with Madeleine McMullin

Permission for Comteroux project refused

The Departmental Commission for Commercial Development has refused the developers of the Comteroux project permission to build a 13,300m² shopping complex on the Route d’Espagne in Perpignan.   The centre would have been on the grounds of the old Quinta workshops.  Four associations of shopkeepers and the society Perpignan Equilibre are all against the “proliferation of shopping centres in the department” and there was disquiet among some of the members of the committee about the proliferation of commercial space around the town, and the  fact that many shopping centres are struggling and have lots of empty space, the “Centro del Mon” being a case in point.  The developers have the right to appeal the decision with the national committee.


Perpignan roads gridlocked on Thursday morning

Demonstrators against the employment law blocked various roads around the town over the course of the morning, starting at the Perpignan South motorway exit early in the morning and at the Arago bridge at midday before heading for the Prefecture.  Various lorry drivers also held a go slow on the motorway between Narbonne and Perpignan at midnight the night before.


Table football champion wants to make it a sport

Joaquim Pinheiro won the 9th world championship in table football on 8th May.  The man from Saleilles started playing at 16 and created the FTTT Saleilles Club, which has already had 8 world champions.  He insists that it is a real sport with hours spent training, skill and strategy involved in playing and a lot of physical exercise and protests that “billiards is not as active as table football, but is considered a sport”.


Several thousand hectolitres vanished at the winegrowers’ cooperative in Trouillas

Pollestres and Trouillas winegrowers’ cooperatives merged in 2015, and the new management has just done a stock take and found that the stocks in the coop at Trouillas are a lot lower than they should be.  Between 5000 & 8000 hectolitres worth up to €1.5 million have simply disappeared.  The wine is mainly desert wine (vin doux naturel).  The new management of the Vignobles du Sud Roussillon is holding an inquiry but thinks that it will show that it is due to malicious acts dating from 5 – 10 years ago, so well before the two societies joined together.  They discovered empty barrels when they started investigating after suspicions about the real amount of stock were raised.  The vineyards in Trouillas, Bages and St Jean Lasseille whose wine it was, will never get paid for the it, as it has disappeared and so can’t be sold.  A loss that their new partners in Pollestres will not want to take on board.  The management has reported the matter to Customs who estimate a loss of around €250,000 in duties and to the Public Prosecutor.  The current president of the company is waiting for a response from the former directors, managers and the people that signed off the accounts at the time of the loss.   The head of the group, Winegrowing Cooperation in the P-O lent his support to the team involved, and hopes that the affair is sorted out quickly.  The Vignobles du Sud Roussillon currently has 250 vineyards, with 1600 hectares between them producing more than 60,000 hectolitres a year.  The turnover is €8,500,000 of which €2,500,000 is from sales direct to consumers.


Decapitated dog to keep him quiet

The nephew of the owner of a cabin near to Millas found a horrible scene when he went there on 19th November 2015.  The owner’s dog had been killed, chopped in to pieces with an axe that was at the cabin and burnt, and the chickens had also been mutilated with the axe.  DNA at the scene allowed the police to arrest two men, a 21 year old and a 17 year old, both already known to them.  They had gone to the cabin to break in and rob it, and had killed the dog when it started barking, so as not to alert anyone to the fact that they were there.  The chickens had then started squawking so they had killed them as well.  They’d finally run away without stealing anything because they were afraid of leaving fingerprints.  The 21 year old was sentenced to 3 years including 4 months’ suspended and 3 years of probation with psychological counselling for acts of cruelty towards an animal.  He was also fined €2500 – €1500 for the 70 year old owner of the spaniel, and €1000 for the SPA – and forbidden to ever own an animal.  The 17 year old is still a minor and will come before the youth court.


Perpignan prison officers block entrance to the prison

Friday 20th May, around 40 prison officers demonstrated outside the prison.  They were protesting against work conditions but were also denouncing prisoner conditions, in particular overcrowding, with 3 inmates to a 9m² cell, one sleeping on a mattress on the floor and without a shower.  “You can imagine that this is very difficult for them, and consequently for us.  Tension is increasing in the establishment and the management won’t listen to us” explained the union representative.  The guards also want a return to systematic searches after visits to stop mobile phones, alcohol, weapons and drugs getting into the prison which is currently happening.  The union estimates that the prison is understaffed by 22 guards, so that staff are tired and at the end of their wits.  They want new prisons built to take up the overspill from Perpignan.


Serial arsonist arrested in Céret

The fire brigade had to attend a series of car fires between 2 and 4 am on 22nd May.  3 cars and a motorcycle were set alight.  The gendarmes put a patrol in place and caught a suspect who is in detention pending investigation.


Light plane pilot receives warm welcome after emergency landing

An Italian pilot of a light aircraft regularly flies across to his fiancée in Portugal.  He is very familiar with the 1500km flight which involves a refuelling stop midway.  But last Thursday 19th May he was on his way back when the Tramontane forced him to descend to low altitude and finally make an emergency landing on a narrow strip of meadow in the middle of vineyards at Tresserre.  André Doizon, an ex-commercial pilot who flew tourist planes was watching from his balcony.  He phoned some other aviator friends before rushing to the aid of the little plane which had had a very lucky break according to him as the place where it came down was the only possible landing strip for miles and the grass was very long.  The locals leant the pilot a camping car in which to spend the night next to his plane, and the farmer flattened the field with his tractor the next morning to allow him to take off again.  The very grateful Italian made it home safely and has promised to come back to Tresserre with his fiancée. 


