Costa del Sol News - 18th February 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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The Costa del Sol weekly newspaper, on sale at newsagents.

Costa misses out on home sales increase

National year-end figures show a 6.8 per cent increase in property sales

By Oliver McIntyre

THE SPANISH real estate market has begun to show signs of life, with year-end figures showing a 6.8 per cent increase in home sales, but the Costa del Sol is lagging behind. In Málaga province the number of sales dropped by 9.1 per cent in 2010 compared to 2009, according to the figures released last week by the National Statistics Institute (INE).

However, while sales continued to decline on the Costa last year, the drop was less severe than in the previous two years; in 2008 sales plummeted by 32 per cent and 2009 by 19 per cent.

The 21,165 homes sold in the province in 2010 represent almost exactly half the figure from 2007, just before the real estate bubble burst.

Despite showing less recovery than the rest of the country, in absolute terms Málaga continues to be one of the provinces with the highest number of sales. It had the highest figure of any province in Andalucía and was behind only Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Alicante nationwide.

The failure of the Costa to join in the increase in sales seen elsewhere in the country may be at least in part due to foreign buyers remaining spooked by the illegal-homes scandals that have rocked the region. José Antonio Pérez, the vice-chancellor of the Instituto de Práctica Empresarial, a Málaga business school focused on the real estate industry, says officials in Andalucía have done an inadequate job of transmitting a message of legal security. "Investors, especially foreigners, demand absolute transparency after all that has happed on the Costa," he said.

Nerja asks for deal on million-euro debt

Mayor wants government to pay for expropriation of land for sewage plant

By Dave Jamieson

NERJA'S mayor has asked the Environment Ministry to help pay off a debt of almost a million euros.  José Alberto Armijo says it should come from the money the government will save on constructing the town's future sewage treatment plant as a result of Nerja's upgraded infrastructure.

In April last year, an upper Andalucía court ordered Nerja town hall to pay indemnification in respect of land compulsorily purchased to build the new plant.  The finding stated that the land was wrongly classified as rustic, whereas Nerja's local development plan listed it as suitable for urbanisation and therefore of greater value.

The 7,600 square metres in question form part of the 30,000-square-metre site earmarked for the plant.  Nine years ago, Nerja town hall paid 12.02 euros per square metre for it, whereas land apt for urbanisation should have attracted 83 euros per square metre.  As a result, Nerja was ordered to pay the plot's previous owners, Maravillas del Mar S.A., the difference of 630,304.06 euros plus interest.

BenalmÁdena marina expansion refloated

By Oliver McIntyre

AFTER nearly 10 years of planning and preparation, the long-stalled project to enlarge the Benalmádena marina appears back on track to become a reality.

The town's mayor, Enrique Moya, came away "very satisfied" from a meeting last week with officials from the Andalucía port authority (APPA) and the Junta's Public Works Department. "We finally feel like the end of this long process is arriving," he said.

One of the main advances at the meeting was an agreement that the original environmental impact study, which was approved by the Junta in 2002 but expired in 2006, will be reviewed and updated rather than having to perform a completely new one. Once the Junta's Environment Department signs off on it, all that will remain are some technical meetings with officials in Sevilla, said the mayor. "It is my hope that after summer we will be able to put the project out to tender and launch construction," he said.

The project entails a major expansion of the marina, nearly doubling the number of moorages from the current 1,100 to more than 2,000, resulting in the largest leisure port in Andalucía. It also includes the creation of 30,000 square metres of new commercial space at the marina. The estimated 70 to 80 million-euro cost will be financed by private investors in exchange for the concession to operate the facility.

Once work starts, the completion timeline is estimated at 24 to 30 months.

Cut off for 20 years

Casares councillor promises action

By David Eade

I START this report with the words "once upon a time". It is no fairy tale but a horror story for a Belgian man, who wishes to be known only as TVP, who moved to a rural zone of Casares some 30 years ago and ten years later, sold adjoining land to another owner.

As is common in rural areas the access to the Belgian's home was along a via pecuaria, a public livestock path or right of way. The new property owner fenced off the Monte del Duque land and changed the route of the via pecuaria, so that it went to his entrance leaving the Belgian cut off from the world.

Needless to say the Belgian went to court, but his lawyer was elderly and when he died the case was filed. Luckily for TVP he has a good friend in James Laderman who has taken up the fight on his behalf.

The history of this case is so lengthy that there isn't sufficient space in this newspaper to detail all the correspondence over the years.

