws claim

Court orders him to pay family’s legal costs

By Dave Jamieson

The driver of a car involved in a fatal road accident has made a last-minute withdrawal of his damages claim against the teenage victim’s family (CDSN, last week). Tomás Delgado Bartolomé had taken the action to compensate himself for the 20,000 euros it cost to have his car repaired and to cover the rental of a substitute vehicle during that period, but now he has been told to pay the full legal costs of the case.
Seventeen-year-old Enaitz Iriondo died instantly when the bicycle he was riding collided with Sr Delgado’s Audi A8 in La Rioja in August 2004. While the car driver was charged, the criminal case against him was dismissed, although his insurance company paid 33,000 euros to the Iriodono family acknowledging that their client’s excessive speed could have been a contributory factor. It has been alleged that he was travelling at almost twice the speed limit and showed positive in an alcohol breath test.
The case has caused considerable outrage and when Enaitz’s parents arrived to hear the court verdict in Haro, La Rioja, last Wednesday morning, they were greeted by dozens of supporters who applauded them with cries of “Viva!” Sr Delgado, however, chose not to appear in person but instead sent his solicitor who told the judge that his client had withdrawn his compensation claim against the family. The lawyer said that Sr Delgado had taken the decision because of harassment and the way the Spanish media had treated him. The following day, the court ordered Sr Delgado to pay all the costs of his aborted action.
As she left the court, Enaitz Iriondo’s mother, Rosa Trinidad, described the result as “a first victory” and “a step forward.” She said Sr Delgado’s decision demonstrated that he knew he was in the wrong and that the family would continue to press for re-opening the criminal case against him.

Similar case
In a separate case last week, the driver of a car which hit and killed a pedestrian has launched a civil claim against the victim’s family. After the accident, which occurred last March on the A-23 autovía in Castellón, the driver was cleared of all charges. In response to the 6,900-euro damages claim now facing the family of Rámon Costa, their lawyer said the blame was not entirely that of the victim and the driver should take some responsibility. The case will come to court on March 6.