Costa del Sol News - 8th October 2010

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Plan for La Línea toll to Gibraltar revised

By David Eade

THERE is still nothing in fine print but the mayor of La Línea last week announced his latest plan for placing a toll on vehicles leaving Gibraltar in order to raise finance for his bankrupt municipality.

However it is now clear that faced with the fact such a toll would break Spanish and EU laws he is backtracking on his initial proposals.

The original plan was to organise the toll as traffic entered Gibraltar. This was hastily changed as it because clear the road network was owned by the State. The tolls were then to be levied as traffic left Gibraltar but while residents of La Línea would not be charged, visitors to Spain or Gibraltar would be, with no decision on whether Gibraltarians would be levied or not.

Mayor Alejandro Sánchez travelled to Brussels to discuss the toll two weeks ago. It appears the news was not good and the new plan would be temporary while the road network was changed. The charge, which would be justified on environmental grounds, would be optional, there would be no restriction on the freedom of movement.

Crucially Sánchez says the town would need the co-operation of the Spanish and Gibraltarian government's to implement. As that clearly would not be forthcoming it is difficult to see where the plan goes from here once it is announced in full. Junta de Andalucia councillor Luis Pizarro said the government would not participate, as it is illegal as had been confirmed by the Algeciras court.

In addition he added: "the situation of the citizens of La Línea is not their fault nor is it that of the Gibraltarians but of the successive administrations at the town hall."

Málaga loses chance for Europe's cultural title

City's bid fails to make shortlist of Spanish cities vying for the distinction

By Dave Jamieson

MÁLAGA will not be a European cultural capital in 2016.  For six years, the city has been working towards securing the title in a wide-ranging campaign directed by Mayor Francisco de la Torre.

A team from Málaga was in Madrid last week to present their case to the Spanish jury of 13 who will announce next summer which of the country's 16 cities vying for the title has won.  This month's exercise was to draw up a shortlist from which Málaga was finally excluded.

The jury's decision was announced on Thursday and was greeted with a mixture of disbelief and disappointment by the Málaga delegation.  However, Sr de la Torre managed to be upbeat about the future.  "Being a European culture capital only lasts for a year," he said, "and to be a city committed to culture is forever."  He added that while the events planned for 2016 would now be more difficult to stage because there would be no state or regional grants forthcoming, some would still go ahead.

Andalucía could still win the 2016 prize as Córdoba was named in the shortlist of six cities which go through to the next round.  However, the national deputy of the Partido Popular for Málaga province was critical of Córdoba's continued candidacy, claiming favouritism on the part of the jury.  Celia Villalobos claimed that the jury had been swayed by fact that senior members of the ruling PSOE party, including Prime Minister Zapatero, were supporting Córdoba's bid.

The other five cities still in the running are Burgos, Segovia, San Sebastián, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Zaragoza.  The final decision will be announced in June.

Greg Norman buys Valderrama

The transaction should be finalised in a few weeks at a price of around 35 million euros

By David Eade

SPANISH businessman Jaime Ortiz Patiño has agreed to sell in principal the Soto Properties company to world famous Australian golfer Greg Norman. The company is the owner of the Valderrama golf course and the transaction was announced by Banif, a subsidiary of Grupo Santander.

Valderrama in Sotogrande is rated as one of the best golf courses in Europe. It was constructed in 1974 eleven years after the land was acquired by Patiño.

In 1997 the course hosted the Ryder Cup, the first time the major golfing event was held on mainland Europe.

Sr Patiño is now in his eighties and although still highly active has obviously decided it is time to pass the Valderrama course on. The transaction should be closed in the coming weeks at a price of around 35 million euros - lower than its valuation but in keeping with these times of crisis.

The new owner is The Stripe Group - the company Greg Norman has dedicated to the high end commercial exploitation of the game of golf and tourism throughout the world. Also under this banner is the Dubai World Championship and the Race to Dubai.

A development programme is expected to be announced once the purchase has been finalised.

The Club de Golf Valderrama owned by Patiño's son, Felipe Ortiz, remains in his hands for the next 40 years. The course is hosting the new Andalucía Valderrama Masters in conjunction with the Andalucía government.


Vaccination campaign launches with new jab that protects against both regular and swine flu

By Oliver McIntyre

THE flu jab campaign for the 2010-11 season launched on Monday with 230,000 doses of the vaccine distributed to health centres throughout Málaga province. 

This year a single jab will protect against two strains of the common flu virus as well as against swine flu (H1N1), said Junta health officials.

Throughout Andalucía, a total of 1.4 million doses of the vaccine have been distributed, at a cost of 8.3 million euros.

The jab campaign is aimed principally at over-65s, even if they are healthy; at people of all ages who are at elevated risk due to existing conditions such as sever respiratory or cardiac problems, cancer or depressed immune systems; and at health professional and others who are in frequent contact with these groups, both for their own protection and to prevent them from transmitting the disease. 

The vaccination is also recommended for pregnant women at any stage of gestation, to protect themselves as well as the future newborn.

To receive the jab, people in the target groups can make an appointment at their health centre or by calling Salud Responde on 902 505 060. 

Junta approves more quarrying in Coín sierra

The project includes measures to reduce visual and environmental impact

By Oliver McIntyre

The Junta claims the material extracted in Coín is unique in Spain

A 70-HECTACRE swath of forest land in the Coín sierra is set to be dug up after the Junta de Andalucía last week approved the extension of an existing dolomite quarry in the zone.

"The [regional] Cabinet has declared the prevalence of mining interest over forest interest in an area of 70 hectares of the La Sierra public mountainside, owned by the municipality of Coín," said the Junta in a statement.

The move will allow El Puntal, "one of the principal dolomite quarries in Spain," to "extend into forested land due to the discovery of new veins and the imminent exhaustion of the existing ones," said the Junta.

