Almargem rally over Querença property speculation

Environmentalists have reacted swiftly to the news that Finnish businessman Arto Takala is behind a not-for-profit foundation’s bid to create a centre for investigation in the Algarve heartland of Querença.

Almargem – which campaigned long and hard against plans for the Quinta da Ombria luxury resort in the ‘protected area’ – is querying whether the centre is “simply an annexe” to the swanky development due to open as the first European location for the Viceroy Hotel Group.

Focused on “distinguished jetsetters and thrill-seekers”, Almargem stresses that Quinta da Ombria’s borders are shared with the 10-hectare property earmarked for Casas de Benémola research centre.

“To the north” there is also the “threat of another mega-tourist development,” going by the name of Vida Vital.

Calling the “pressure” on this “magnificent, incomparable jewel” of the Algarve’s Barrocal area “intolerable”, the eco-group asks if local councillors really are hell-bent on turning the Benémola valley into a “kind of private leisure park for the many thousands of tourists” that look likely to start arriving “right next door”?

Using the phrase the government repeatedly used to justify its desire to demolish hundreds of homes on the Ria Formosa barrier islands, Almargem said “there must be a way” in which the Rede Natura 2000 can be “enjoyed by all and not just by a few”.

The group is thus calling on Loulé council to organise, “with urgency”, “a forum of debate on protected areas and places”.

As the Resident discovered earlier this month (see:, the Arto Carpo Castelo Foundation has been elusive over exactly what is planned if the Casas de Benémola research centre gets the go-ahead.

For now, the design contract signed with Loulé Câmara at the end of May promises to invest €10 million creating the centre and rural hotel, but CEO Kristiina Lappi was unable to answer most of our questions on what the project would mean for the area.

Almargem points out “unfortunately… a centre that claims to mean to protect the Mediterranean ecosystems of the Barrocal will have a direct relationship and privileged view over a golf course, a luxury hotel and 400 houses and apartments…”

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