News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Outcry over Costa oil and gas prospecting plans
Environmentalists accuse government ‘blindness' in supporting exploration
By David Eade
THE environmental group Coordinadora Verde de Andalucía has blasted the "blindness" of the Spanish government and says it will oppose the prospecting for gas and oil off the Andalucía coast.
It has called on the regional government to defend the interests of the people of Andalucía, which it says are ignored by the energy companies, and has requested that prospecting of the region's coastline be stopped.
The CVA has harshly criticised the authorization conceded by the Spanish government to the Canadian company CNWL Oil España for the project named ‘Chinook A-D' to search for gas and oil deposits in the Mar de Alborán.
The search will be over a massive 330,000 hectares off the coast of Málaga, Granada and Almería provinces. In addition authorization has been given for the zones named ‘Tesorillo' and ‘Ruedalabola' off Cádiz and in the marine subsoil.
The Ministry of the Environment is also in the final phase of considering the application from Repsol for the project named ‘Siroco', which would see the search for gas off the coast of Fuengirola and Mijas. The environmental impact study is now with the ministry.
The Green lobby argues that the prospecting will damage the tourism sector as well as the Andalucía fishing industry. In addition it will damage the environment, as has been demonstrated in the various catastrophes around the world, says the group. The environmentalists say they cannot comprehend the government's argument that the prospecting is in "the strategic and economic interest." "Of whom?" they ask.
Ronda to San Pedro motorway open for comment
Opposition parties continue to say scheme is a campaign ploy
By David Eade
THE plans for a toll motorway between Ronda and the Costa del Sol have gone on public display, though opposition parties continue to doubt that project is serious.
The Partido Popular and Izquierda Unida both believe the plans to for the toll motorway are nothing more than an electoral bribe.
The project was first announced before the last Spanish general election in 2008 and now municipal elections are this May, with another national and regional voting round on the horizon next year. Hence, both the PP and IU view with scepticism the announcement that the plans for the project are now open for inspection.
The toll highway was by now meant to be under construction and not still on the drawing board. Nonetheless Ronda's councillor for public works, María José Martin de Haro, has announced the project can be viewed by the public for a month from January 4.
KNOCK ‘EM DOWN
The Andalucía High Court orders Marbella to carry out demolitions
By David Eade
BAD NEWS for Marbella residents, including Britons and other foreigners, who are living in illegal homes that the courts have ordered to be demolished.Despite the approval of the new local development plan (PGOU) the Andalucía High Court (TSJA) insists they must still come down.
Under the new PGOU thousands of properties that were deemed illegal under the planning law have been saved by the developer being able to pay compensation in money and land to the town hall.
However this did not cover those developments with demolition orders hanging over them. Their fate still lies with the courts and the TSJA shows no signs of backing down.
The town hall has taken the view that even these properties scheduled for demolition could be saved under its planning document as it had been approved by the regional government.
However the TSJA has dismissed this stance saying the rule of law as laid down by the court is what holds sway and not the wishes of elected politicians. The judges also take the view that the Andalucía development plan (LOUA) overrides the local PGOU.
Marbella's dunes are in danger
Existing protection orders still only cover one third of sand dunes in the area
By David Eade
IN 2010 the Costa del Sol News reported on a number of cases in which the dunes in Marbella was under threat. Campaigns to save them had been launched and protection orders were placed on certain zones.
In all there are 4,800 metres of dunes along the Marbella coastline. Of that number just 1,600 metres have been protected as a natural monument. They are the spaces between Cabopino and Artola and at Las Adelfas. Hence a third of the dunes have official protection but that leaves two thirds under serious threat.
Javier de Luis is a member of Ecologistas en Acción and an independent councillor on Marbella council. He said: "They all share the same environmental values. Their fauna and their rich diversity of plants on the same dune systems."
De Luis is calling for the entire dune zone to be protected under an Andalucía decree dating back to 1999. He says it is necessary for the town hall to produce a report on these natural spaces and to send it to the regional government and then the dunes can be declared a national monument.
Madrid rejects ETA ceasefire
Government says only a definitive and irreversible end to violence is acceptable
By David Eade
THE Basque terrorist group ETA announced a permanent ceasefire in its fight for independence from Spain on Monday but the move was swiftly rejected by the Spanish government.
In a media video statement ETA said the truce would be "internationally verifiable" but Madrid countered by saying the message contained nothing new.
