News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Rumours after Casa Harnden fire quashed
The house was built in 1959 by American architect Peter Harnden and was listed as an example of contemporary architecture
By Dave Jamieson
THE MAYOR of Alhaurín de La Torre has moved to quash rumours following a fire in the town.
Ten days ago, the blaze destroyed a well-known building, Casa Harnden, also known as Pub El Cerro, which was listed in Andalucía's register of contemporary architecture (CDSN last week).
However, since the incident speculation has been rife as to the cause of the outbreak in the building which had become abandoned. Rumours spread that it had been deliberately razed to the ground to clear the way for a new building complex on the site.
However, mayor Joaquín Villanova clarified the position last week by confirming the whole area known as El Cerro de Povea is categorised as green land by the town hall. "It is completely untrue that anything will be constructed in this sector," he said, adding that he hoped one day it would be developed and used for sporting and cultural purposes.
The town hall has also written to Cultural Department of the Junta de Andalucía formally advising them of the fire and asking for permission to clear the site.
Casa Harnden was built in 1959 and named after Peter G. Harnden, the north American architect who designed it with his Italian counterpart Iianfranco Bombellí for the house's owner Ethel de Croissset.
It was one of the first new buildings as Alhaurín de la Torre began to expand but following its use as a bar in more recent times, it had become neglected, run-down and vandalised. Its listing as an example of contemporary architecture in the region afforded it no special protection.
Confrontation over IBI council tax ruling
The dispute is over a 30 per cent reduction for registered residents
By David Eade
BACK IN 2004 Fuengirola council passed a measure that would give a 30 per cent discount on the IBI council tax to those who were officially registered at the town hall as residents.
This of course left many foreign residents, who weren't on the padrón, and businesses having to pay a higher rate. Recently the Andalucía High Court (TSJA) ruled this move had been illegal because it had been backdated by a month.
The court case was brought by the socialist PSOE opposition against the PP administration and the confrontation returned to the council chamber last week.
The socialists called an emergency meeting last week to debate the issue but when it became clear that the mayor, Esperanza Oña, and the party's municipal spokesperson, Ana Mula, were not going to play ball the socialist councillors stormed out.
The stance of the town hall is clear. It says the TSJA does not order the council to withdraw the measure hence the discount, which has been in place since 2004, stands.
PSOE says it is not going to participate in a measure that flies in the face of the court.
Howevr, it would appear that unless the TSJA orders otherwise the 30 per cent reduction stays in place.
Crime empire toppled
Thirty-two arrested in international police operation in Spain, Ireland and the UK
By David Eade
THE ALLEGED head of an international crime gang was arrested at his Estepona home on Tuesday in a series of simultaneous dawn raids across Europe
The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) told the Costa del Sol News that 750 officers were involved in an international operation run from command centres in Málaga, London and Dublin.
The target was a criminal network suspected of trafficking huge quantities of drugs and firearms and of laundering hundreds of millions of pounds in criminal profits.
The man believed to be the head of the network is 53-year-old Irish-born Christopher "Christy" Kinahan who was living in Estepona in a luxury villa. He was arrested, along with family members including his sons Christy Junior and Daniel, other British and Irish nationals and four Spanish lawyers, by officers from the National Police.
The twenty individuals arrested in Spain are being held for questioning at the National Police HQ in Málaga city.
In the UK, around 230 SOCA officers searched business and residential premises. Nine men and two women were arrested and are now being questioned by SOCA at police stations in the Thames Valley, Kent and the West Midlands.
Residential and business premises were also searched in Ireland, Belgium, Cyprus and Brazil. Officers from the Garda National Drugs Unit are questioning one man at a police station in Dublin.
Officers are seeking further suspects in the UK, Spain and Ireland.
The Belgian Police, Europol, and a number of other law enforcement agencies were also involved in today's operation. SOCA received assistance in the UK from the Metropolitan Police, Thames Valley Police, Kent Police and West Midlands Police.
