News from Andalucia & Costa del Sol
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Towns unite to demand toll charge be lifted
Mayors claim the new 80-km limit on the A7 will cause traffic tailback chaos
By David Eade
THE NEIGHBOURING towns of Marbella and Estepona, both under Partido Popular administrations, have made a joint demand to the PSOE government in Madrid for the toll on the AP7 motorway to be lifted.
This follows on from the Ministry of Public Works decision to limit the speed on the A7 (former N-340) from Fuengirola to Estepona to 80 kms per hour.
The mayors, Ángeles Muñoz and José María García Urbano, say that because of the chaos this move will cause with the peak summer traffic the only way drivers can avoid the inevitable tailbacks is to use the toll motorway.
Indeed the situation will be at its worst in San Pedro because of the continuing works to construct the toll motorway. Marbella has long demand the toll be lifted on the AP7 to avoid this bottleneck but has not had Estepona's support until now.
The demands have been made via the ministry and the government's sub-delegate in Málaga province, Hilario López Luna. The mayors of Mijas, Marbella and Estepona, all from the PP, are angry that the speed restriction was imposed overnight without any consultation.
Pain in Spain continues for Ryanair
Airline is embattled on two fronts over boarding requirements
By Dave Jamieson
RYANAIR has reacted angrily after Alicante airport said it would allow passengers to board and leave aircraft on foot, but only in the winter. The Irish carrier said on Friday that it now plans to withdraw 80 per cent of its services to Alicante from October following the "abusive" decision by airports operator Aena. The move comes as the airline faces charges elsewhere in Spain over its own boarding requirements for minors.
Tests were carried at Alicante airport out in May following threats from Ryanair that it would cut back its operations if it was forced to use air bridges which, it claims, lead to a longer turnaround of its aircraft at the airport. The bridges allow passengers to step directly from the cabin into the arrivals area and were introduced for all flights when Alicante opened a new terminal earlier this year. Ryanair says that the airport wants to charge it two million euros a year for use of the bridges, which it regards as "costly and unnecessary".
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Consumers has advised the public prosecutor's office to take action against Ryanair for its practice of not allowing minors to fly without photo identification. In March, Ryanair lost a case in a Barcelona mercantile court which ruled that the airline cannot demand that passengers produce documents other than those specified in Spain's National Air Security Plan.
Under Spanish law, under-14s are permitted to travel provided that the official document containing details of parents and offspring, known as the Libro de Familia, is presented at check-in. Ryanair, however, refuses to allow passengers, including minors, to fly if they do not produce either a passport or a national identity card.
Parking blues as Marbella launches fines
Metered 'blue zones' include 3,000 parking spaces; fines top 90 euros
By David Eade
DRIVERS who fail to pay in Marbella's 'zona azul' metered parking zones now face fines.
The blue zones became operative at the start of the month, with drivers required to pay, but until this Monday no tickets were being issued.
The aim of creating the short-term parking is to boost commerce in Marbella town centre as faster turnover means drivers should find it easier to find a place to park. The scheme has worked well in Puerto Banús where businesses have welcomed it.
In all there are some 3,000 controlled parking spaces in Marbella. From now there are also 30 parking wardens who will each oversee 100 spaces. They will be on the lookout for vehicles that have not paid the fee, have overstayed their time limit, or who have repeat vouchers but have not displayed them properly.
Drivers who park their car and do not purchase a ticket can be fined 91.16 euros under a local bylaw. In addition, if the vehicle is immobilised by the local police or is towed away, the driver will also have to pay the release fee.
Junta makes slow progress on illegal homes decree
Planning experts have warned that the new law is complex and is expected to take several more months to finalise
By Dave Jamieson
THE majority of homes which have been built illegally in the Axarquía are to be allowed to remain but they will never be legalised.
The Junta de Andalucía was last week reported to be making progress on the new decree to tackle the legacy left by years of widespread illegal construction in countryside areas.
The new legislation will reportedly apply to properties built at least four years ago unless they are constructed in areas of outstanding natural beauty or at sites where protection orders are applicable, such as in river beds.
Those allowed to remain will have to meet basic health and safety requirements, including being connected to basic services. If the property is in a very remote location where these are not already provided, the owner will have to pay for them to be installed.
The owner will also have to obtain permission from the local town hall in the form of a "resolution of recognition" for which a fee will be payable.
The Junta says that this will be issued six months after application and the owner will have to pay for any work needed to bring the property within the new rules. Owners will be unable to carry out any further building work on the property, other than maintenance required for safety reasons.
However, although the properties will be permitted to remain and to be inhabited, they will never be legal in the eyes of the law. The Junta says that existing legislation clearly rules this out. This means in turn that the property can never be given a licence of first occupancy, and therefore will lack legal protection if a criminal charge, such as a boundary dispute, ever arises.
RECORD DRUGS RAID
An unprecedented 25 million euros seized as 21 suspects arrested
By Dave Jamieson
TWENTY-FIVE million euros in banknotes has been discovered at the home a drugs trafficker in Madrid, said National Police officials on Saturday.
Operation Azaleas, a two-year investigation in collaboration the FBI, has concluded with 17 people arrested in Spain and four in Miami.
