News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Railroad greenway project on track
The plan converts six kilometres of disused railway into a tree-lined bike and pedestrian path
By Oliver McIntyre
THE proposal to create a greenway along a stretch of out-of-use train track between Cártama and Málaga has gained additional momentum with the creation of a consortium to promote the scheme.
The project takes in the six-kilometre stretch of track from Cártama Estación to Los Prados that went out of use with the arrival of the new AVE high-speed train to Málaga. The goal is to convert the old railway into a tree-lined bike and pedestrian path. Plans also include restoring the old Campanillas station and other railway infrastructure along the route. In the future organisers hope to extend the path to the University of Málaga.
Representatives from Cáratma and Málaga town halls, the Junta de Andalucía, the Diputación de Málaga and several not-for-profit organisations involved in the project met last week to draft the statutes for the new consortium.
"It is expected that in September we will be able to formally approve the statutes and officially launch the consortium, which will allow us to push forward this important project to create a greenway," said Cártama's mayor, José Garrido.
Final decision on Costa gas exploration on the way
The offshore drilling site is off the coast of Mijas and Fuengirola
By Oliver McIntyre
A FINAL decision on Repsol-YPF's planned exploration for gas off the coast of Mijas and Fuengirola is expected within the next three months, after the Industry Ministry passed the file to the Environment Ministry for its sign-off.
The documentation under review includes the company's environmental impact study as well as its report responding to the six statements submitted by Ecologistas en Acción, the Junta de Andalucía and the Environment Ministry itself during the project's public comment period, which ended last December.
Assuming the project gets the green light, the gas exploration is scheduled to be carried out during a month-long period sometime between January and May next year, a timeframe selected in order to minimise the impact on local tourism and on migration patterns of certain whale species.
The project, known as the Siroco exploration, will involve initial attempts to extract gas from two deposits identified in preliminary seismic explorations along the seafloor. The area to be explored takes in around 16 square kilometres located nine kilometres south of Mijas and 12 kilometres south-west of Fuengirola.
Two Irishman sought in Benalmádena murder
By Oliver McIntyre
SPANISH police have launched a Crimestoppers-style appeal in their manhunt for two Irishmen identified as the prime suspects in the murder of a British man in his Benalmádena apartment in April.
Last week National Police officials distributed photographs and descriptions of the two suspects, calling on the public for any information that could lead to their capture.
The men were described as W.A.L., 34, 1.80 metres (5ft 11in) tall with a trim build, dark hair and "teeth in very poor condition as a result of drug use"; and B.P.M, 26, between 1.85 (6ft 1in) and 1.90 metres (6ft 3in) tall with a strong build, dark hair and several tattoos (a bird on his right arm, a naked woman on the left arm, a scorpion and an Indian on his back and an angel on his chest).
The murder occurred on the morning of April 21 when the victim, Paul Feathers, 32, from London, was stabbed at least twice with a kitchen knife.
"If you think you recognise them, please immediately call 091 or the Torremolinos-Benalmádena National Police station on 952 378 448," said the notice sent out with the photographs of the suspects.
Expat family helps seek cure for cystic fibrosis
A music fiesta on June 26 is to raise funds for CF associations in both Spain and the UK
By Oliver McIntyre
A LOCAL couple whose daughter has cystic fibrosis has launched a series of fundraising efforts to help seek a cure for the disease.
Twenty-five-year-old Becky Baker has had cystic fibrosis (CF) - a chronic and progressive genetic disease - from birth, "but takes it all in her stride," says her mother, Sarah Spencer.
CF, one of the most common life-threatening hereditary diseases, affects the internal organs, especially the lungs and digestive system, by clogging them with thick, sticky mucus. It often causes early death, though improvements in treatment and management have increased the survival of CF patients, and around half now live to 38 years and over.
Becky's mother and stepfather, Ken Spencer, have also been undaunted by her disease; rather they have used her illness as inspiration to spearhead fundraising efforts to help seek a cure for CF.
In a recent event at St Anthony's College in Mijas, where Mr Spencer is a teacher, students held a 'mufti day' on which they paid one euro each for the privilege of wearing regular clothes to school instead of their uniform. During lunchtime many of them also paid to watch Mr Spencer perform as one half of the rock duo Mutt 'n' Geoff. It was the latest in a number of CF fundraising events held at St Anthony's in recent years, during which students are estimated to have raised several thousand euros.
"Becky and her family would like to thank all the students and staff who contributed to the success of the day and to the school's owners for allowing the proceedings to take place at St Anthony's," said Mrs Spencer.
Becky - who as a result of her CF has organ problems as well as type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis - and her family are now planning a larger-scale fundraising event, dubbed the Cystic Fibrosis Fiesta, to be held on Saturday June, 26 at the Venta Los Arcos on the Cártama-Coín road. The event includes a raffle and auction as well as live music from English and Spanish performers - including Becky herself, who is a singer.
Tickets for the event, which starts at 7.30pm, are 10 euros each (five euros for children aged six to 12) and include a free buffet and glass of cava. The funds raised at the event, along with the money brought in from the recent St Anthony's fundraiser, will be divided equally between the Cystic Fibrosis Associations of Spain and the UK, said Mrs Spencer.
Tickets are available at the A.I.D. shop in Alhaurín el Grande (Monday and Thursday only); the Sol Shop in Sol Andalusi; the Venta Los Arcos; and from Mr Spencer at St Anthony's (weekdays from 3.30pm to 3:45pm).