Speaking just hours after the statement was released, Spain's interior minister and new strongman in the Zapatero government, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, pointed out that ETA had failed to declare a definitive and irreversible end to violence. He said the statement was not bad news but was not what the country had been hoping for, adding ETA is "as arrogant as ever."
Police search Estepona town hall for invoices
The Astapa investigation, launched in 2007, is reaching its final phase
By David Eade
THE Astapa investigation into town planning corruption at Estepona town hall is finally reaching its final phase, according to informed sources. The National Police have been at the town hall looking for invoices that can be linked to the case and the many accused, including the former mayor, Antonio Barrientos.
The specialist officers from the economic and fiscal crime squad were ordered to the municipal offices by the investigating judge, Jesús Torres. They sought out invoices for services to the town hall and its governing parties. It is understood that this line of enquiry started last August.
The examination is said to be slow and painstaking. In addition, the documents could lead to others in different locations which in turn could result in new investigations. Indeed it is being suggested that as a result of this exercise additional people may be detained or questioned.
Greens march for Nerja sewage plant
Party says continued delays pose a health risk and it will take the case to the EU
By Dave Jamieson
AHEAD of a demonstration this weekend, the Green Party in Nerja has launched a scathing attack on all parties involved in the long saga of the town's sewage treatment plant. The group says it intends to bring the situation to the attention of the European parliament.
Politicians of every colour as well as all administrations of Nerja town hall, and of regional and central government, came under attack by the Greens for allowing the town to remain without a sewage plant after many years of argument and debate. The risk the current situation poses to residents and bathers has, they say, persuaded them to raise the issue with the Green Party in the EU. Marine species, it adds, are also under threat by the current need to deposit the town's sewage directly into the sea.
Last month, the Junta de Andalucía referred plans for the water plant to the Environment Ministry for an environmental impact study. It was the second time the project has reached this stage, after being earlier rejected by Madrid because of a proposed undersea pipeline to carry wastewater from the west of the municipality near to the site of the plant. The revised plan now envisages an overland route for the pipe. A favourable response from the ministry would mean the project could be licensed and work started.
Junta postpones taxes on plastic bags and water
The new taxes won't take effect until May 1
By Oliver McIntyre
THE JUNTA de Andalucía last week decided to postpone the new taxes on water and on unrecyclable plastic bags that were scheduled to come into effect on January 1. Both taxes have been put off until May 1.
Regional government spokesperson Mar Moreno said the move was not a "rectification" of the tax policies but simply a postponement agreed by the regional Cabinet in response to requests from various sectors.
In the case of the plastic bag tax, Sra Moreno said the Junta had heeded calls by retailers for a moratorium on its application until after the Christmas and winter sales season. The tax - which consists of a five-cent charge per bag in 2011, rising to 10 cents in 2012 - is billed as an environmental measure aimed at reducing the use of non-recyclable bags, but is also expected to generate some 45 million euros for the Junta's coffers and was approved in July as part of a package of deficit-slashing fiscal measures.
On the water tax - which is aimed at raising money for water and sewage infrastructure - the Junta says the postponement responds to widespread complaints by town halls, especially those ruled by the Partido Popular, which has threatened legal action against the tax. The so-called ‘water canon' is a two-prong charge including a flat one-euro per month for all users plus a sliding per-use charge depending on the level of consumption. The per-use charge is to be implemented progressively over the next five years.
New year rings in rate hikes and benefit cuts
AVE and Cercanías trains, postage stamps and toll roads all more expensive now
By Oliver McIntyre
REVELLERS throughout Spain partied into the wee hours on New Year's Eve, but woke up on January 1 to the headache of a slew of increased prices and reduced benefits as 2011 got underway.
In addition to the controversial electricity rate hike of nearly 10 per cent and the 3.87 per cent increase for gas, a range of other goods and services saw price jumps on January 1 or are expected to rise in coming months.
Butane saw a 3.13 per cent New Year price hike to 13.19 euros a bottle. Transport prices also rose, with a 3.1 per cent increase for Cercanías train lines and a 4.8 per cent jump on AVE high-speed trains, while state-run toll roads saw an average 1.44 per cent price hike. And drivers are paying more for a fill-up as petrol prices rang in the new year some 13 per cent higher than at the beginning of 2010, while diesel was up 18 per cent.
Mailing a letter got more expensive on January 1, with the cost of domestic post up one cent to 35 cents (an increase of 2.9 per cent) and the price for a letter to other EU countries also up one cent, to 65 cents (up 1.6 per cent).
