News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Gravel digging is 'destroying' Río Grande
Environmental group denounces slow action by authorities to halt the work
By Oliver McIntyre
THE harvesting of gravel from the bed of the Río Grande is "destroying" a two-kilometre stretch of the river in Cártama, according an environmental group.
The Association for the Conservation of Fish and Aquatic Ecosystems of the South (ACPES) says it reported the situation to the Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department office in Málaga as well as to the Andalucía Water Agency (AAA) in June, when the gravel extraction work had affected a few hundred metres of the river.
However, neither authority took immediate action; the Environment Department told the group that the matter came under the jurisdiction of the AAA, and the AAA failed to respond to ACPES at all, even after the group filed a freedom-of-information request to find out if the gravel company had an official permit or concession to take material from the river.
But last week the Junta's Environment Department said sanctioning proceedings have now been opened up against the company, which it says had been authorised by the AAA only to perform clean-up and repair work in the zone.
ACPES says the work, just upriver from the bridge in the Casapalma - Dehesa Alta zone of Cártama, is "devastating the riverbank" and "changing the course of the river at whim, causing obvious damage to the fish population."
Cudeca hits new milestone with 1000th member
But more still needed as the cancer hospice tries to save its inpatient unit
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Cudeca cancer hospice in Benalmádena last week held a ceremony to celebrate the signing up of its 1,000th member.
Remedios Ramos, from Málaga, received a special certificate as member number 1,000, although the ceremony, attended by Benalmádena's mayor, Enrique Moya, was also a tribute to all Cudeca members, who support the charity with regular monthly donations.
Cudeca officials expressed great satisfaction at reaching the milestone of 1,000 members, but acknowledged that many, many more are needed to help close the ongoing funding deficit generated by the centre's expensive inpatient unit, which was launched in 2006. "We really need to reach the level of 5,000 members," said Marisa Martín, the charity's medical director.
Since the launch of the inpatient unit, Cudeca has posted budget deficit every year, including a 415,000-euro loss in 2009 and a projected 400,000-euro shortfall for 2010, according to figures the centre released in March.
The membership drive is part of the hospice's push to increase revenues to help save the inpatient unit, which it could be forced to shut down if it cannot shore up the budget deficit.
Jabalíes run hog wild in Mijas
By Oliver McIntyre
A POLIITICAL row broke out in Mijas last week over herds of wild boars, or jabalíes, that in recent weeks have been rampaging local golf courses as well as private properties in rural zones of the town.
Opposition Partido Popular councillor Manolo Navarro filed written complaints with both the town's mayor, Antonio Sánchez (PSOE), and the government sub-delegation in Málaga, demanding urgent measures to address the problem.
At a press conference Sr Navarro showed photographs of damage at Mijas Golf and Cerrado del Águila, where the jabalíes' rooting has left a number of the courses' holes unplayable. He called the situation "an assault on Mijas's vitally important golf industry."
Further, the councillor cited a danger to local people and pets after a pack of the hogs recently "attacked two hunting dogs that a resident had on his property in Puerto de los Gatos, leaving them badly hurt."
But the town hall says that the jabalí problem is neither new nor exclusive to Mijas, and says it has already reported the problem to the Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department.
Spain's largest corruption case - the Marbella town planning scam codenamed Malaya by the police - gets underway in Málaga this week
By David Eade
ON Monday September 27 the Malaya case will be brought before the Málaga provincial court.
It was over four years ago that the first arrests hit the headlines and in the dock will be 95 people in Spain's largest corruption case in the history of the nation.
The man said to be the mastermind behind this massive town planning scam is Juan Antonio Roca. He was the director of planning at Marbella town hall and the prosecution will attempt to prove that mayors, councillors, officials and businessmen were all involved in his web of corruption.
It is estimated by investigators that Roca personally received over 33 million euros between 2002 and 2006 from his illicit deals. He had been in the post since 1992, brought in by former mayor Jesús Gil, and was there until his arrest in March 2006.
The 33 million euros is said to have come in payments to Roca from property developers over that four year period. Five million of this total was passed on by Roca to various councillors at Marbella town hall.
Of those who are said to have most benefitted from his largesse is another former mayo, Marisol Yagüe, who received 1.8 million euros - the largest amount handed out. Former mayor Julián Muñoz is alleged to have received 162,000 euros with the deputy mayors Isabel García Marcos and Carlos Fernández (who is still on the run) lesser sums.
However while Roca is known to have received 33 million euros from property developers the prosecutor believes he had the opportunity to misappropriate 200 million euros from 1997 to 2005. He also money laundered vast amounts of cash to hide their origin and in the process bought estates, a boat, an aircraft, a helicopter, hotels, houses and works of art.
Electric companies face new charges row
Power suppliers have now been accused of illegally charging customers for the installation of new digital meters
By Oliver McIntyre
EVEN as controversy rages on over homeowners being forced to install power trip switches in their home electrical systems - and being charged a penalty surcharge if they don't - the electric companies have now been accused of illegally charging customers for the installation of new meters.
The National Energy Commission (CNE) has issued a report stating that the electricity companies have no legal right to charge a connection fee when they replace a customer's meter with a modernised digital one, an upgrade that the companies are required to do by law.
The Ministry of Industry order that requires the companies to replace the meters states that the changeover will "generate no cost for the homeowner, nor any rental fee" for at least the first 15 years of the device's use, according to the CNE report.
It also states that "neither the decision nor the responsibility for the change falls on the consumer."
The December 2007 order requires the electric companies to replace 30 per cent of all meters for service of up to 15kW by the end of 2010, and to continue progressively until 100 per cent of them are replaced by 2018.
The CNE report says that in the informational material put out by Endesa and Iberdrola regarding their meter-replacement programmes, the companies state that there is no installation cost for the consumer but that there is a connection fee - such as that charged when a new account is set up - of 9.05 euros plus IVA.
The CNE says that such a fee is not acceptable as the meters that are being replaced were already connected, so the installation of the new meter does not represent a new connection.
Q2 home sales soared ahead of IVA rise
The beat-the-tax effect was seen nationwide but the sales jump in Málaga was well above the national average
By Oliver McIntyre
HOUSE sales soared in the second quarter as buyers scrambled to close deals ahead of the July 1 increase in IVA tax.
From April to June Málaga province saw a 43.8 per cent jump in sales compared to the previous quarter, and a 31.2 per cent increase compared to the same period last year, according to government figures released last week. It was the biggest quarterly rise since 2007.
The beat-the-IVA effect was seen nationwide but the sales jump in Málaga was well above the national average. Throughout Spain the second quarter saw 39.6 per cent more home sales than during the previous quarter and a year-on-year rise of 24.7 per cent.
In Málaga there were a total of 7,172 sales, making it the best quarter in the last two years. Foreign buyers also made a strong comeback, showing a 40 per cent increase in the second quarter compared to the first quarter.
The biggest jump was in new home sales, which is not surprising as new homes are subject to IVA tax (which rose from 7 per cent to 8 per cent on July 1) while the sale of second-hand homes is instead taxed under the transmission of assets tax, which remained unchanged at 7 per cent.