The last seven days have seen an abrupt change in the weather as cooler temperatures arrive at last in the Costa Cálida, with maximums falling from 29 degrees last weekend to a forecast high of just 17 this Friday, and as heavy snow falls in the mountains of northern Spain there could even be a flurry or two in the north of Murcia over the weekend!

October was so warm that fruit trees in Blanca and Cieza have been mistakenly beginning their spring blossom, threatening next year’s harvests, but the arrival of a cold front has brought heavy snowfalls to the mountains of northern Spain as ski resorts prepare for the 2019/20 season. Even in Murcia it is just possible that light dustings of snow could reach the north-west of the Region over the weekend, and most Murcianos will be digging out their duvets – however, this IS the Costa Cálida, after all, and by Saturday and Sunday maximums will be back up to 20 or so on the coast!

Apart from the weather, the news in Spain this week has been absolutely dominated by the general election which takes place on Sunday, the fourth in four years, and on Thursday the issue of the Mar Menor was in the campaign spotlight as the leaders of both the PSOE and PP parties visited the Region of Murcia.

Acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez of the PSOE visited Los Alcázares, where the gota fría storm in mid-September caused disastrous flooding as well as sending thousands of tons of debris into the lagoon, and in a speech against the backdrop of a rather brown-looking Mar Menor promised to spare no resources in regenerating the lagoon, setting an example of commitment to the environment and recovering the Mar Menor “for the Murcianos, for Spain and for Europe”.

Meanwhile, Pablo Casado visited the Roman Theatre in Cartagena, where he expressed similar sentiments, vowing that if elected he will treat the Mar Menor as a “national and European problem”. Needless to say, with voting just three days away at the time they were in Murcia, neither passed up on the opportunity to blame his political opponents for failing to do enough to protect the lagoon both in the past and in the present.

During the week there have also been plenty of other issues related to the Mar Menor in the news. Aquarium arks for seahorses and fan mussels are among the emergency measures approved by the regional government on Thursday at a cost of 8.25 million euros, a move which naturalists and ecologists have been demanding ever since the gota fría storm accelerated the deterioration of the lagoon, and a further 7 million euros have been set aside to fund further research. However, many feel that it is now time to take action rather than merely to analyse the situation still further, a sense of urgency which is reflected in a report which was published this week and which concludes that over half of the sea bed in the Mar Menor has been “devastated” by the process of eutrophication which first became apparent to many in 2016. Eight of the ten scientists signing the document are former members of the scientific committee formed by the regional government of Murcia to monitor conditions in the Mar Menor, having resigned after disagreeing with the way the committee was run and with some of the conclusions made public.



On a more positive note, a pumping system in the Rambla del Albujón has now been repaired and is ready to prevent contaminated water reaching the Mar Menor as it runs off from the farmland of the Campo de Cartagena, and the authorities have at last started to clamp down on unauthorized irrigation farming in the area with the announcement that 989 hectares of land are to be restored to non-irrigation farming or none at all.

In addition, a series of anti-flooding proposals and measures to protect the Mar Menor which the Town Hall of Los Alcázares presented in Madrid this week appears to have impressed the Secretary of State for the Environment, and the naturalists association ANSE has purchased part of the abandoned salt flats of Marchamalo at the southern end of the lagoon to recover and preserve the natural habitat of wading birds.

But with the Mar Menor at the moment the bad news still outweighs the good, and as chlorophyll levels in the water continue to rise to new record levels bitter fishermen staged a protest outside regional government buildings on Wednesday to protest over the condition of the Mar Menor and the way they have been treated in recent weeks: they were promised compensation while being unable to fish until January, but that support has now been limited to the end of November with absolutely no guarantee that they will not be returning to land with their nets empty, as they suspect will be the case.

Furthermore, since the regional government announced last week that all construction projects along the coastline of the Mar Menor are to be halted there has been great concern expressed over a couple of developments which appear to flatly contradict the notion that this ban is likely to be implemented, including the massive apartment block which is already under construction next to Playa Honda and Playa Paraíso and the possible building of over 600 homes and a hotel on 300,000 square metres of land which were “reclaimed” from the Mar Menor in 1969. This last case really highlights the way in which the area has been over-exploited since the booms in tourism and agriculture began in the late 20th century.

Turning back to the general election, the only televised debate featuring the major party leaders in a truncated campaign was held on Monday evening as all five parties sought to woo floating voters, and unfortunately in some ways the event was rather a damp squib. The moderator was not permitted to ask questions and the main point of interest seemed to be which parties showed signs of being willing to form a post-electoral pact with which others.

The latest opinion polls show that the outcome of the election on Sunday 10th November will almost certainly be yet another hung parliament, although with some significant differences in the way in which the seats are distributed. For example, while it is expected that the left-wing PSOE, who formed a minority government after the election in April, will see their share of the seats in Congress decrease slightly, their traditional right-wing rivals in the PP stand to see their representation increase from 66 to somewhere close to 100, and the far-right group Vox, which has emerged only over the last two years, could be represented by more than double the 24 MPs elected in April.

When the contract to partially recover and regenerate the bay of Portmán in the municipality of Mazarrón was finally awarded in 2016 it was anticipated that the work would be completed in 2020, but after the processes by which that contract was won by a consortium formed by Ciomar and Marco were called into question progress came to an abrupt halt in April of this year.

The frustration has been added to this week with the confirmation that there is no chance of a re-start getting any nearer until at least December, and that a new works project will not be drawn up until after a national government budget for 2020 has been confirmed. In real terms, this makes it impossible for work to continue in the bay until at least 2021, and any hopes that a project which took decades to get off the ground could actually be completed in the time allotted have now been dashed. As for when that could actually be achieved, pessimists are forecasting up to a decade…

The week began with the publication of the official statistics regarding international tourism in Spain during September, showing that the number of people coming to this country from abroad was lower than in the equivalent month last year, the third consecutive decrease of this kind.

