News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Political row over Alhaurín work accident
Town hall to be fined over roof collaps that injured seven technical college students
By Oliver McIntyre
POLITICAL accusations flew in Alhaurín el Grande last week after it was reported that the town hall is to be fined for the accident earlier this year in which seven students from the municipal Fahala technical college were injured when the roof of an old building collapsed while they were working inside.
On February 18 the students were preparing the site for restoration as part of their work training programme when the roof caved in. One 17-year-old student was seriously injured and was airlifted to hospital in Málaga.
It was revealed last week that the Junta de Andalucía's labour authorities plan to fine the town hall nearly 65,000 euros, for infractions including a lack of a safety plan for the project and illegally allowing minors to work on scaffolding.
Labour inspectors determined the accident occurred due to one of the walls breaking, causing the roof to collapse. When the falling roof hit the second-story floor of the old house, part of that floor also collapsed down into the ground floor.
Costa motorists pay Spain's highest petrol prices
A tank of petrol costs fives euros more than at beginning of the year
By Dave Jamieson
FOLLOWING the increase in IVA and the introduction of a new regional tax, motorists in Málaga province are now paying more for fuel than drivers anywhere else in Spain. Data for August from the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce shows that a litre of 95-octane petrol cost 1.182 euros in the province, compared with the national average of 1.165 euros. Diesel in Málaga is also more expensive than elsewhere in Spain, at 1.108 euros a litre in August, two cents above the national average. In January, a litre of diesel here was just 0.992 euros.
The price rise is as a result of the new rate of IVA (VAT equivalent), which rose from 16 to 18 per cent on July 1, plus the so-called "pennies for health" tax introduced by the Junta de Andalucía on July 10. This added 2.4 cents to the price of every litre of petrol, diesel and other fuels sold across the region, to raise money for the public health service.
Compared with prices in June, it now costs two euros more to fill a car with a 50 litre petrol tank. At the beginning of the year, 95-octane petrol was nine cents cheaper than it is now, meaning the cost of filling the same tank rose by nearly five euros in eight months.
However, while Málaga motorists are paying more than those elsewhere in the country, it is perhaps comforting to note that petrol prices in Spain are still amongst the cheapest in the EU.
Foreign buyers help re-spark Costa home sales
August's 2,359 home sales was the best monthly figure since May 2008 but experts warn that the road to recovery will be long
By Oliver McIntyre
A RETURN of foreign buyers, in particular Germans, has helped contribute to an uptick in Costa home sales that's injecting a bit of long-missing optimism in the property sector.
While nobody is popping any champagne just yet, data released last week by the National Statistics Institute (INE) shows that home sales in Málaga jumped by 25.6 per cent in August compared to July, and by 29.5 per cent compared to August of last year.
In fact, the 2,359 home sales in the province during August was the best monthly figure since May 2008, when 2,745 sales were recorded.
Developers and other experts in the sector hailed the figures as good news but cautioned that the road to recovery will be long and will depend on various factors including prices, access to financing and a reduction in the existing stock of some 22,000 unsold flats in the province.
José Prado, president of the Málaga Builders and Developers Association (ACP), highlighted the fact that in the first half of this year 1,814 homes have been sold to foreign buyers, up 20 per cent from the same period last year. He attributed the resurgence mainly to the German and Dutch markets, while British and Irish buyers have yet to return in force.
Brit beats the DVLA
‘Clear evidence' needed to impound Spanish-registered cars visiting the UK
By Dave Jones
THE DVLA has been forced to ‘refresh' guidelines after a Costa resident had his Spanish car impounded while visiting the UK.
Grandfather Peter West said his firm stance when faced with the ‘over-zealous' police action has been vindicated.
Mr West was featured CDSN in April last year after his vehicle was seized by Northamptonshire police during Operation Andover - a crackdown on foreign cars not been registered with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).
He explained his car had been impounded after being in England for just 67 days on two separate occasions - from June 19 to July 8 in 2008 and from February 9 to March 27 in 2009 when he returned for the birth of his first grandchild.
He refused to pay the £420-fine Northamptonshire Police had demanded, arguing they were placing a new interpretation on a 30-year-old law.
His vehicle was held for four days until he was able to produce a Christmas parking receipt from Alicante airport proving he had returned to Spain between the two visiting periods.
At the time a spokeswoman for Northamptonshire police stated Mr West had not been able to prove that his car was in the UK for less than six months in a 12-month period and was returned ‘as a goodwill gesture'.
Following the rumpus, Mr West made an official complaint to the European Commission.
A letter sent to Mr West from the EU's indirect taxation and administration department two weeks ago reveals his action has prompted a response.
"The UK authorities have informed the Commission services that the operational guidelines issued to the DVLA's enforcement partners have been refreshed to re-iterate that direct enforcement action should be carried out only where clear evidence is present that a vehicle is in breach of Directive 83/182/EEC," states the letter.
A spokesman for the DVLA told CBNews this week: "Our operational guidelines make it clear that direct enforcement action should only be carried out only where clear evidence is present that a vehicle is in breach of Directive 83/182.
