News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Summer arrives early with 30 degrees and Sunday jams
Sizzling temperatures forecast to stay high until Tuesday
By Dave Jamieson
AS TEMPERATURES in the province broke the 30 degree barrier for the first time this year, the weekend brought the first summer crowds to the beaches. It also brought the first Sunday evening traffic jams as families headed home.
Inland areas including Antequera and Ronda were the hotspots with the mercury rising to 31 degrees, although the coasts remained in the low to mid 20s. On Sunday, beaches became crowded early as thousands took advantage of glorious weather.
However, by that evening, Málaga's main roads became clogged with 30 kilometres of slow moving traffic, according to Tráfico. One of the worst hit was the northbound A45 autovía towards Córdoba where a 12 kilometre queue began almost as far south as the junction with the A7. A further eight kilometre jam was reported between on the Málaga ring road between Rincón de la Victoria and the Calderon tunnel by sunseekers returning to the city from east coast beaches.
Eastbound traffic on the other side of Málaga was disrupted by at accident near the Torremolinos Conference Centre during the early evening. An eight kilometre tailback as far as Benalmádena quickly built up.
More beds for mental health patients
Torremolinos's Hospital Marítimo will become province's largest mental health care centre in 2012
By Dave Jamieson
THE REGION'S health service, SAS, is to invest over a million euros in an expansion programme at the Hospital Marítimo in Torremolinos. The move will make it the province's largest centre for the treatment of mental illnesses.
Pavilion Two which is presently unused is to be adapted in the year-long project. It will add 30 new beds to the department, doubling the hospital's capacity for seriously mentally ill patients. The Marítimo's other departments will be unaffected.
The development is part of Andalucía's Mental Health Plan which was initiated to provide an improved service to the estimated 4,000 people in the province of Málaga suffering from some form of mental illness.
Another 30 new beds are promised for the Costa del Sol Hospital in Marbella by the end of this year as part of an expansion programme.
Along with the new beds now on the way to Torremolinos and those already in use at the Clínico and Carlos Haya hospitals in Málaga, this will bring the province's total to 162.
The work at the Marítimo in Torremolinos is expected to be complete by the end of next year or early 2012.
HEATING BENEFIT THREAT
Elderly expats may lose out in benefits shake up
By Tom Cain
IN ITS bid to drive down public spending the new Liberal Conservative government has turned its attention to vulnerable pensioners living abroad who are in receipt of the yearly winter fuel payments.
According to Michael Savage, the Political Correspondent for the Independent, "Tens of thousands of British pensioners who have left to live in hotter climes are set to have one of their benefits cut as part of the coalition government's campaign to drive down unnecessary public spending."
The winter fuel payments were introduced to help pensioners pay their heating bills but the government believes that it can save around 14 million pounds a year by stopping payments to those that live in other EU countries.
A government source is believed to have said that the "handout" to expats, which is made despite them living in places with much warmer winters, would be examined.
The source is alleged to have also said that "continuing to pay the allowance to those living in warm, Mediterranean climates simply was not fair".
The new of the move is likely to spark anger among expats who for years have been demanding the right to receive the payment on the basis that under EU laws that prevent the government from discriminating against those who choose to live abroad.
Read more in the June 3 print edition of CDSN
Sir Geoff Hurst scores in court victory
By David Eade
ENGLAND'S 1966 World Cup hero Sir Geoff Hurst last week won a High Court action in London over a "worthless" investment in Spanish apartments.
Sir Geoff, 68, who played for West Ham United and now lives in Cheltenham, and five other people sued businessman Mark Cordner of Knebworth in Hertfordshire.
They alleged, due to Cordner's deceit, they had paid full price for five apartments in Marbella to which their rights were now worthless. The judge agreed and ruled the investors were entitled to damages.
The court heard that in 2003 and 2004 the group paid the full purchase price for the off-plan apartments upfront and without security. Since then, they claimed, their rights over them had been either destroyed or rendered worthless.
The apartments were in a development called Aloha Royal, near Puerto Banús, Marbella. Cordner admitted he made some of the representations alleged by Sir Geoff and the others but denied they were made deceitfully or negligently.
Mr Justice Keith ruled that Cordner was liable and the six investors were entitled to damages for his deceit. The judge said that the investors got nothing because the developer to whom they paid the purchase price was not in a position to convey good title to the apartments. The amount of damages the group are entitled to will be assessed at a later date.
Confusion after Marbella town planning meeting
Owners of illegal homes angry over compensation provisions
By David Eade
MARBELLA'S new local development plan is now law and last week property owners' representatives and residents' communities administrators attended a meeting at the Palacio de Ferias de Congresos. There they were addressed by the councillor for town planning, Pablo Moro.