Cherry harvest low due to rain

The earliest cherries, the Burlats have ripened late and a lot have been lost due to the amount of rain and the cool weather.  Farmers estimate that the harvest is 50% of a good year, hence the high price.  They are hoping that the later cherries which are less delicate will be more abundant.


Altercation between shepherd and riding stables owner leads to injuries

On Friday 20th a shepherd, his wife and 2 kids had a fight with the owner of a riding stables at Corneilla La Rivière and her vintner husband.  Several people were injured including the stables owner and her husband, hospitalised with facial injuries.  Villagers are doing everything they can to help out with the stables and the vineyard while the injured couple are in hospital.  A deputy from the town hall was also thrown to the ground, and both he and the couple have lodged complaints.  The gendarmes will be interviewing all parties in the conflict, but are having trouble tracking down the alleged aggressor.  There is a long history of disagreements between the neighbours linked to a problem with water rights.  350 locals marched in support of the injured couple on Saturday evening.  The personality of the attacker and the fact that he claims to be a Salafist haven’t helped to calm the situation.  A local farmer said “It’s not really related to religion.  When he arrived 10 years ago we did our best to help him settle in, although the fact that his wife breaks the law by wearing the veil isn’t liked.  But the shepherd believes himself above the law and threatens anyone who points out that he is breaking one”.  According to the Imam of the mosque where he worships, he is not radicalised, just practices a strict form of Islam.  He was also in dispute with the municipality as they had refused to let him build a house near his sheep which according to him were the victims of numerous attacks by dogs. The shepherd’s wife has been taken into custody charged with being party to acts of violence.  The shepherd himself has disappeared. 


Sixteen year old locked up for hospital thefts and violence

A boy arrested for the thefts and violence said he didn’t remember being at the hospital but agreed that it was him on the CCTV footage.  He had tried to snatch a cleaner’s necklaces and rammed a trolley into her legs before running away.  Then he broke in again the next day and stole an IPhone from an office.  He was found with a cheque book and travel card, not his own, on him.  He came before the court and was banged up on 18th May.  His girlfriend who was with him when he was arrested was taken back to the home where she lived.  The boy also lived in a children’s home and was already known to the police.


Six Pictures stolen from St Paul’s in Perpignan

The pictures went missing from St Paul’s church in the Moulin à Vent district sometime between 5pm and 8pm in the evening on the Saturday of the Whit weekend when the church was open to the public.  They are six of the 14 pictures showing the Stations of the Cross and are worth very little in real terms, but have a lot of sentimental value for parishioners as they were painted by a member of the church when it was built in 1972.  The church has already suffered the theft of an offering box and also vandalism by local children.  The police are combing CCTV footage of the area to see if they can spot anybody carrying a large bag or some frames.


Fire in St Estève agricultural building

50m³ of straw went on fire in an agricultural building in St Estève.  The building and 4 machines were destroyed.


Aid payments for CAP delayed due to Madagascan incompetence

Every year the area of farms in, for example Prats de Mollo, Sournia or Bourg  Madame, has to be verified by the State before the farmers can receive their CAP payments.  The task of producing new maps to allow this to happen was given to the IGN (National Geographic Institute) at the beginning of 2015.  The idea was for the body to use information from satellites to do this.  A task which it subcontracts to Pakistan and Madagascar, among other distant countries.  Unfortunately the photos that are being used are not all to the same scale and this is causing difficulties with producing the new maps as well as errors in payments, fines, and sometimes farmers having to repay some of the payment.  Farmers are blaming the mess on the moving off shore of the service, which used to see visits from officers to verify the size of farms and sort out any problems.  Brussels has agreed to move the date for filing the “surface” claims back from 17th May to 15th June.


Paid to destroy a security camera in Perpignan

A 16 year old who was caught after having damaged a security camera despite wearing a helmet due to the distinctive clothing he was wearing, claims that he’d been given €50 and told to destroy it by 2 men.  The camera was stopping them from doing what they wanted.  He stole a ladder from a nearby worksite, hid his face and smashed the camera with a stick whilst his accomplice held the ladder.  The accomplice came forward shortly afterwards.  Both of them refused to reveal the identities of the men that had paid them.  They will be called before the children’s court in due course.


Suspects caught 2 years after robbery

Nearly 2 years have passed since 2 masked armed robbers broke into the house of a 61 year old man in Saint Laurent de la Salanque and tied up and gagged the owner before forcing him to open his safe which contained jewellery and watches.  The owner managed to free himself after half an hour and ran next door to the neighbours to get them to telephone the police, as his mobile phone had also been taken.  Initial investigations centring on an organised gang led nowhere, but eventually police started investigating some distant acquaintances of the family who had been holidaying on the coast at the time.  Between December and April, 3 successive operations were carried out to arrest the suspects who live in the Parisian region.  The two main individuals, aged 20 & 29 are being held on remand in separate prisons and will be charged with sequestration, arbitrary kidnapping or detention of a hostage in order to facilitate a crime or misdemeanour, followed by his/her release before the 7th day.


Madeleine McMullin lives in Palalda from where she runs her marketing business Marketing66.  She has worked both in the UK and abroad, with big brand names in the interiors and design industries such as Wedgwood, Denby, Sebastian Conran, Laura Ashley, Hemingway Design…….

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