By: NATASHA SMITH
PRESERVATION OF natural areas, infrastructural improvements and tourism will be the main focus of development plans for the Algarve over the next decade.
João Faria, president of the regional development commission, CCDR, has said that the Algarve’s development plan, PROTAL, could still be adjusted but he has vowed that the restrictions on construction within 500 metres of the coast will remain unaltered.
The latest PROTAL has been in effect since August but is subject to change, as new ideas and recommendations from câmaras and other entities are integrated.
He said he understood that many hoteliers in the region are critical of the lack of coastal development possibilities but said it was necessary to create a balance and protect natural areas.
He believes this is paramount to ensure that the region develops its reputation as a quality destination and avoid maximising economic revenues by compromising natural areas.
Through the restriction of coastal development, PROTAL in turn aims to encourage development in inland areas of the Algarve as population migration to the coast over the last few decades has had a detrimental economic effect.
Despite the many development restrictions, Faria said that tourism remains an integral part of PROTAL. More and more companies depend on the sustainability of tourism and as investments are made in the rest of Portugal, more jobs will be created, which improves the economy.
Over the next decade, Faria said one of the most important projects will be to improve the EN125. He said structural improvements of this road, which spans the Algarve and is used by 12 of the 16 councils, is important to the region’s image and development.
He said that this will be facilitated “in two or three zones with heavy investment and half a dozen with moderate investments”. However, he added that all projects must respect the environment and the specific areas to be redeveloped have yet to be announced.
As an alternative to the A22 motorway, it is necessary for the EN125 to make several safety and structural improvements, including the construction of barriers on the roadsides. Where it is not possible to build, hedges will be planted to preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Several new and faster links to cities and the A22 from the EN125 will also be carried out, and more roundabouts will be built to improve traffic flow and to replace potentially dangerous junctions.
Public transportation has also been an issue for the region and with a severe lack of funds, very little development has been possible. However, an extensive study is due to begin before the end of the year to evaluate the possibilities.
“If at the end of the study we come to the conclusion that the creation of a lane specifically for buses is the solution, we could go for that”, said Faria. The study is due to be concluded by April, 2008.
Do you have a view on this story? Email: [email protected]