News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Questions over timeline for Guadalhorce hospital
Junta says there is no new delay but PP says funding is insufficient to meet deadlines
By Oliver McIntyre
JUNTA de Andalucía officials have stated that there is no new delay to the Guadalhorce Valley hospital, as had been suggested in a statement last week by Junta's health chief, María Jesús Montero. However, the Partido Popular says it does not believe the Junta will meet the completion timeline.
Speaking in the regional parliament's health commission last week, Sra Montero stated that the hospital would not be completed and brought into service until the first half of 2013. The statement came just a week after her department's delegate in Málaga, María Antigua Escalera, had visited the construction site along with area mayors and said that all was on track for the hospital to be ready in the first half of 2012.
Sra Montero's statement was taken as a shocking turnaround, and cries of protest quickly came from the Guadalhorce valley, which has been anxiously awaiting the hospital for years.
However, the following day the Junta's Health Department confirmed that Sra Montero had simply misspoken, saying 2013 when she meant 2012.
However, the provincial president of the Partido Popular, Elías Bendodo, earlier this week accused the Junta of "lying" when it says the hospital will be ready in 2012. "We will have to keep waiting until 2013, at least," he said, noting that the cost to build and equip the hospital is 27 million euros, while "this year there are just two million euros budgeted for the project."
Snow falls ahead of ski season launch
Sierra Nevada slopes set to open this Saturday
By Dave Jamieson
WINTER arrived in Granada this week as the Sierra Nevada prepared for the opening of the new ski season. However, two people were seriously injured in falls in the area on Sunday.
A stretch of the A4015 road was blocked by snow on Monday while wheel chains were required to negotiate the A395 at Monachil. On Sunday night, the slopes of Sierra Nevada received falls of three centimetres on Pradollano and up to 10 centimetres on Borreguiles. The winter weather arrived as the ski resort prepared to open for the new season this Saturday.
Around 70 machines began piling artificial snow onto the mountains last week in preparation for the first influx of skiers who will find that the cost of renting equipment at the resort has been reduced from 22 to 18 euros this year. A new area, Sulayr Park, has been established to cater for snowboarding enthusiasts and will host the World Junior Snowboarding Championships in 2012. The Borreguiles area has been made safer for novice skiers while the resort has WiFi connections to the internet available.
The Sierra Nevada resort is expected to attract 800,000 visitors this winter and has over 3,600 parking places available at three sites. It is estimated to support 6,000 indirect jobs.
Alert over spike in online fraud during the holiday period
By Dave Jamieson
THERE is probably no worse time to become a victim of crime than at Christmas and with the big day just four weeks away, consumers are being warned to be vigilant.
While in recent years bogus lottery-winning letters and other fake giveaway scams have been reported, one of the main warnings this year highlights online fraud. One of the biggest internet security firms last week issued warnings on a dozen ways the unwary may be caught out.
The 12 Scams of Christmas published by McAfee Labs begins with the fraud which offers one of the season's hottest presents free of charge by simply supplying a credit card number. Naturally, the promised Apple iPad never arrives and the fraudster has the sender's details. Similarly, bargain holiday rental offers which require a deposit to be paid by card should be avoided, says McAfee.
Text messages which appear to be from friends or family pleading for money to help in a financial crisis should be treated with caution, while messages from a bank or retailer asking for confirmation of card details should be deleted; reputable organisations never ask for such information electronically. In addition, spam emails soliciting Christmas donations to charities should be ignored and the charity's own website consulted instead.
‘Goldfinger' suspects must deposit 60 million euros
Sean Connery among those ordered to pay the security deposit against possible civil liabilities
By David Eade
THE judge in the ‘Goldfinger' case has ordered actor Sean Connery, his wife and more than a dozen other people named in the case to pay over a total of 60 million euros to court. The money is required ahead of the case being tried, as a security deposit against any civil liability that may result if they are found guilty.
The order was issued last week and all those involved must make the payments within 10 days or have their assets embargoed. If any of those involved claim they are insolvent then their assets will be investigated by the judicial police and tax authority to see if they have concealed any of their worth. It is likely both these agencies have already reviewed the situation of all those implicated in the case.
Two of those involved are the former mayor of Marbella, Julián Muñoz, and the former director of town planning, Juan Antonio Roca. Both have already had their assets embargoed in other major court cases such as the Malaya town hall corruption trial.