Meanwhile, the new year sees the disappearance of some benefits and tax breaks. The 2,500-euro ‘baby cheque' for the birth or adoption of a child has been axed, while the 426-euro emergency stipend for long-time unemployed workers whose jobless benefits have run out is to be scrapped as of February 15.
The wealthy are to see an income tax increase in 2011, while many middle-class home buyers will be stung by the removal of house-purchase tax deductions for people who earn more than 24,000 euros a year. However, the Bank of Spain last week said it expects that a continued decline in house prices this year will offset the loss of that tax break for buyers.
Police appeal for ‘most wanted' stolen artworks
Masterpieces by Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse and others featured on police YouTube video
By Oliver McIntyre
THE NATIONAL Police have taken to YouTube in their effort to track down ‘most wanted' artworks that were stolen and have never been recovered. Included in the online video are masterpieces that were stolen some 20 years ago from the Palacio Real in Madrid as well as pieces stolen as recently as last year from museums in Paris and Egypt.
Among the works highlighted by police are paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Rembrandt, Velázquez, Van Gogh, Cézanne and Sorolla.
Two of the most wanted are Pastoral by Matisse and Le Pigeon Aux Petits-Pois (The Pigeon With The Peas) by Picasso, both stolen during a raid on the Paris Museum of Modern Art in May of last year. Others include a Van Gogh still life of flowers in a vase, stolen last year from a museum in Giza, Egypt, and his View of the Sea at Scheveningen, stolen in 2002 from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam.
Officials say that while it is difficult to establish the exact worth of artworks, the missing paintings are worth an "astronomical" sum. Just one of the works, Auvers Sur Oise by Cézanne, is valued at 4.8 million euros. It was stolen from Oxford's Ashmolean Museum in 2000.
The National Police's special Historic Heritage Brigade was created 25 years ago specifically to tackle crimes involving art and other cultural or historical items. It keeps a database, called Dulcinea, with a listing of over 8,000 stolen artworks, archaeological artefacts and other historic items, which can be accessed directly from any National Police patrol car. The video featuring the ‘most wanted' paintings can be viewed at www.youtube.com/policia.
A green anniversary for Correos
Environmental scheme has seen 50,000 trees planted throughout the country
By Oliver McIntyre
OFFICIALS gathered in Benalmádena last week to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Correos' tree-planting scheme, which was launched in the town in 2000 and has since seen more than 50,000 trees planted across Spain.
The Línea Verde programme, created by Correos in collaboration with the Bosques de la Tierra foundation, was conceived as a way to raise public awareness while at the same time raising money for planting trees. Encouraging customers to purchase its line of ‘green' envelopes and boxes made from recycled materials, Correos put part of the profits toward reforestation projects.
Over the last 10 years the scheme has raised 195,000 euros, which has allowed the reforestation of a total of 914,000 square metres in six sites around the country, according to officials.
In Benalmádena - which was the first town where plantings were carried out - some 2,800 saplings and 55 larger trees were planted on 52,000 square metres at the town's El Guardabosques Antonio Morales Bordas rustic park, near the Arroyo de la Miel cemetery.
The same park was the site of last week's anniversary ceremony, which included the planting of two new trees to mark the occasion. On hand were not only the town's mayor, Enrique Moya, along with officials from Correos and Bosques de la Tierra, but also several municipal workers who participated in the original tree planting project a decade ago.
Roca's old HQ handed to regional government
Junta accepts the former planning office as payment of part of Marbella's debt
By David Eade
MARBELLA'S former town planning offices on Avenida Ricardo Soriano are to be handed over to the regional government. The building was the HQ of the former director of town planning, Juan Antonio Roca, the alleged mastermind behind the Malaya corruption case at the town hall. He is now in the dock in the largest trial of its kind in Spanish history and it is likely that if he did organise illicit deals these offices are where he did it from.
The Andalucía authority is accepting ownership of the property to pay off five per cent of the municipality's debt. The building covers 1,000 square metres at ground level with another 700 square feet below ground. It has been valued at 5.3 million euros by Tinsa, a property appraiser. Marbella currently owes the regional government 106 million euros.
Marbella was given a loan by the Andalucía government of 100 million euros in 2006 when the corporation was dissolved after the Malaya case broke. This resulted in the arrest of the mayor Marisol Yagüe, her deputies and many members of the administration. The commission that ran Marbella's affairs used 97 million of the 100 million euros made available to it, but to that has to be added interest charges.
At the start of 2010 the Partido Popular administration started repayments to the regional government. In addition to the 5.3 million euros from the planning building, another 4.8 euros of debt is also being paid over.