Town councils told to stop borrowing
Government's initial decision to implement the credit ban immediately caused uproar at town halls across the country
By Dave Jamieson
PANIC quickly spread throughout Spain's town halls on Monday when the government instructed them not to enter into any further long-term credit deals until 2012.
Frustrations were tempered somewhat the following day when Madrid issued a correction clarifying that the ban would not become effective until next January.
Details of the directive were initially published in the Official State Bulletin and rule out, "long-term public or private loans for the financing of investments or to substitute in whole or in part pre-existing operations" as part of the government's efforts to reduce the country's deficit shortfall. The instruction not to borrow any money next year will not have been good news for town councils whose income from local taxation has been severely dented from the extent of the collapse of the construction industry. Many municipalities have introduced austerity measures including pay cuts and freezes but it may turn out to be too little too late.
Figures from the Ministry of Economy and Taxation show that, by the end of last year, the country's town halls were 28,770 million euros in debt. Andalucía's municipalities owed 4,569 million while 82 of Málaga's 100 councils have debts totalling 1,157 million euros.The city of Málaga tops the provincial list with almost 720 million euros outstanding while Benalmádena is nearly 94 million in debt. Vélez-Málaga, Estepona, Rincón de la Victoria and Marbella all owe between 20 and 35 million, while 28 more municipalities have debts of between one and nine million euros. Only 18 town halls in Málaga ended 2009 with no debt at all.
Fire destroys private storage centre in Mijas
Fire crews from neighbouring towns were called to help put out the blaze
By David Eade
A FIRE on Saturday completely destroyed a centre with private storage units on the San Rafael industrial estate in Mijas.
The blaze, caused by an electrical fault, broke out at 5.30am.
The resulting inferno destroyed the building made of metal with wooden partitions separating the storage units. The vast amount of items were furnishings and the flames quickly spread from one store unit to another.
Fire brigades were summoned from along the Costa del Sol to tackle the fire.
It was not until five hours after it had started that the crews had it under control.
The huge amount of smoke produced by the materials inside made fighting the inferno a difficult task.
Spain plans to cut salt in processed foods by 20%
Scheme is aimed at fighting diseases caused by high blood pressure
By Oliver McIntyre
ThE HEALTH Ministry last week unveiled a plan to slash by 20 per cent the amount of salt used in processed foods such as cold cuts, dairy products or bakery items.
The four-year plan, created in collaboration with the food industry, the restaurant trade and region governments throughout the country, is meant to combat high blood pressure by lowering the amount of salt in Spaniards' diet.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 35 per cent of the Spanish population - some 10 million people - and is responsible for 50 per cent of cardiovascular disease cases and 45 per cent of coronary disease, said the health minster, Trinidad Jiménez, while presenting the plan last week.
Spaniards consume an average of 9.8 grams of salt a day, nearly double the World Health Organisation's recommendations. Cutting that to five grams a day could prevent some 20,000 cardiovascular incidents and 30,000 cardiac events each year, according to Sra Jiménez.
The result would be not only better health but also a major savings for the public health system; it is estimated that throughout the EU these diseases represented a cost of 192 billion euros in 2006, said the minister.
Traffic disruptions expected during major road project
Carretera de Mijas to be widened to four lanes near Fuengirola border
By Oliver McIntyre
TRAFFIC disruptions are expected as work is set to get underway on a project to widen the Carretera de Mijas to four lanes along an 800-metre stretch near the A7 motorway, straddling the border between Mijas and Fuengirola.
The five million-euro project, funded by El Corte Inglés under the deal that was signed when the company built its store in the zone, will also include two new roundabouts and the remodelling of two existing ones.
When the 19-month project gets underway - the exact date has not been given but officials say it will be soon - drivers can expect traffic complications in the zone, though steps are being taken to minimise problems. There will be "coordination between the local police of the two towns to alleviate the effects on traffic," said Juan Cruz, Mijas's town planning councillor. "Alternative routes will be established to minimise the inconvenience to drivers."