The project, submitted by quarry owner Productos Dolomíticos de Málaga, SA (Prodomasa), includes measures aimed at reducing the visual and environment impact of the extraction work, which the Junta said were crucial for its approval. Among these is the establishment of multiple extraction zones separated by areas of forested land, and the performance of restoration work simultaneously with the quarrying operations.

Another road death in the Serranía

The poor state of some local roads has contributed to an increase in accidents

By David Eade

JUST three weeks ago the fifth person in five years to die on a treacherous bend on the A369 Ronda to Algeciras road was killed in an accident at Atajate. The 72-year-old Dutchman, fell from his bike and was struck by a car travelling in the opposite direction.

This week tragedy struck on the MA7401 - the road that links Benaoján with Ronda. The accident happened at 13.25 on Friday when a Ford Focus collided with a motorbike close to the famous Cuevas del Gato. The rider died instantly after being trapped between the car and a wall.

The victim was aged 34 years and was well known in Montejaque where he owned the pub and the official tobacconist shop. The mayors of both Benaoján and the neighbouring village of Montejaque attended the scene with their respective municipal workers being ordered in to clear up the remains of the wreckage.

The MA7401 is a busy road used by residents of both municipalities to travel to and from Ronda. It is in a poor state having suffered badly in last winter's rains, with works to repair subsidence and asphalting due to commence this month.

This further accident has again opened up the debate on the bad condition and unsafe nature of the Serranía road network. During the summer the mayor of Jimera de Líbar lamented on the dangerous state of the road between the village and Atajate with one accident a day and a serious collision occurring on a monthly basis.

The Guardia Civil from Marbella attended the accident scene at Benaoján and will now conduct an enquiry into what happened. According to officers the woman driver of the car was uninjured but suffered a nervous breakdown after the accident.

Spain's smoking law sets 'bad example'

WHO says tobacco industry uses permissive Spanish law as model for other countries to follow

By Oliver McIntyre

SPAIN'S anti-smoking law is too permissive and sets a bad example for other countries studying the creation of their own smoking bans, according to the World Health Organisation.

The manager of the WHO's Tobacco Free Initiative, Armando Peruga, criticised Spain's anti-smoking law in his appearance at the European Respiratory Society's conference in Barcelona last week.

He said Spain's 2006 anti-smoking law - which allows bars and restaurants of less than 100 square metres to decide whether or not to allow smoking and lets larger establishments create separate smoking and non-smoking areas - has been latched onto by the tobacco industry as a tool for lobbying against the creation of stricter bans in other countries.  Big Tobacco holds up the Spanish model as "an example to follow," he said.

The tobacco industry's use of the Spanish example has been effective in softening anti-smoking laws being developed in countries such as Turkey, Croatia, Uruguay and Peru, which were "close to adopting 100 per cent bans" but then opted for partial bans like Spain's, said Sr Peruga.

He called on Spain to immediately approve a complete ban on smoking in all indoor public places, saying the only effective model is a full prohibition with no exceptions. 

Spain hikes tax for highest earners

Government passes 'austerity' budget for 2011

By David Eade

SPAIN presented a tough budget for 2011 on Friday. The highest earners will see their income tax hiked by 1 percentage point for those earning more than 120,000 euros a year - from the current 43 per cent to 44 per cent - and by 2 percentage points on salaries over 175,000 euros, to 45 per cent. This, the socialist government says, will earn it 170 million to 200 million euros in additional tax revenues, explained the economy minister, Elena Salgado.

This increase in taxation will hit around 100,000 people. Other measures will see public workers' salaries frozen in 2011, while the lowest pensions will be raised by 1 per cent.

Many of the measures in the budget merely confirmed cuts that were announced as part of a stringent austerity plan squeezed through parliament in May. Markets welcomed Spain's commitment to the programme and the spread of Spanish bonds against safer German bunds tightened.

Gilles Moec, an economist at Deutsche Bank said: "Simply confirming what was in the pipeline was probably enough. Market sentiment has changed quite a lot; people see the difference between Spain and some of the other peripheral euro zone economies."

Last Wednesday Spain's minority PSOE government secured the backing for the budget of the Basque PNV in return for some concessions over autonomy. Had it not, then premier José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero could have faced a call for early elections if he failed to garner enough support to pass the budget by year-end.

Shoppers can save 1,300 euros a year on groceries Cheapest stores are Alcampo, Carrefour, Día and Mercadona, says study

By Oliver McIntyre

SHOPPERS can save more than 1,300 euros a year on their grocery bill depending on which store they shop in, according to a new study.

The annual grocery prices report by the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU) shows that in some cities the possible savings are even greater, such as in Madrid, where the price gap between the cheapest and most expensive stores is so vast that shoppers could pay 3,200 euros less by buying at the bargain outlets. 

The study, carried out in June, compared a total of 971 supermarkets in 53 cities, comparing the prices for two different types of purchases: one shopping cart full of typical name-brand food and toiletries, and another cart with cheaper options such as store label or other bargain brands. 

For name-brand products the cheapest store on average nationwide was Alcampo, though in some cities regional stores came in cheaper, such as in Granada and Jaén, where Supermercados Dani was the least expensive.  Following Alcampo, at about eight per cent more expensive, were Carrefour, Día and Mercadona. 

The most expensive national chain was El Corte Inglés, with nearly 25 per cent higher prices than low-cost leader Alcampo.  However, some regional chains were even more expensive, such the posh Sánchez Romero markets in Madrid.

For bargain-brand items, Lidl came in the cheapest, followed by Alcampo, Carrefour and Aldi.  As with the name-brand products, El Corte Inglés was the most expensive of the national chains.