"If a vehicle remains for more than six months in any 12-month period then the vehicle must comply with the UK's registration and tax requirements."
Mr West told CBNews this week : "I found out that other visitors from Europe, who had a limited understanding of English, had been caught in this trap.
"I therefore decided that I needed to follow this up to prevent other innocent expatriates and European visitors from being caught."
He said that letters to Northamptonshire police and the DVLA were met with ‘a barrage of misrepresentation and evasion', leading him to take his case to the European Commission.
"This has been very difficult for me," he said.
"Watching your car being loaded onto a pick-up truck by a policeman is a traumatic experience.
"I have not driven back since my car was taken, which means I have spent much less time with my family than I would have liked.
"On this occasion I am happy that I have been able to strike a blow for the man in the street and especially, for law-abiding expatriates who want to visit their families a couple of times a year.
"All that remains is for the Northamptonshire Police and the DVLA to apologise. But I shall not be holding my breath."
Torrox tunnel trap
The laser-guided system will catch speeding vehicles on camera
By Dave Jamieson
A NEW radar speed trap will shortly be operating in the Torrox tunnel on the A7 autovía.
Two fixed cameras at the entrance and exit to the tunnel will be able to give an accurate calculation of the average speed of a vehicle as it passes through the 1.152 kilometres of motorway.
The system works 24 hours a day using laser beams which are invisible to the human eye.
Tráfico says that the priority is road safety and road tunnels present particular dangers to drivers, as well as presenting difficulties to the rescue services in the event of an accident.
However, initially at least, motorists found to have exceeded the speed limit through the Torrox tunnel will not be fined but will receive a warning letter.
TrAfico to charge for information and help calls
Officials say new 011 line will provide better service to road users
By David Eade
DRIVERS phoning for roadside assistance or for information about roads and traffic will now have to pay for the call.
In the past, calls to the traffic authority for help or information about traffic problems have been free. However, the DGT is now launching a new 011 hotline that will charge callers the same tariff as if they were making a national call.
The DGT has justified the move by saying it will allow it to offer a better service to road users. The number is also easier to remember for users, say officials.
Currently those wanting road information or assistance call 900 123 505. Within the next four months that will change to 011. The move has been approved by the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce.
The 011 line will be available throughout the country and will provide information regarding current traffic conditions, accidents or other incidents and road closures or restrictions.
Travel fears as air controllers' conflict resurges
The controllers say management has reneged on promises
By Dave Jamieson
FLYING conditions are far from fine and clear in the continuing negotiations between Spain's airports operator AENA and its air traffic controllers. Last week, the controllers' union USCA walked away from the table, accusing AENA of reneging on promises it made to avert a strike of controllers in the summer - raising new fears of potential action by the workers.
In August, the two sides agreed to meet for talks following a temporary agreement which lifted the threat of stoppages after 98 per cent of USCA members had voted for strike action. However, the union announced last Thursday that it had ended negotiations and called the meeting with AENA, "a waste of time." It claimed that the undertakings in the previous minimum deal agreed on August 13 have not been met by AENA. In particular, it pointed out that 47 new controllers should have begun training on October 1 but that this did not happen.
In response, AENA said there was no need for the union to pull out of talks as it had met the conditions agreed in August, alleging that many controllers were absent from work as part of an unofficial protest. With regard to new controllers, it said their employment was not part of the minimum deal agreed in August, but despite that, it would be taking on the new staff.
At the weekend, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) urged AENA and the controllers to take all measures possible to avoid strike action and called on USCA to accept AENA's offer to enter into an arbitration process to resolve their differences.
Spanish navy seeks sunken shipwrecks
Officials have launched the 'treasure hunt' to avoid another Odyssey fiasco
By David Eade
THE Spanish navy has launched a race to beat treasure seekers to the country's valuable sunken shipwrecks.
A court case continues to drag on in the US between the underwater exploration company Odyssey and the Spanish government over who owns the rights to the 'Black Swan'. This is the treasure laden wreck lying off Spain's coast from which Odyssey raised $500 million in gold and silver coins then flew the booty to the US from Gibraltar.
The ship, while code-named the Black Swan, is believed to be the Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, which was sunk by the English navy south-west of Portugal in 1804, while it was sailing back from South America with more than 200 people on board.
To ensure no repeat of the Black Swan fiasco, the Spanish navy has been searching for sunken wrecks off its coast and has found about 100 possible sites. It is a campaign to protect what Spain sees as its historical heritage before what Madrid deems as modern day pirates get there first.
The ministry of culture revealed that on September 8 the operation started in the waters off Cádiz using two minesweepers and other vessels.
According to El País, so far 15 sites have been studied and the only thing of value that has turned up is an 18th-century anchor.
Spain's defence and culture ministers, Carme Chacón and Ángeles González-Sinde, went on one of the minesweepers taking part in the search last week to show the seriousness of their intent.
Sra Chacón told the media: "Where some see loot, we see our history. Where some look for gold, we find our heritage. Where others would seek to pillage, our calling is to conserve.