Costa del Sol News - 18th September 2009

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Mijas negotiates respite for 250 homes

Redrawing of industrial zoning lines in La Alberquilla is approved by Junta

By Oliver McIntyre

Mijas town hall last week announced that its negotiations with the Junta de Andalucía have ensured that at least 250 homes in the La Alberquilla zone will not be affected by the reclassification of the area as industrial land under the Junta's regional development plan (POT).

The POT designates three million square metres of land in the zone as an Area of Economic Opportunity, meaning it will be classified for light industrial and commercial use.

The reclassification poses a threat to several hundred homes in the area.  But the town's mayor, Antonio Sánchez, announced last week that a modification proposed by the town hall and accepted by the Junta has altered the zoning lines north of the motorway, effectively moving 103 homes out of the area to be reclassified.  Added to previous agreements, this brings to 250 the total number of homes saved from the reclassification, said the town hall.

"We are still working to reshape the boundaries in an effort to exclude more homes from the industrial zone," said the councillor for town planning, Juan Cruz. 

Estepona fire was Costa's third-worst in a decade

Blaze burned more land than all fires in last three years combined

By David Eade 

The fire in Estepona last week destroyed more land than has been burnt in wild fires in the province in the last three years.

The blaze started in the area of the San Isidro Labrador municipal park in Estepona and quickly spread thanks to the strong winds blowing towards Casares. It was not till Friday that officials declared the fire was fully controlled although operatives stayed on duty to ensure there were no flare-ups.

Initial estimates suggested the fire had burned 600 hectares of scrub and tree-covered hillside but that was later revised down to 520 hectares. The over-calculation was due to the difficult terrain in the area, the same problem that hindered fire teams in tackling the flames.

In the last three years around 500 hectares have been burnt in wildfires in Málaga province.  In addition to exceeding that figure, the Estepona fire was the third worst in the last decade after Cortes de la Frontera in 2006, which destroyed 660 hectares, and Mijas in 2001, which burnt 1,100 hectares.

The Brigada de Investigación is working on the theory that the fire was started deliberately in the San Isidro Labrador park, after receiving information from a worker who saw somebody leaving the area hurriedly just before the blaze took hold.

Tackling the fire for 48 hours were environment specialists, 53 Infoca firefighters, fire engines, two helicopters plus other aircraft. Also drafted in were 200 members of the army's emergency-response unit based at Morón de la Frontera.

Quasi religious group is accused of fraud

Four former administrators have been arrested

By David Eade

The Guardia Civil have arrested four former administrators of El Santísimo old people's home in Medina Sidonia on accusations of fraud. The money is said to have been taken from the bank accounts of elderly residents at the home, many of them handicapped, over a 20-year period.

The home was in the charge of the quasi religious association Obreros de la Cruz although it was never recognised by the Catholic Church. Curiously it had the support of various public administrations but not that of the Bishop of Cádiz and Ceuta. The association had asked for recognition as a lay body in 1997 but this was denied and the bishop also ordered them not to use the prefix Catholic in the same year.

Since last May the organisation has ceased to manage the home, following the intervention of the Chiclana court, and it is currently looked after by the NGO Mensajeros de la Paz. It is claimed that 150,000 euros was taken in all from 40 residents.

The Guardia Civil started investigations after receiving official complaints from residents and family members at the beginning of this year. The first report said 6,300 euros was missing from a resident's account. Then the brother of a deceased man, who had lived in the centre for 20 years, claimed money had been taken from his brother's account even after he had died.

Not only do the inmates appear to have been victims but some workers also had problems being paid even though for eight years the Andalucian government recognised the Obreros de la Cruz as suitable managers.

Those arrested are said to be a self-styled priest, who was allegedly detained in a Torremolinos disco, along with the two "brothers" and a fourth person who has not been identified. They include "Padre Pepe" and the brother "Guillermo" who were both denounced at the end of 2002 for sexual assault by a former worker at the home.

Home sales down 34 per cent in Q2

It was the 13th consecutive quarter of declining sales figures

By Oliver McIntyre

A total of 100,850 home sales were registered in Spain during the second quarter, marking a 33.9 per cent drop from the same period last year, according to data released last week by the College of Property Registers. 

Further, the Q2 figure was down 8.45 per cent compared to the previous quarter, marking an acceleration of the decline in home sales; the drop between the fourth quarter of 2008 and the Q1 of this year had been a much less severe 2.75 per cent.  The latest dip marks the 13th consecutive quarter of declining home sales.

In the second quarter, the hardest-hit sector was new homes, where the drop between Q1 and Q2 of this year was 12.57 per cent, to 55,300 units sold, compared with a more moderate quarterly drop of 2.88 per cent for used homes, with 45,550 registered sales.  However, the year-on-year drop has in fact been greater for used homes, with sales in the first half of 2009 down 41.2 per cent compared to the same period last year, in contrast to a 26 per cent drop in new home sales. 

Andalucía's figures for Q2 were slightly worse than the national average, with the number sales down 34.2 per cent compared to the same period last year.