So we wind forward to this January. James told the CDSN: "I finally got a meeting in Málaga at the regional government's environment delegation on January 19 but a day before I get a call telling me that the technician who is revising the case was ill."

He then wrote to the Junta de Andalucia in Sevilla and this seemed to bear fruit. He was contacted by an official from Sevilla informing him a meeting had been arranged the following Wednesday in Málaga, with the person in charge of vias pecuarias.

Unlit motorway creates hazardous driving

A pedestrian was killed last week on the westbound carriageway of the new road

By Dave Jamieson

DRIVERS using the first stretch of Málaga's new, northern ring road have already found it is providing quick and easy access to the Andalucía Technology Park and the city's Freight Centre, except at night. Although street lighting is in position along the length of the motorway, it has not yet been switched on making driving after dark hazardous.

The eastern stretch of the road opened in the closing days of last year and runs for 12.4 kilometres from a new junction on the A7 at La Virreina east of Málaga to meet the A357 Guadalhorce autovía, four kilometres from the Andalucía Technology Park. When complete later this year, it will rejoin the A7 near the Torremolinos Conference Centre.

Last week, a pedestrian was killed on the westbound carriageway of the new road just before 5am after being struck by a car. While the victim should not have been walking on the autovía, the accident provoked a series of complaints about hazardous conditions at night.

A regular user of the new road, Bernard Forbes, told CDSN that after dark, "It can be a case of driving by the lines in the road. It's a new road which people are not yet familiar with and there are some junctions that aren't open yet.

Spain is top choice for family travel and nightlife

Country is also considered third-best place to live abroad, says survey

By Oliver McIntyre

WHILE the two may not seem to go hand in hand, Spain is the top choice for both family travel and for tourists seeking nightlife, according to a survey by travel website Skyscanner. 

"Madrid and Barcelona are selected for their lively nightlife while the towns and hotel complexes on the Mediterranean attract many families," according to the Scottish-based travel company, which surveyed 600 travellers.

Spain took the number-three spot among foreign countries where travellers would most like to live, after Australia and the US.

However, the country did not fare as well when it comes to cuisine, scoring seventh place, or culture, where it came in at ninth.

"Our country made a good showing in the majority of categories, though it is surprising that Thailand and the United States beat us in cuisine, or that the beaches of Greece outscored those of Spain," said Benjamín Ulecia, Skyscanner's chief for the Spanish market.

The top destination for cuisine was Italy, which was also named the most romantic destination as well as number-one for culture.  The Caribbean was the top choice most spectacular beaches and most relaxing destination, while New Zealand was named the most beautiful country.

The country with the friendliest locals was the US, followed by Australia and Ireland.

The UK did not take the top spot in any category but was runner up in three: culture, nightlife and business travel.

Minister rejects idea that foreclosure cancels debt

‘Sudden changes' in system could be damaging to financial sector, says Salgado

By Oliver McIntyre

Spain's economy minister, Elena Salgado, last week spoke out against the notion that when banks foreclose on a home they should be forced to forgive the entire debt of mortgage holder. 

The comments came after a Navarra court ruled that a homeowner must be forgiven the entire debt, even if the value of the home is now less than the outstanding debt (CDSN last week).

"Sudden changes from one day to the next" in the conditions of mortgage loans would be damaging to the financial sector and could impact the concession of mortgage loans in the future, said the minister during a television interview on Telecinco. 

While declining to comment directly on the court ruling, Sra Salgado insisted that any abrupt change to the established system would be damaging to Spanish banks and savings banks.

The credit rating agency Moody's was also critical of the Navarra court ruling, saying it was "clearly contrary" to Spain's Ley Hipotecaria, the law that regulates mortgage loans.  It said the "controversial" ruling has raised concern among investors in Spanish mortgage debt, who fear an increase in defaults if homeowners are given an incentive to bail out on a property that is dropping in value.

Man admits to murder - after jury acquits him

Confession can not be used against him unless original trial is annulled

By Oliver McIntyre

JUST days after a jury found him not guilty of murdering a prostitute, a Galician man last week admitted that he killed her.

The public prosecutor had sought a 14- to 17-year prison sentence for José Carnero, 54, for killing the 34-year-old woman who was found beaten to death in a stable in September 2007.

But the jury, made up of seven men and four women, found insufficient evidence to return a guilty verdict.  At the trial he admitted to contracting the prostitute's services but denied that he killed her.

However, last week in an interview in the newspaper La Voz de Galicia the man admitted that he killed the women.  At the scene of the crime, in the stable behind his home, he told the reporter, "There is no evidence, but I did it.".