A bridge too far.jpg

A bridge too far

By Jenny Grainer

THE NEW hypermarket across the road from me is rapidly drawing toward its opening day and men and machines are working all out. No doubt there is a high expectation of catching some of the Christmas shoppers, but the new access bridge has taken some of us local residents by surprise and others are incandescent with rage.

Throughout the summer, not only the finishing touches to our urbanisation have been taking place, but also the construction of a small driving school and park were completed. Apparently, the câmara will be opening the area to small children, who will be educated in the use of roads, hand signals and the Highway Code – a charming and sensible idea, sadly not made available to their parents or previous generations of drivers.

Between the school park and the first of our buildings was a small piece of land of about nine metres in width, running between our parking areas to a narrow access road parallel with the EN125. It had never been surfaced and had been used as a dumping ground for building materials throughout the construction process.

False hopes

When men arrived to clean it all up and surveyors were spotted with their little tripods and measuring tape, we were all very happy that our corner of the world was getting its final prettying up, until one day a man and a machine arrived to dig a big hole in the aforementioned piece of no mans land.

The very deep hole was filled with cement and my husband, who has a modicum of engineering knowledge, deduced from this minor clue that we were about to get a pedestrian walkway over the EN125.

And why, we asked between ourselves and neighbours, would we need a pedestrian walk way over the EN125, which leads to nothing but green fields and – of course Modelo/Continente.

The monster of steel and concrete grew and grew. Traffic came to a halt one night as the main crosspiece was laid in place and now our pleasant little urbanisation has a motley collection of concrete slabs stretching skywards and over the road. Each section of the upward ramp is at least 10 metres long and, as there are four of them on each side of the road plus another 20 metre crossover, it is hard to imagine who exactly will really benefit from this eyesore.

I wonder just how many people with wheel chairs or mums with toddlers and prams will have the strength and stamina to slog up these zigzagging ramps and shoot down the descending ones the other end in order to do their shopping and then reverse the operation loaded down with shopping bags?

No letter arrived from the câmara advising any of us of the plans in advance and no survey was conducted to discover if the occupants in the area wanted a pedestrian access to yet another supermarket, in particular the ones who live right next to it. The occupants of the two end apartments on the ground floor with a substantial and fenced in garden and the other first floor flat with a couple of nice terraces, can now be overlooked by anyone passing by. Their privacy has been removed and thereby their property devalued almost overnight.

If opinions had been asked I wonder what the responses might have been? It’s more than probable that a way to safely cross the road to reach the other side was a desirable and acceptable addition to the area and not just to reach the new shopping facility.

Walking is a good form of exercise, but a hazardous one these days, where little or no provision is made for people who like to do it. In the summer months I’m sure that many mothers would feel a lot safer knowing that their children could walk to the nearby water park along the Estombar road without the danger of first negotiating the EN125. Also, the elderly who do not drive could certainly benefit by having a safe way to traverse this notorious highway, but not if they have to do a keep fit programme before they even start out.

In my humble opinion, a more sensible solution would have been an underground walkway. The same piece of land that is the base for the slanting ski runs could easily have provided a gentle slope down and under the road plus a staircase for the more nimble. It might well have been more expensive to construct, but without doubt would have been in constant use and far less obtrusive. It will be interesting to see how many pedestrians will use the crossing in its present form. Perhaps the next Mamamaratona could use it as a training run?

Many things have changed for the better in Portugal, but the stubborn refusal of câmaras to inform local residents of plans passed, or public consultation over ideas in a planning stage, continues to irritate. I’m sure any one of us could have asked to see the building plans at Lagoa City Hall, but we would first have needed to have at least a notion that something was muted. In future, all spare pieces of land in the locality, no matter how small, will be looked upon with grave suspicion.