News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Junta launches investigation into fish deaths
IU party says newly repaired Pizarra river crossing is to blame
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Junta de Andalucía's Environment Department has opened an investigation into the appearance of hundreds of dead fish in the Guadalhorce river in Pizarra.
The move comes after the local Izquierda Unida party last week raised the alert that recent repair work to a road crossing on the river was causing the death of large numbers of young fish.
IU councillor Miguel Esteban Martín called on the Andalucía Water Agency (AAA), which performed the repairs to the road crossing, to act urgently to fix the problem.
Sr Esteban, who is also the IU's coordinator in the Guadalhorce valley as well as a member of the provincial government, blamed the "poor design" of the new concrete ford, saying the holes where the water passes through are too small, causing an increase in the water pressure and speed, and preventing the fish from passing through.
"The fish that desperately attempt to jump [the barrier] land on the concrete and are trapped out of the water and die," he said.
The river crossing, located on Camino de Villalón - which serves as the main route from Pizarra to the A357 motorway - was destroyed by flooding during the heavy winter storms and remained closed for months before the AAA completed the repair work in June.
But the IU says that design flaws are having "dramatic consequences" on the fish and the concrete crossing is "altering the nature of the river flow, producing great environmental damage" to the river's ecosystems.
Other possible causes
However, Pizarra's mayor, Francisco Vargas, accused the IU of "alarmism" and said that the Junta is studying various possible causes of the appearance of the dead fish - anything from toxins in the river to a "natural" phenomenon as part of the fishes' upstream journey, or even someone having simply dumped them there. The design of the river crossing is "the same as it's been for 10 to 20 years," he said.
Three of four home rentals go undeclared on taxes
Tax Ministry disputes the figure, which is from a study by tax office workers' union
By Oliver McIntyre
THREE QUARTERS of home rentals in Málaga province go undeclared for tax purposes, representing tax fraud of some 105 million euros, according to a new report.
The study, performed by the Tax Ministry workers' union Gestha based on tax data for 2008, says that 75.4 per cent of rentals in the province go undeclared, while the nationwide figure is 55.4 per cent, representing around three billion euros in fraud. However, the Tax Ministry disputes the figure.
Now in its fourth edition, Gestha's annual Report on Black Market Rentals in Spain is based on cross-analysing the number of rental properties recorded by the Housing Ministry and the number of rentals declared on tax returns. In Málaga the difference between the two figures suggests there are around 48,800 undeclared rentals, while nationwide there are more than a million.
But the Tax Ministry insists that the methodology of the study is flawed, saying the Housing Ministry data and the tax figures are based on different criteria and are not comparable.
Gestha disagrees and insists that tax fraud through undeclared rental income is on the rise. After a drop in 2007 following the passage the previous year of a fraud-prevention plan, the figures rose in 2008. In 2007 the percentage of undeclared rentals was 54 per cent, which climbed to 55.4 per cent in 2008.
AUTUMN POWER HIKE
Electricity price rises from tomorrow
By Dave Jamieson
WITH the prospect of colder autumn weather ahead, householders will be paying more on their power bills from tomorrow.
Electricity prices for the final quarter of 2010 are set to rise by 4.8 per cent for homes and for small businesses with supplies under ten kilowatts.
An estimated 22 million customers will be affected by the price hike. Homes on night-time tariffs will see bills rise by around three per cent, while those which are not can expect to pay about five per more. The new rates were approved by the government last week and are above the two per cent lift predicted by the power sector. The Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce said tomorrow's increase is a result of higher raw material prices plus the greater demand expected in winter and estimated that it will mean an average increase on each home-owner's bill of 1.7 euros.
However, the five million homes connected to the "social" tariff are to be exempted from the price increase. This rate is available when power demand is less than three kilowatts, to pensioners on minimum incomes, to large families and to households in which all members are unemployed.
It is the first rise in electricity prices for a year after the government froze tariffs and eliminated the expected quarterly increase in July. Then, a planned four per cent increase was scrapped on concerns that it could harm economic recovery.
Partly as a result of that, Spain's power deficit continues to grow and is presently around 20 per cent more than the sector's regulator, the National Energy Commission (CNE), expected.
Marbella most expensive resort in Spain
By David Eade
MARBELLA is the most expensive destination in Spain during the second half of this year. The average price for a room is 120 euros per night but that does represent an average drop of three per cent over 2009.
