I interviewed the Councillor for Citizen Safety, María Dolores Sánchez, who is also the head of the Almuñécar Local Police. The purpose of the interview was to ask her about the Sunday flea market, parking facilities on the Blas Infante (Market square) and blue-zone parking around town.
There isn’t room to reproduce the interview here in verbatim form, which is the way we normally do it so that there can be no misunderstandings, so I’ll do it in reported speech.
I asked her how the Sunday flea market was going and she responded that she foresaw that in a short time there would be 200 stalls on market days, i.e., more or less the same number as the old 1st-Saturday-of-the-month market.
I asked her how it was set up and she explained that there were two systems: one for local shop owners and charities, who were not charged for the market stalls, and one for out-of-town traders, who are charged eight euros a week, or 32 euros a month, if you prefer.
I asked her about conditions and she responded that second-hands could be sold or craftwork made on the spot. She sited the case of two traders who claimed that their trinkets were handmade by themselves, but had tickets on them, belonging to the makers. They were told to leave.
This is a bit of a sore point because the Cancer Association had requested on many occasions for police presence but they were always told that there wasn’t enough manpower, if only for a few hours, once a month, yet now, with the Town Hall in charge, there are police patrolling the market whilst the market lasts, every Sunday of the month…
She went on to explain that food could not be sold by out-of-town traders, but that it could be sold by local traders that sell food in their own premises. Logically, this did not apply to butchers, for instance, for hygiene reasons. She emphasised the fact that local shopkeepers that used a market stall were already paying taxes and had undergone health inspections on their premises, so that if they wanted to sell sweets, for example, everybody could be reasonably certain that the products were in a good state.
I asked her about where the fees taken were destined for and she responded that all money taken would end up in the food banks for the needy via Social Services.
To try and find out more details about the said food bank, I asked that if somebody wanted to make a personal donation to the food bank, how could they get in contact, but she responded that at this point in time she did not know, as it would be handled by social services, rather than by her department. She did point out that the food bank was based in Granada.
At this point I switched off the recording device and proceeded on a more informal level. I pointed out that several people had asked me why the Blas Infante was closed to parking from Thursday Night until Sunday night – vox populi considered that it was a manoeuvre to force people onto the blue zones. However, her response was a reasonable and logical one.
She said that the problem was not cars, but the lorries parking there – a car could be towed away if it was getting in the way; yet a lorry could not. She explained that the extended closure period was only for the first two Sundays, so that people would get used to the new set up, but that the following market day the parking restrictions would be the following:
From Thursday 23.00h to Friday 14.00h & from Saturday 24.00h to Sunday 14.00h, meaning that the Blas Infante could be used for parking between Friday 14.00h until Saturday 24.00h. Whether or not that has been the case since this interview, I don’t know.
I asked her about the controversial action of closing the extra summer parking areas last summer, which coincided, suspiciously with the inauguration of the new underground car park.
In the case of the parking behind Las Góndolas, she said that the piece of land belonged to the Church and that during previous summers the local priest had been charging to park there and the proceeds going to the Church charity, Cáritas. However, last summer a new priest had taken over the parish and he had told the Town Hall that he would not be continuing with this practice.