A total of 8.91 million visitors from abroad was reported with the figures for each of the three major sources of foreign tourists dropping in September. Top of that list once again was the UK with 2.1 million visitors (0.4 per cent fewer than in September 2018 but still 23.6 per cent of the overall total), while the figures for France and Germany fell far more sharply, but the data show that the amount spent by foreign visitors in September was 1.7 per cent higher than last year: of the 13.5 million euros spent EVERY HOUR in Spain by foreign visitors in September, 2.85 million of them came from the pockets of those coming from the UK!

Bruges-Ostend flights added to the schedule at Corvera airport next summer: twice-weekly services to and from Belgium offered by Tui Fly to start in April, not only giving more Belgians an easy opportunity to visit the Costa Cálida but also providing a potentially popular holiday option for residents of Murcia looking for a break in the historic cities of northern Europe.

Ryanair also made the news this week, reducing its Corvera-Mallorca flights for summer 2020: two flights a week to and from Palma de Mallorca between late March and October but the service begins in late March rather than in June.

This week Interbus, which operates the bus services from Corvera airport to Murcia and Cartagena, the resorts around the Mar Menor, the resorts in Mazarrón and Alhama de Murcia as well as Águilas, released its winter timetable.Click to see the full timetable for winter services.

Murcia tourism authorities promote the Costa Cálida at the World Travel Market in London: 42.5 per cent of foreign visitors to Murcia this year have come from the UK and efforts are being made to negate any possible Brexit effect.

12 victims in hepatitis outbreak at Cartagena restaurant: 9 admitted to hospital but all are responding well to treatment and 30 more have received precautionary vaccinations.

Eroski pulls out of the Region of Murcia with the sale of the Lorca hypermarket: the new owners retain all staff, while in Cartagena 1,700 homes are to be built on the land next to the old Eroski.

Minor Monday morning earthquake in Águilas: a 2.2 mbLg tremor was felt by residents in south-west Murcia.

Two men charged with 24 burglaries in Los Urrutias: investigations began in the summer after a rash of thefts at unoccupied properties.

The Food Co.opens in Puerto de Mazarrón as Tesco products reach Murcia: enthusiasm for Tesco branded products shows there’s no taste like home!

85-year-old accused of maltreating animals in Alhama de Murcia: video footage showed the man beating his dogs with a stick.

Illegal land clearance reported in the mountains between Lorca and Águilas: unauthorized land use is not restricted to the Campo de Cartagena, according to the local branch of the IU party!

Unemployment rose by almost 100,000 in Spain and over 3,000 in Murcia in October: the jobless total in Murcia has fallen by over 4 per cent in the last year but it seems that the figures are now beginning to stabilize.

Mazarrón bin burner strikes again: more fires in rubbish containers as bin burning frenzy returns to Puerto de Mazarrón.

First baby loggerhead turtles in over 100 years in Murcia doing well in San Pedro del Pinatar: the young turtles will be re-released next year at the Calblanque beach where they hatched.

Águilas schoolchildren learn about the value of compost: organic waste recycling is taken seriously at the schools of Águilas.

46 million euros to repair gota fría storm damage on major water infrastructures: the CHS repairs dams, reservoirs and river banks after the heaviest storm in Murcia for 50 years.

Two arrested in Mazarrón after shooting dogs with pellet guns: a third dog has been missing since the attack in the Mazarrón countryside.

Murcia government set to exceed its deficit limit by 14 times in 2019: Town Halls in Spain are reported to take between 4 and 582 days to pay their bills!

Spanish food safety agency warns young children and pregnant women not to eat tuna: the warning also includes swordfish due to the high mercury content in these species.

Woman arrested after 4 burglaries and thefts in Puerto de Mazarrón: the burglar was found hiding under a bed in the property she last targeted!

Two important statistical bulletins were published this week, both of them further supporting the notion that across the country the recovery in the residential property market of the last few years is gradually giving way to stability in both sales figures and market prices.

The data produced by Spain’s notaries provide one of those coincidences of which statisticians dream, with the number of sales in September being EXACTLY the same as in September 2018 at 42,538. Unfortunately for the stats nerds the latest data are only provisional, but it would hardly be possible to ask for a more conclusive indication of stability!

Earlier in the week, the leading property valuation firm Tinsa published its latest batch of monthly data regarding the market value of housing across the, reporting that in October the recovery in market prices of recent years continued to slow down with a year-on-year increase of just 3.1 per cent. This was the ninth consecutive rise of under 5 per cent, and the increase in the Tinsa index since the start of the year 2019 is just 2.3 per cent, with a rise in Mediterranean coastal areas of as little as 0.7 per cent, while nationwide index actually dropped during the month of October by two points.

The latest bulletin also contains the monthly “market snapshot”, in which Tinsa highlight reasons to expect upward or downward movements in the value of homes in Spain, and the summary includes various elements which point to the market beginning to stagnate in most areas. For example, the latest sales figures published by the government, relating to August, show a sharp 20.8 per cent year-on-year decrease – the September figures which are published next week may be interesting – unemployment appears to be steadying rather than falling, the Euribor interest rate is gradually rising back up towards zero and fewer building licences for new property have been issued in each of the last two months.

The Spanish property market is far from uniform, and national averages tend to distort the picture: there are regions where the outlook is rosier than in others, but in overall terms it appears that the demand for housing across the country may have reached a natural peak, and that in consequence there is less upward pressure on market value.

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Images: Copyrighted Murcia Today, full or partial reproduction prohibited, other images as attributed on individual news articles. Top image Los Alcázares tourist office, special thanks this week to @Mar MenorKO.

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