Costa del Sol News - 25th February 2011

News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol

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Outrage over A7 detour to Arroyo de la Miel exit

Traffic authorities are redirecting Torremolinos motorway traffic to the already heavily-congested km 222 slip road

By Oliver McIntyre

BENALMÁDENA town hall last week expressed its "indignation" over the traffic chaos caused at the Arroyo de la Miel exit on the A7 motorway after traffic authorities began detouring cars there due to the closure of the Torremolinos Palacio de Congresos exit on the A7.

The access to and from the westbound side of the A7 at the Palacio de Congresos exit has been closed down due to construction work on the 'hiperronda' bypass road, which will connect to the A7 at this point. The closure is expected to last a month.

Traffic authorities put up a sign directing drivers on the A7 to use the Arroyo de la Miel exit (exit 222) to turn around and come back to the Palacio de Congreso exit in the eastbound lanes.

The result is more pressure on the already oversaturated Arroyo exit, which for years has been plagued with long tailbacks during rush hours.

Nerja pushes forward on Playazo site for marina

Plans showing access to the site have been submitted to port authority

By Dave Jamieson

NERJA'S councillor for infrastructure has presented a draft plan for access to a possible marina site to the Public Ports Agency.  The future of the planned recreational facility has been uncertain since the original site for its construction was rejected.

In August 2009, the environment department of the provincial government gave the green light to plans to build a marina on the border between Nerja and Torrox.  The mayors of both towns gave a press conference at Vílchez beach to celebrate the news which appeared to confirm the project to build the first all-leisure marina east of Málaga.

However, in April 2010 the plans were rejected by the regional government and both Nerja and Torrox began lobbying for new sites within their respective boundaries.  Since then, the Junta de Andalucía has refused to be rushed on deciding on an alternative location for the long-awaited marina.

Last week, Nerja's plans for an area of Playazo beach were presented to Andalucía's Public Ports Agency by councillor José Alberto Tomé.  They include road and pedestrian access routes which, he explained, was one of the points the Junta wanted clarified before deciding whether or not to locate the marina in Nerja.  He emphasised the plans were only a draft and could not be finalised until the exact site was announced, but added that access was "perfectly possible."

The marina is included in Nerja's new local development plan (PGOU), which is presently in its public consultation phase, in an area west of Playazo beach.  Earlier this month, the Partido Popular's mayoral candidates in Nerja and Torrox, José Alberto Armijo and Óscar Medina, said the final location would not become a point of conflict between them.

Jurassic clash over dinosaurs in Mijas

Local officials still want to go ahead with the project if the dispute can be resolved

By Oliver McIntyre

THE PLANNED dinosaur theme park in Mijas, announced with great fanfare by local officials a year ago during the Fitur tourism trade fair in Madrid, may be extinct before ever hatching.

A law firm representing Jurapark International SL, "which holds the sole rights worldwide (except in Poland)" to operate Jurapark theme parks, says no rights were granted to launch one of the parks in Mijas.

"At no time did the company Jurapark Mijas SL or anyone associated with it have the rights to create a Jurapark theme park," said the law firm Roca & Asociados in a letter sent to the opposition Partido Popular in Mijas. The firm states that "conversations were held on the subject ... but nothing was ever formalised."

The letter also states that this information was relayed to both Jurapark Mijas SL and the mayor of Mijas, Antonio Sánchez, in February of last year via certified letter. That communication included a request that the company cease using the Jurapark trademark, and that it make a public announcement stating that no Jurapark theme park was to be created in the town.

The local Partido Popular in Mijas has called on the town hall to "publicly apologise" for having supported and publicised the Jurapark scheme, creating "false hopes" of new jobs and a new tourist attraction for the town. The PP says the town hall continued plugging project even after the date on which the law firm says it notified the mayor of the problems.

Town hall shuts down animal shelter

Remaining dogs saved by animal protection group that promises to re-home them

By Oliver McIntyre

TORREMOLINOS town hall last week executed its closure order on the Parque Animal shelter, whose director was arrested in November on charges of animal abuse surrounding irregularities in the centre's process of euthanizing animals.

The town hall rejected the shelter's appeal against the closure order, which was originally issued in December. On Wednesday of last week municipal workers closed down the facility and transferred the remaining 72 dogs to the El Paraíso shelter in Alhaurín de la Torre.

Days later, the dogs were taken in by the animal-protection group Cacma, which has promised to seek new homes for the dogs rather than put them down. By law, El Paraíso only had to keep them for a minimum of 10 days before euthanizing them, though the town hall had instructed it to keep them available for adoption for at least one month.

The closure order on Parque Animal is for a six-month period, after which it may reopen if it meets all the sanitary and health requirements. The town hall's architectural and health inspectors are working on a detailed report of the conditions at the facility.

Give up or be caught

Crimestoppers launches new offensive to catch UK criminals on the run in Spain

By Alex Watkins

EXPATS have been invaluable in catching 38 of the 50 dangerous criminals sought by the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) who featured in UK charity Crimestoppers' Operation Captura campaigns.

Dave Cording, Director of Operations at Crimestoppers, said: "The public is one of the greatest weapons in the fight against crime, and once again we are asking the public to help track down most wanted individuals who are sought in connection with some violent, sexual and highly organised crimes."

