News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Town halls drop opening licence for many businesses
Málaga and Fuengirola are both doing away with the requirement for local shops
By Dave Jamieson and David Eade
IN A MOVE aimed at reducing bureaucracy and stimulating employment, Málaga and Fuengirola town halls have removed the requirement for an opening licence on many local businesses.
In the city, the requirements which came into force last Friday affect new operations and cover a wide range of commercial activities but do not apply in the areas of catering, sport, leisure and culture.
Until last week, an opening licence had to be obtained from the town hall before trading could begin. This took time and required the payment of a fee of up to 300 euros, depending on the floor area of the premises. Now, Málaga's requirement is simply the presentation of a declaration of responsibility, together with copies of relevant documents such as a property rental agreement or 'escritura'. No fee or waiting time is involved and trading can begin as soon as the documents are delivered. Town hall officials will subsequently examine the declaration and refer any perceived anomalies to the business owner, while inspections at the place of business will also be carried out.
"This is good news for businesses," said commerce councillor Purificación Pineda who announced the new arrangements last week. They apply to a range of commercial businesses in the city covering up to 1,000 square metres as well as to office or storage facilities of up to 2,000 square metres. Included are shops, motor dealers, doctors, vets, warehouses, driving schools and many others, but excluded are bars, restaurants, discos, cinemas, theatres and more.
Just down the coast, Fuengirola town hall is due enact a similar policy later this month. Local officials say the move is in line with an EU directive that was issued in December with the aim of simplifying the bureaucratic process of opening up shop. The EU wants the change to aid the opening of premises by professionals and traders such as jewellers, iron mongers and material retailers, which represent 65 per cent of those in most communities.
Junta launches website listing homes with prices slashed 20 per cent, plus special financing deal
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Junta de Andalucía last week launched the website for its scheme to provide thousands of homes for sale at a 20 per cent discount, plus favourable financing conditions, in an effort to help offload the huge overstock of unsold houses in the region.
Under the scheme, developers or banks offer properties for at least 20 per cent off the current market value, while participating banks agree to provide loans of 100 per cent of the cost of the discounted homes, meaning buyers will have to make no down payment (except IVA tax).
The loans are interest-only for the first three years, and from the fourth to the eighth year the Junta will provide mini-loans to keep the buyers' monthly payments at reduced levels. Officials say the package means that for the first eight years buyers' mortgage payments will be reduced by some 40 per cent. The Junta has earmarked one billion euros for the mini-loans, which will range from 9,000 to 15,000 euros per buyer, depending on individual circumstances.
Announcing the launch of the website (www.tuviviendaenandalucia.es), Junta officials - who are eager to re-ignite the moribund property and construction sectors - insisted that for anyone who has been waiting to purchase a home, now is the time to buy. "Prices are not forecast to drop further," said the Junta's economy and taxes chief, Carmen Martínez Aguayo, because "the recession is hitting bottom."
Sra Martínez also cited coming fiscal changes - such as the ending this year of home-purchase tax deductions for people with incomes of more than 24,000 euros, and the increase in IVA tax (the VAT equivalent) beginning in July 1 - as reasons why now is an advantageous moment to buy.
The Junta estimates that throughout Andalucía there are currently some 70,000 unsold new homes. The new website came online last week with 4,100 units formally listed for sale under the programme, plus links to listings of some 13,000 homes offered for sale by the participating banks.
Fletch's family sends out huge Thank You
'Overwhelming' support has raised enough money for child's life-saving operation
By Dave Jamieson
IN A TIME of severe economic difficulty, it is good to be able to report a story of outstanding financial generosity on our own doorstep. The Falvey family of Torrox have now received enough support from the public to pay for an expensive life-saving operation on their three-year-old son Fletcher.
His mum and dad, Andrea and Noel, last week paid tribute to the many people who have helped them since August 15 last year, the day on which Fletch was diagnosed with an Anaplastic Ependymoma at Vélez-Málaga hospital. Conventional treatment for a brain tumour is difficult with young children because they are still growing, but Noel heard of a pioneering new technique which aims protons onto the target tumour to damage the cells' DNA, causing their death. Proton beam radiotherapy is presently not available in Spain or the UK, so arrangements were made for Fletch to visit a clinic in Indianapolis, one of a handful in the US which offer the procedure.
For over six weeks last autumn, Fletch underwent 33 sessions of treatment. Every weekday, he received a full anaesthetic so that he could be held immobile while the work was carried out. The clinic's staff arranged accommodation for the whole family, plus schooling for Fletch's eight-year-old sister Shannon. The parents are full of praise for both the diagnosis made in Spain and the help they received in the US before their return home to Torrox before Christmas.
Of course, there has been a hefty cost attached, one which is outside the means of most families. However, Fletch's supporters mobilised and began fund-raising. Noel told CDSN last week that with a staggering 50,000 euros received from Spain and £35,000 from the UK, they have now reached their target of topping up the family's own contribution to paying the bills.
"We're forever in debt to people we'll never meet," he said. "Thanks for the messages of support which gave us strength. To know people are there made a big difference to Andrea and I."
Corruption cases on collision course
By David Eade
THE Malaya and Ballena Blanca corruption cases have made the headlines for the last couple of years and this year will generate even more as the trials go to court. However there is now a row brewing between the Málaga provincial court and the anti-corruption prosecutor over the timetable for the cases as the trials will overlap. This has led to head prosecutor, Antonio Morales, stating that the situation is not "reasonable", and arguing that the cases cannot coincide.
The first case to be brought to court will be Ballena Blanca which is due to start at the end of March or early April. Malaya will follow and this is scheduled to be heard at the end of May. The problem is that Ballena Blanca will run for six months and Malaya for up to a year. The anti-corruption prosecutor says his team cannot be present at both.
Both cases involve complicated legal processes and it is important that the senior lawyers of the prosecutor's team are in court to deal with these issues. Sr Morales would like to see the Malaya case delayed stating "October or November would be more reasonable dates" so it is heard once Ballena Blanca has finished.
Before the trials start the regional government, which is responsible for the Ciudad de Justicia in Málaga, has to add extra rooms to accommodate the large numbers of accused and lawyers involved. The Malaya case will be the largest corruption trial in Spanish history with many of the provisions being borrowed from the "March 11" terrorism trial in Madrid.
Multiple robbery arrests in Torremolinos
In one case the man had stolen 500 drug prescription forms from a health centre
By Oliver McIntyre
POLICE in Torremolinos have made several arrests in two separate robbery cases.
In the first case, officers detained a man accused of robbing a number of homes in neighbouring Benalmádena, as well as a Mijas health centre, where he allegedly made off with prescription pads and the medical records of a number of minors.
The 36-year-old was originally caught while in the act of robbing a home on December 30, said police officials last week. Among the items officers seized at the time were several sets of keys, which it was later discovered had been stolen from the safe of a home in Benalmádena.
Further investigation led officers to the man's own home, where they discovered several prescription pads with total of some 500 prescription forms, which had previously been reported stolen from the Mijas health centre.
In a separate investigation, officers have made two arrests in relation to a violent robbery committed more than four months ago. In late September the victim, a middle-aged man, reported to the National Police in Torremolinos that he had invited two young men back to his home after meeting them at a local bar. Once there, they pulled a gun on him, tied him up and beat him before stealing his laptop computer, two mobile phones and other items.