By 2019-08-13 InAlgarve

Citizens target urbanisation plan to eliminate threat of João de Arens development

Three months after having halted a controversial project to build three hotels in “one of the last untouched coastal areas” in Portimão (click here), a group of local citizens are now determined to make sure the area never faces the threat of development again.

On Thursday (August 15), members of ‘A Última Janela para o Mar’ will be collecting signatures for a petition demanding that the urbanisation plan (UP3) for the João de Arens area be suspended or revoked. They will be at Praia da Rocha and Praia do Alemão beaches.

The meeting point will be the sports area of Praia da Rocha at 9am. Anyone who joins the initiative will be given a free T-shirt.

“The urbanisation plan is the base of the pyramid that will allow more projects like the one that was thwarted in May to appear. It doesn’t make sense to involve the community and collect signatures every year. By asking for the plan to be suspended or revoked, we are tackling the root of the problem,” says Lucinda Caetano, a local urban planner and one of the founders of the group.

She stresses that the group has nothing against the owners of the land, only against plans that are detrimental to the environment.

“We want a plan that will respect the landscape and environment of João de Arens,” Caetano explained.

Lawyer Rui Amores, another member of the group, adds that the group does not want a plan that involves more buildings on the town’s coastline and within 500 metres of it.

As he explains, it would be dangerous to have more concrete on clifftops that are already unstable, and it would also “go against the new land management strategy”.

As readers may recall, the project’s environmental impact study received a negative assessment in May. The assessment was based mainly on the impact that the project would have on the “biodiversity and landscape” of the popular João d’Arens coastal strip between Praia do Vau and Praia dos Três Irmãos.

At the root of the issue was the “destruction of nearly 3,000 hectares” in one of the few spots where the rare and threatened Linaria Algarviana (a species of plant native to the Algarve, belonging to the figwort family and included in the Natura 2020 network) can be found.

The committee also found that the measures proposed by developers to “mitigate, prevent and compensate” the impact of the construction plans were far from convincing.

Environmental association Almargem had also openly criticised the project, calling it a “huge environmental mistake”.

The project was backed by two Portuguese property development societies and a Spanish hotel company. Astronow, MI Estoril Invest, Areia Feliz, Top Building and Prainha are the owners of the plots, and Top Building acted as the project’s main representative.

If the project moved forward, three hotels would be built in a coastal area between Três Irmãos and Vau, covering a total area of 460,000 square metres.

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