The campaign was first launched in Málaga in 2006, since when they have continually had an overwhelming response resulting in over 500 pieces of useful information on the fugitives sought.

SOCA's head of European operations, Ken Gallagher spoke to CBNews at the launch of the latest operation in Alicante on Monday.

"Give up or be caught," was his stark message for criminals on the run.

Briton missing after Sierra Nevada avalanche

The 42-year-old father-of-one was swept away by a massive snow slide on Sunday

By David Eade

AT THE time of going to press the search was still going on for the Briton swept away by an avalanche in the Sierra Nevada on Sunday. However bad weather and the threat of further avalanches has slowed down the work of the rescue teams.

John Hogbin, originally from York, but who resided in the Granada village of Zafarraya, was with two experienced fellow mountaineers when the avalanche shot down a gully at San Juan, on the Virgen de las Nieves slope in the Sierra Nevada.

His hiking companions, both Spaniards, were initally trapped but were able to pull themselves to safety. They were only slightly injured and are participating in the search for Mr Hogbin.

Britain and Spain hold talks in London

Gibraltar expected to be a major topic of discussion

By David Eade

TODAY  (Thursday) the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is due to meet his Spanish counterpart, Trinidad Jímenez, in London. It will be the Spanish Foreign Minister's first visit to the British capital in this capacity.

The discussions will be wide ranging, not least covering the current situation in Egypt and the risk of a domino effect in the Arab world. However, Madrid made it clear over last weekend that Gibraltar will also be a major topic of conversation.

As Gibraltar's chief minister, Peter Caruana, will not be present the meeting will be on a bi-lateral basis, a situation the Rock's government has tried to avoid when Gibraltar is the subject on the agenda. Memories are still raw over the attempts by Tony Blair to bounce Gibraltar into a joint sovereignty agreement with the then Aznar government in Madrid.

It is likely that a Conservative government will defend Gibraltar's right to self-determine its own future as well as take a strong line on Spain's incursions into Gibraltar's waters. The Spanish position has long been that under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, only the waters within the port were ceded, but this notion has been repeatedly rejected by the British government.

What has upset the British side is that it was not until recently that Spain activated its claim over the waters, which had always been on a passive mode even in the days of General Franco. Britain is confident that under international law Spain would lose its case - and that for this reason Spanish government has long refused to take the matter to the International Court of Justice.

The tripartite process is currently stalled over the waters issue, with no new date for a meeting agreed. At official level London, Madrid and Gibraltar are keen to resume these talks, so it remains to be seen if there will be an agreement or an attempt at fudging the issue so the tripartite forum can be revived.

Hacienda posts record year in rooting out tax fraud

Authorities recovered more than 10 billion euros in unpaid taxes

By Oliver McIntyre

IN A record year for rooting out tax fraud, Hacienda last year collected over 10 billion euros in unpaid taxes - up 24 per cent from 2009 - as inspectors set their sights on large companies and major fortunes.

The "exceptional" results were due to an "emphasis on investigating the most complex and largest-scale fraud," said the secretary of state for taxes, Carlos Ocaña, presenting the figures last week.

Of the roughly 30,000 inspections carried out in 2010, just 500 were of large companies - those with annual revenues exceeding 100 million euros - but these made up 25 per cent of the entire tax fraud detected. 

Among all taxpayers inspected, the average tax debt was 250,000 euros - up 44 per cent from the previous year - while among the large companies the average tax debt was four million euros.

Of the 10 billion euros in unpaid tax debt collected last year, 8.5 billion euros came as the result of direct action by tax inspectors.  The rest came by way of voluntary payments from taxpayers who had previously failed to declare income or assets; this portion was largely due to the discovery of a list of Swiss bank accounts and notification from the tax office that the owners of those accounts could face criminal charges if they did not voluntarily settle their tax bill.

In all, the tax fraud detected last year resulted in 938 cases - representing 696 million euros in fraud - being reported to the state prosecutor for criminal investigation, down 11 per cent from the previous year.

Including the 10 billion euros collected last year, the tax office's Fraud Prevention Plan has brought in unpaid tax revenues of more than 45 billion euros since its launch in 2005.

Ryanair ignores Junta's threat of fines

Airline remains defiant over order for it to stop charging for boarding cards

By Dave Jamieson

RYANAIR has confirmed that it will continue to charge passengers who fail to present a pre-printed boarding card at check-in.  The move is despite a threat of fines by the Junta de Andalucía and a recent ruling against the practice from a Barcelona court.

The Irish carrier says its passengers should print out their own boarding cards by connecting to its website on the internet.  Anyone who fails to do so will be charged an extra 40 euros (£40 in the UK) when they check in at the airport.  Without the card, passengers will be stopped from passing through security and will consequently miss their flights.

Last Wednesday, the Junta de Andalucía threatened a fine of 30,000 euros to any airline which charged for printing boarding passes at airports in the region.  It described the practice as "abusive" because Spanish aviation law demands that airlines issue travel documents free of charge.  A mercantile court in Barcelona recently ordered Ryanair to refund a passenger who had complained about the additional charge; the airline has appealed against the ruling.

In a statement last week, Ryanair said that Andalucía's regional government "really doesn't know what it is talking about," adding that the company's policy affects only one per cent of its passengers.  It claimed that "there is no law which criminalises the reprinting of a boarding pass."