National Police said on Saturday that the cash was the proceeds from the sale of Colombian cocaine and, according to the Interior Ministry, it is the largest amount ever seized in a single drugs-related raid. Also confiscated during the simultaneous raids in Spain and the US last Thursday were a number of top-of-the-range cars which investigators believe were used to launder cash. The collection included a Rolls-Royce, a Ferrari Enzo, an Aston Martin, two Lamborghinis, a Bugatti Veyron and several Mercedes-Benzes, as well as a Ford Cobra which alone is worth two million euros, said officials.
Some 21 properties in Spain plus four others in Miami, which police say have a total value of 75 million euros, have been impounded, while a large amount of jewellery found has also been valued at 75 million euros. Thirteen businesses in Spain and three in the US are under investigation.
For more than 16 hours last Thursday, the house of Álvaro López Tardón in La Moraleja, north of Madrid centre, was searched with a fine-tooth comb by police officers until the money, in 50-, 100- and 200-euro notes, was found hidden in two separate places in his home. Twenty million euros of the cash was discovered in a hole measuring a metre long and 1.6 metres wide, under the floor of the house. It had been covered with 20 centimetres of concrete and then surfaced to match the rest of the floor covering.
Irishman convicted of shooting Briton to death
The crime took place in Mijas Costa just over a year ago
By Oliver McIntyre
AN IRISH man was convicted last week of shooting 24-year-old Briton Dan Smith to death outside a Mijas Costa bar in June of last year. He has been sentenced to 23 years in prison.
The jury heard how on the night of June 5, 2010, Eric W., now 28, approached the victim as he was sitting at a table outside The Lounge bar in Riviera del Sol and blasted him twice with a 9mm pistol. After the victim fell to the floor, the Irishman shot him several more times at close range, causing multiple injuries including a gunshot wound through his right lung, which caused his death due to respiratory insufficiency.
It is understood the two men had rowed at the bar earlier in the evening.
Thieves steal priceless church manuscript
12th-century Codex Calixtinus helped popularise Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage
A priceless 12th-century illustrated text has been stolen from the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
THE CODEX Calixtinus is believed to have been taken by professional thieves on the afternoon of July 3. However, its disappearance from a safe in the cathedral archives was not noticed for some days.
A local newspaper reported that staff spent hours searching for it before finally calling the police. It added that the security systems in the cathedral are not up to the level "one might find in a bank or a well-protected jewellers." It said that five security cameras were operating in the area where the archives are kept but none was pointed at the safe where the manuscript was stored. However, police hope that the thieves may have been captured on video as they made their way to and from the archive.
Cathedral Dean José María Díaz said the Codex itself is not insured and it is unclear if the theft falls under the building's general insurance. The keys to the safe were found in the lock, ruling out forcible entry. It was stored in a place to which only Sr Díaz and two cathedral researchers had unlimited access.
The Codex was rarely removed from its safe, with researchers wishing to study it generally being handed a copy kept at the same archive, rather than the original. Police say that a black market dealer in antique manuscripts may have commissioned the robbery.
The 225 pages of the manuscript have been described as the world's first travel guide. They include the pilgrimage routes to Santiago, apparently written by a French friar, and the story of how the body of St James the Apostle was supposedly transported from Judea on a raft without oars or sails before being buried in a forest in north-west Spain.
The manuscript helped popularise a pilgrimage which still attracts tens of thousands of people every year to Santiago de Compostela. It claims that pilgrims travelled from as far away as Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Jerusalem and Asia seeking "mortification of the body, increase of virtue, forgiveness of sins ... and the protection of the Heavens." It also warned against eating the local fish.
Corruption in Spain is rampant, say Spaniards
Politicians considered worst offenders, but businessmen and judges are also suspect
By Oliver McIntyre
NEARLY nine out of 10 Spaniards - 85.6 per cent - believe that the level of corruption in Spain is 'high' or 'very high', with politicians at the top of the list of those suspected of involvement, according to the latest CIS poll.
The June survey from CIS (the national Sociological Research Centre) shows that nearly 90 per cent of respondents view political corruption as a major issue and 44 per cent say it is of 'top importance'.
While politicians, at 86.6 per cent, top the list of those suspected of corrupt activity, they are not alone; 69.3 per cent of those polled say corruption is widespread among businessmen, and 52.9 per cent say even judges are tainted.
The activity considered to be most plagued by corruption is the contracting of public works, named by 85.3 per cent of respondents, followed by construction (81.1 per cent) and the awarding of grants and subsidies (79.4 per cent).
It appears that the public does not believe corruption in politics is limited to a few 'bad apples' either. Presented with the statement that 'the vast majority of politicians are honourable', 52.6 per cent of those surveyed said they disagreed, while just 39 per cent agreed.
Outcry over sudden 80kph limit on A7
Mayors of Mijas and Marbella criticise Tráfico for unannounced change
By David Eade
WITHOUT warning the Ministry of Public Works has reduced the speed limit on one of the busiest stretches of road on the Costa del Sol, and the mayors of the affected towns are not happy about it.
The A7 (former N340) from El Faro on Mijas Costa to Marbella used to have a speed limit of 100kph except at certain black spots, where it was reduced to 80kph. But now the entire stretch (from kilometre 196 to 209) has a 80kph limit.
The ministry says it has taken the action in the interests of road safety. It was last Thursday night the road signs were changed to show the lower speed and drivers were surprised to find the new limits when they took to the thoroughfare.
The mayor of Mijas, Ángel Nozal, has criticised the speed limit change and has sent a letter to the public works minister, José Blanco, requesting that the old limit be reinstated.
The mayor said the town hall had been swamped with complaints from residents and questions as to what was going on.