The council's stance on the illegal properties is quite simple. Developers should pay the compensation required to bring these properties within the law. Sr Moro was quite emphatic that the town hall will only pursue the developers and never the owners.
Nonetheless the town hall has also made clear that if the owners wish to make the payments they can do so.
Equally, if the developers refuse to pay the residents can step in and make the properties legal by handing over the cash.
Of course there are thousands of properties deemed illegal in Marbella and each case is different.
Owners, or their representatives, have been urged to contact the delegation of town planning to see what costs are involved in making their homes legal or what compensation is required in handing land over to the town hall.
Irish gang link to Costa murders
Police officers suspect that the criminal network could be responsible for at least two deaths
By David Eade
AS THE international investigation into operation "Shovel" continues the National Police are looking to see if the Irish gang is linked to two murders and an attemped murder on the coast.
Officers suspect that the criminal network could be to blame for the murder of Paddy Doyle in Estepona on February 4, 2008. The 28-year-old died after he was shot four times in broad daylight. He had previous convictions for drug trafficking and other offences in Ireland.
The National Police believe his murder was a settling of accounts amongst criminals. Just a day after his death officers dismantled a gang that was transporting cocaine, seizing 115 kilos in the process. Six Britons and an Irishman were arrested.
Days later another Irishman was killed in Benalmádena. He was 30-year-old Richard Keog who was shot eight times by a group of at least three assassins.
It is believed that Keog had been involved with drug traffickers in Ireland and fled to the Costa del Sol at the end of 2007 after two shots were fired at the door of his home.
It was a case of third time lucky for Peter Mitchell in August 2008. This 39-year-old Irishman who had in the past been involved in drug trafficking was shot three times on the terrace of a bar in Nueva Andalucía. He escaped with his life but police believe all three cases were the so called settling of accounts between such gangs.
British mother charged with murder
Her husband, Martin Smith, was extradited several days earlier to the UK to face charges of sex offences against young girls
By Dave Jamieson
THE BRITISH woman accused of suffocating her two children in Lloret de Mar has been ordered to be held without bail until her trial on charges of murder.
Lianne Smith appeared in closed court at nearby Blanes on Friday after the bodies of her five-year-old daughter Rebecca and 11-month-old son Daniel were found in an hotel bedroom four days earlier.
A one-minute silence was observed in Lloret de Mar last Thursday as local people joined holidaymakers to mark the children's deaths. Afterwards, deputy mayor Ignasi Riera i Garriga said the incident had left a "huge impact" on the resort.
Full details of the deaths have not been released on court orders, but police have alleged that the youngsters were smothered on Monday night last week, but 43-year-old Smith did not alert the authorities until the following afternoon.
She is believed to have been afraid that the children would be taken into care after her partner Martin Smith was extradited to the UK a few days earlier to face charges of sex offences against young girls.
He was detained on May 7 in Barcelona, where the family had lived for several months, under a European arrest warrant after being named as a wanted criminal by the Crimestoppers organisation.
In last week's ruling on Lianne Smith, Judge Rafael Fernandez said he was of the opinion that she had been "conscious and aware of her actions" when she took her children's lives. She was charged with murder and is now awaiting trial in prison in Girona. Two days earlier, Martin Smith appeared briefly before magistrates in north-west England and was remanded in custody.
Zapatero stands firm under union pressure
Industrial action by civil servants has been called for June 8 but unions haven't yet ruled out a general strike
By David Eade
SPAIN'S PREMIERE, José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, told socialist mayors on Sunday he will not bow under union pressure to revise the 15-billion euro austerity plan.
Unions have called a strike of civil servants on June 8 but on the same day as Zapatero made his pledge the leader of the largest union reiterated he had not ruled out a general strike to press their case against the economic measures.
Zapatero told his audience: "I know there are protests by those who do not share our views, like the unions, but we will not change. No one can doubt at any time that Spain is a strong country and an economic power that will meet its obligations and pay debts."
Following the Greek debt crisis shaking world markets all EU governments are now under pressure to being their houses into order. For Spain that means spending cuts and long-awaited labour reforms to avoid a similar loss of confidence. Zapatero said he respects the unions but he will feel their might when his civil servants strike over having their wages cut by an average of five per cent this year.
Last Thursday the austerity package was approved by the cabinet and will reduce social spending by 1.5 per cent. However Zapatero stressed this had risen by 50 per cent since he took power in 2004. "We have to make this effort to save now so that tomorrow the development of a welfare state and equal opportunities may continue."