Sean Connery ordered to pay 3.3 million euros
The former Bond actor and his wife have been given 30 days to pay the bond
NEWS Staff Reporter
THE Marbella judge in the "Goldfinger" investigation into the sale and re-zoning of Sean Connery's former home known as El Malibú has ordered the former James Bond actor and his wife, Micheline, to pay a 3.3 million-euro civil responsibility bond to the court in the next 30 days.
Judge Ricardo Puyol is investigating alleged irregularities in town planning agreements involving the land on which Connery's seaside villa stood, and where the actor and his wife lived for many years.
The case first came to light after the State auditing body alerted the public prosecutor's office following an investigation into the activities of town hall companies during the GIL era. This triggered a further joint investigation by the organised crime and drugs squad of the National Police and the tax agency, the Agencia Tributaria, into how 72 luxury apartments had been built on the Malibú villa land when the 1986 PGOU only permitted the construction of five stand-alone homes. It is alleged that the sale of the apartments on the former Connery homestead could have netted the promotors 53 million euros and done the municipal coffers out of 2,7 million euros.
Police unite to crack down on petty crime
Officials shared information on 200 known criminals
By Oliver McIntyre
THE National Police and local police from the larger towns of Málaga province are furthering their collaboration in an effort to crack down on petty crime, which has been on the increase despite drops in the overall crime rate.
At a meeting in Málaga last week with local police chiefs from Málaga, Antequera, Benalmádena, Estepona, Fuengirola, Marbella, Ronda, Torremolinos and Vélez Málaga, National Police officials shared a file containing the records of 200 known petty criminals.
The file, developed by the National Police over the last nine months, is aimed at providing local police a tool for enforcement as well as for ensuring that repeat offenders are identified as such when they are processed in the courts.
"Our goal is to demonstrate to the judge that this individual not only committed a couple of robberies in Málaga city, but also has two cases pending in Torremolinos, one in Benalmádena another three in Marbella - in other words, that he makes his living this way," said one National Police official.
Tax hike on high earners and shopping bags
Regional government announces new measures to fight economic crisis
By Dave Jamieson
ANYONE in Andalucía earning more than 80,000 euros a year will see their tax rate increased by up to three percentage points from January. In other measures, plastic shopping bags will be taxed for the first time.
The region's president, announcing the new tax package last week, said the Junta de Andalucía is aiming for lower rates of public spending alongside a fiscal policy to encourage economic recovery. José Antonio Griñán said the higher tax rates for top earners would ensure that "sacrifices are shared equitably through society."
From January 1, 2011, the tax rate for those earning between 80,000 and 100,000 euros will rise by one per cent to 22.5 per cent, while those whose salary is between 100,000 and 120,000 euros will pay two per cent more at 23.5 per cent. Finally, the top rate is increased by three per cent to 24.5 per cent for those earning over 120,000 euros a year.
The Junta is also to tax the deposits of credit institutions which operate in the region, forcing them to "contribute to the effort we are asking of everyone." The so-called "taxing the stock" measure has a maximum rate of 0.5 per cent on deposits of more than 600 million euros.
European health care agreement reached
Right to roam enshrined, says Spain
By Dave Jones
EUROPEAN health ministers last week reached an agreement over cross-border healthcare after more than two years of wrangling.
The Spanish government, which proposed additional changes to current regulations, stated that their plan "guarantees there will be no discrimination in Europe between native patients and those from other countries."
According to the department for health, their proposal would give patients "the right of movement" and allow them to "solicit care in a member state" that is not their country of residence.
"In this case, the patients will pay for the treatment when they receive it and their country of residence will pay back the costs," the statement reads.
However this will only be done if they have the right to the treatment and they fulfil the requirements set out in the country they are affiliated in.
Under proposed new rules, the tab for 'uncomplicated treatment' for expats visiting the UK will now be picked up by the British government rather than Spain.
Helena Bowden, senior European policy manager at the NHS Europe office in Brussels, told CDSN that the proposed changes had become necessary following cases brought by EU residents over healthcare charges in other member states.
She explained that OAPs who have transferred their healthcare rights to Spain currently have treatment in the UK paid for by the Spanish government.
"Under the new rules simple medical care for visitors would fall on the UK and not on Spain," she explained.
However, major operations carried out in the UK for visitors will still be paid for by Spain, with prior agreement of the resident's health authority in Spain, she added.
The situation becomes more complicated for elderly residents who move to a third country.
New electricity price hike on the way
Rates have already jumped by 26 per cent since 2008, says Facua
By Oliver McIntyre
THE PRICE of the average electricity bill has shot up by 26 per cent in the last two and a half years, said the consumer watchdog Facua last week after it was reported that officials are considering new hike of up to five per cent in July.
The group sharply criticised the price increases, accusing the government of putting the interests of the electricity companies ahead of those of consumers "in times of economic crisis in which the price hikes are much more painful [for consumers]. The increase in electricity prices has been six times the general inflation rate of 4.2 per cent during the same period, said the group
While the July rate hike has yet to be officially set, reports last week suggested it could be between four and five per cent for the average consumer, which, Facua pointed out, comes in addition to the IVA tax increase from 16 per cent to 18 per cent on July 1. Power rates already were raised by 2.6 per cent in January of this year.
‘Higher prices, no improvements'
Another consumer group, the Organización de Consumidores y Usuarios (OCU), echoed Facua's concerns over runaway price increases for electricity. "The deregulation of the power industry has served for little, as there has been no improvement in service or prices, which are on an unstoppable ascent," said the group.