Sean Connery was ordered to appear before the court on October 15 but instead sent a letter citing reasons of his age, health and short notice for not attending. It is understood that in the same letter he and his wife agreed to be questioned by a ‘commission rogatoria'. This would see a legal representative of the court question them, probably in the US.
The investigation centres on the former beachfront home of the Connerys in Marbella, called El Malibú. which, after the Connerys sold it, was turned into a luxury apartment complex.
Illegal homeowners hoodwinked
Builders drew up title deeds which exempted them from blame
By Nuria Pérez
NEARLY 50 homeowners from the Valle del Sol in Murcia met last Friday to form an association to help legalise their homes.
A never-ending list of abuses - including an attack by a builder - were outlined during the meeting.
Some attendants said they had paid for and moved into their homes, only to find later that they were legally considered the builders of the properties.
The title deed included the land and, according to the document, the builder was ‘hired' to complete the property, which exempted him from any responsibility.
Many of them paid their builder 900 euros for a construction licence they never managed to see; and others were asked to pay a 16,000-euro fine in cash in exchange for infrastructure work which was never completed.
"A man from the council came in a van in 2003 and said the properties were illegal, we would be fined but the building could go on, as the properties could be legalised within five years," several residents said.
The warning became partially true: 14 people have received fines ranging from 12,541 euros to 41,400 euros - but their homes are still illegal.
Another property owner named G.P.J was fined 93,425 euros last September. Three others said they face embargos.
The residents were told in 2006 that Murcia city council was working on a special plan to legalise the Valle del Sol.
This year they were told the same story and they claim nothing has been done.
CDSN contacted Murcia town planning department and a spokeswoman admitted 500 buildings - including homes, warehouses and farm premises - had been built in the valley since 1970.
"A special plan for the valley was commissioned to a private company after the town plan (PGOU) got the go-ahead in 2001," said the spokeswoman.
Thomas Cook backs down to Spanish hotels
British tour operator scraps its five per cent cut in contract payments
By Tom Cain
BRITISH tour operator Thomas Cook has backed down on its decision to apply a five per cent cut to the outstanding bills it has with Spanish hotel groups after concerted action by the hotels and the national tourism board forced the company to change its mind.
The decision by Thomas Cook was reached on Tuesday at a meeting in London between tourism chiefs from Valencia and the Balearic and Canary Islands along with hotel association presidents such as Antonio Mayor (Hosbec) and Juan Molas (Cehat), and the director general of Thomas Cook, Manny Fontela-Novoa.
The company faced losing its ties with the Spanish Costas after the hotel sector unanimously agreed to freeze it out and seek alternative ways of attracting British tourists to local resorts.
It also faced a lengthy and expensive legal battle after the matter was taken to the EU's competition tribunal in October.
The decision by Thomas Cook to drop the imposition of a five per cent cut has been met with relief by the tourism sector and it has also led to the tour operator promising to increase the number of hotel spaces it books by between five and 10 per cent in the coming years.
Company directors have apologised for the upset caused over the erroneous decision and have publicly stated that in the future they would seek to negotiate with the hotels over any planned cutbacks rather than just impose them.
Hosbec president Antonio Mayor said that the negotiations were very intense and difficult adding that he was very satisfied with the way they turned out. He went on to say that the decision by Thomas Cook came as a surprise but it was an intelligent one given what was at stake. Sr Mayor also said that a unified tourism sector was much stronger and he hoped that in the coming years it would continue to grow and remain competitive in the face of other destinations.
Spain 'scrooged' as crisis hits Christmas spending
By Oliver McIntyre
EVEN Christmas can't escape the economic crisis - at least in Spain. While Christmas spending Europe-wide will be slightly up this year compared to last, Spaniards are expected to cut their holiday expenditures by 11 per cent, according to an annual study by consultants Deloitte.
Spanish households will spend an average of 655 euros on gifts, food and entertainment, compared to 735 euros last Christmas, says the study. They plan to buy presents that are practical as well as economical, and may reduce the number of people on their gift list. However, the belt-tightening will be more focused on food and entertainment expenses - down 16 per cent and 10 per cent, respectively - than on gift spending, which will drop eight per cent to 380 euros (compared to 415 euros last year).
The impact of the crisis on Christmas spending in Spain is even more evident when this year's projections are compared to the figures from 2007, at the end of the boom years. That year the average household spent an estimated 951 euros on gifts, food and entertainment during the holidays - 45 per cent more than this year's figure of 655 euros.