News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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New Costa AVE link under threat
Budget report indicates Almería, Granada and Málaga could be cut from planned route
By Dave Jamieson and Richard Torné
THE PROSPECT of Málaga's inclusion in a high-speed railway along Spain's entire Mediterranean coast appears to be under threat following publication of a new EU proposal which would see the route changed. Long-term plans show the AVE network running south from Valencia to Alicante, then on to Murcia and Almería before turning inland to Granada with onward links to Málaga and Algeciras. Also under consideration has been a coastal link between Almería and Málaga via Motril.
However, a report published last week suggests that the line from Granada to the coast may not receive EU funding between 2014 and 2020. "A Budget for Europe 2020" proposes that travellers from Valencia heading for Algerciras would instead travel via Madrid. If the proposal is accepted, it would end the dream of a pan-European high-speed rail network, known as the Mediterranean Corridor.
Jose Barrosso, president of the European Commission, said the aim was to reduce costs while boosting investment in key areas, and to "break from the culture of entitlement, where some public authorities expect to spend funds as they wish." He said every budget request should be clearly linked to goals and priorities, adding that the EU would make "savings in some areas" while spending more in others, which are classed as priorities, by pooling resources and cash. The report underlines the importance of the Mediterranean Corridor as part of the EU's "fully interconnected transport system," but stresses the need for a "cost-benefit analysis of each project," suggesting there will be tighter budget controls and allocation of funds in future.
Junta 'committed' to Benalmádena marina expansion
Addition of 700 moorages will make it Andalucía's 'most important' leisure port
By Oliver McIntyre
THE Junta de Andalucía last week confirmed its "commitment" to the expansion plan that will see the Benalmádena marina converted into "the finest facility of its kind ... in the region of Andalucía."
The words came from the head of the Junta's Public Ports Agency (APPA), Sergio Moreno, following a meeting with Benalmádena's mayor, Javier Carnero.
The expansion plan has been in the works for nearly 10 years but was repeatedly bogged down by project changes, town planning issues and other snags.
Earlier this year the project got a boost when then-mayor Enrique Moya reached an agreement for the original environmental impact study, which was approved by the Junta in 2002 but expired in 2006, to be reviewed and reapproved rather than have to perform a completely new one.
The provincial delegation of the Junta's Environment Department will complete the review process "shortly," said Sr Moreno last week. All the rest of the approvals and administrative steps necessary for the scheme to move forward have already been completed, so once the Environment Department gives the green-light, the project can be put out to tender immediately, he said.
EDEN ON THE COSTA
Briton James Machin launches garden allotment scheme
By David Eade
WHEN you left Britain you probably thought you'd also left behind the chance to have an allotment. True allotments in Spain are few and far between but now Briton James Machin intends to change all that.
The Bolton native has pioneered sustainable communities in Spain since arriving in 1980, and now with his Club Eden project is bringing the same concept to a gardening club.
James says there is strong demand from people who desire to grow their own vegetables for environmental as well as health reasons. He told the Costa del Sol News: "Given that ever more people realise that the world is starting to run out of oil, and given that many also realise that industrial agriculture does, in effect, run on oil, it's not surprising that ever more folks are starting to grow their own food. And it's not only a matter of economics, there's also the growing concern over the ever increasing amount of genetically modified material that's now in our food, and all the various chemicals and gasses that industrial food is subjected to during processing."
Club Eden is to be found in Estepona, where James and a group of residents are organising the creation of the sustainable gardening club. The primary component is the provision of allotments. There is presently sufficient land available for up to 100 members. The club is based on a finca by the banks of the Río Padron, situated on the east side of the town close to the Kempinski hotel.
The cost of membership is one euro per day, which includes an allotment, the provision of irrigation water for each allotment, use of all social amenities and participation in all learning activities. There are reduced rates for the unemployed and students.
Anyone interested in finding out more should contact James Machin. There is also a video about Club Eden, in Spanish, that can be viewed on YouTube (search for Club Eden Estepona).
Mary-Anne flies home after 'miracle' survival
The Dutch tourist spent just one night in hospital after being lost for 18 days
By Dave Jamieson
THE Dutch woman who survived after becoming lost in the Axarquía countryside for 18 days flew back to the Netherlands on Saturday. Mary-Anne Goossens was on the 8.50am flight from Málaga to Eindhoven with the family members who had come to Spain to search for her. She has become a national heroine in her home country and a big reception awaited her in Stramproy, the town where she works as a librarian.
Her son, Fritz, has spoken of his mother's intelligence and strength which helped her to come out of her ordeal almost totally unscathed. She was found early on Wednesday last week and flown to Vélez-Málaga hospital where she spent just one night before being discharged.
Her family have thanked all those in Nerja and Frigiliana who supported them while she was missing and described her survival as "a miracle".
Greater foreclosure protection for homeowners
However, Parliament rejects proposal for foreclosure to cancel entire debt
By Oliver McIntyre
THE GOVERNMENT last Friday approved measures to increase the financial protection provided to homeowners who face mortgage foreclosures.
Under the new rules, the personal income considered untouchable by bank embargoes in a foreclosure process is increased from the previous 700 euros a month to 961 euros, plus an additional 192 euros for each additional family member in the household with no income, announced the first deputy prime minister, Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba, following last Friday's Cabinet meeting.
The government also increased the minimum value that can be assigned to foreclosed homes that fail to sell at auction, which was previously set at 50 per cent of the assessed value and will now be 60 per cent. The increase in the assigned value means the homeowner will be left with less outstanding debt after turning over the home to the bank.
The measures were passed by the government just a day after they received near unanimous support as non-binding resolutions in Parliament at the culmination of last week's State of the Nation debate. In all, 51 such non-binding resolutions were passed, including several others also related to protecting homeowners faced with foreclosure.
One, which has not yet been acted on by the government, called for the elimination of minimum-interest clauses in variable-rate loans, under which the mortgage holder has to pay an interest rate above a pre-set minimum regardless of how low the base rate (generally the Euribor) drops.
Not approved in the Parliament was a resolution calling for the government to promote a system under which foreclosure on a home would automatically clear the homeowner's outstanding debt to the bank. In Spain, if the value of the home at the time of foreclosure is less than the outstanding loan amount, the homeowner owes the bank the difference.
Spanish Civil War records released to mark 75th anniversary
NEWS Staff Reporter
RECORDS revealing the full extent of British involvement in the Spanish Civil War were put online last week by The National Archives in London to mark the 75th anniversary of the outbreak of the civil war.
They show that more volunteers than previously thought may have left Britain with the aim of joining the International Brigades fighting in Spain.
Despite the British government's official policy of non-intervention, thousands of men and women were inspired by their political beliefs to defend the Second Spanish Republic against a military uprising.
The Security Service (KV) files, which are now available online for the first time, list the names of more than 4,000 volunteers who left Britain on the way to the frontline in Spain as well as a roll of honour of those killed in action.
They were among the first of their generation to take up arms in the fight against Fascism.
James Cronan, diplomatic and colonial records specialist at The National Archives, said: "The International Brigades brought volunteers together from all over the world in defence of democracy, but few if any records exist of their service.
"That's why uncovering a document like this is so exciting."
The 200-page list provides researchers and historians with a valuable new resource, he added.