The data comes from the Hotel Price Index drawn up by the Hoteles.com group which also shows that Benalmádena is amongst the top five expensive destinations in Spain. There hotels have raised prices to 100 euros per night, the highest hike in the country of 31per cent.
The Director of Hoteles.com, Diego Lofeudo, says that in Andalucía overall the loss of spending power of the foreign tourist has not been noticed hence the ability to rise prices during the recession. However prices in Almería and Cádiz provinces have dropped largely because of the increased hotel capacity.
Across other resorts the survey suggests that the average price in Nerja is 76 euros per night, a six per cent rise; in Málaga 74 euros, a fall of three per cent and in Torremolinos 71 euros which is 2 per cent less.
Briton detained alter Torrox bank raid
Police chased the get away vehicle along the coast to Mijas where they detained the man
By Dave Jamieson
A 50-YEAR-OLD Briton has been arrested following a bank robbery in Torrox. He was detained on the toll motorway near Mijas after a long cross-country chase.
The target of Friday's early-morning raid was a branch of Cajasur located on the N-340 coastal road through Torrox Costa.
A female accomplice is believed to have rung the bell asking for the door into the bank to be opened, but the man, complete with false beard and wig, rushed through.
The manager and a client were held in an office after the robber entered the building, while the only remaining employee was forced to put all the available cash, around 9,000 euros, into a bag.
As he left to get into a waiting car, the man's disguise slipped and witnesses saw his face.
They were also give details of the vehicle to police who rapidly issued a search and capture order.
Cemetery smashed by giant rock fall
Coffins from the damaged graves have been moved to new niches
By David Eade
WORK is underway at the cemetery in Benaoján after a major rock fall during the heavy rains of September 17 sent a two-ton boulder smashing into the cemetery.
As a result many of the tombs were destroyed by the impact.
Now the town hall has started work on removing the remains of the deceased from the 18 niches that were badly damaged.
An inspection of the other 39 tombs in the same section has shown they have not suffered any harm.
The coffins from the affected graves have been moved and placed in new niches in the cemetery. Family members of the deceased were present for what was in effect a second interment. Some of the coffins were bricked up over 35 years ago.
Francisca Moreno supervised the moving of her grandmother's remains and said with a resigned air: "At least we now know they are resting in a more stable zone in the cemetery."
'Free SMS' scam could cost you money
Offer saying deal is reward for being 'faithful customer' is not from phone company
By Oliver McIntyre
MOBILE phone users are being warned of a fraudulent offer for a free SMS messaging service that in fact will end up costing them money.
Consumer watchdog Facua last week issued an alert over a mass mailing of a text message telling mobile phone users that, as a reward for their being a faithful customer, they are being offered 200 free SMS messages per month for a year. But the message is not from their phone operator and if they sign up for the service they could get hit with an extra bill for 17 euros a month.
Facua says the message, sent from the number 795522, is in fact from a company called Air Ebites and is a fraudulent come-on for a service providing mobile phone content. Users who accept the ‘offer' will begin receiving 12 messages a month at a cost of 1.42 each, meaning a monthly bill of 17.04 euros.
The text message making the initial offer reads: "Vamos a premiar tu fidelidad y por eso te regalamos 200 sms al mes durante un año totalmente gratis!" It instructs the user to send a message reading "ALTA SMS" to 795522, pvp1,42em.
Málaga motor museum opens
By Dave Jamieson
MÁLAGA'S new Automobile Museum opened to the public on Friday and is expected to attract 120,000 visitors every year. Over 80 vehicles from three centuries of motoring are on display at the Tabacalera, the old tobacco factory in Avenida Sor Teresa Prat.
Málaga town hall has invested nine million euros in refurbishing the 1927 building, which will eventually house several other museums and is part of the city's drive to become European Culture Capital in 2016. The Automobile Museum takes up 6,000 square metres, with exhibits split into 10 themed groups.
The Belle Epoque section is represented by 12 models including a 1907 Jackson plus a Bugatti, Mercedes, and Packard from the 30s, while the English Tradition area showcases Rolls, Bentley, Jaguar, Aston Martin and more. There is also a group of eccentric cars, including a Nervastella, a hunting car made by Renault in 1930, while anther featuring Alternative Energies includes a vapour-powered Stanley from 1910 and an ultra-modern prototype using hydrogen.
All the vehicles come from a private Portuguese collector, Joao Magalhaes, who wanted somewhere to house his cars where they could be enjoyed by others. In December 2004 he signed a deal with the city allowing it to exhibit the majority of his 120-vehicle collection for a period of 10 years.