THREE OF the main squares in Estoi have been the subject of building work since October last year and, with progress being slow, local residents are running out of patience.
The peaceful village of Estoi has never been the same since the work began, with three renovation projects starting at the same time. Despite local residents being in favour of the refurbishment of the squares, criticism has been forthcoming due to the slow progress. Another bone of contention appears to be the choice of materials used.
According to a report in the Algarve’s Barlavento newspaper, scores of local residents are up in arms and a letter of complaint has even been sent to Faro Câmara by Fernando Pessoa, a professor at the Algarve University and a resident of the village.
The main topic of conversation in the cafés of Estoi seems to be the building work. The owner of an establishment in Largo da Liberdade, next to the church, says: “There is a debate every night in my café about the work being carried out here.” In his opinion, improvements are necessary and those who are complaining are “old-fashioned people who want to stay stuck in the past”.
The thinking behind the refurbishment is to improve the quality of life for local inhabitants and to benefit the local economy. Currently, it appears that tourists only visit Estoi for a short time, purely to see the palace and the ruins of Milreu. When the refurbishment of Largo da Liberdade is complete, it will be a pedestrianised area, providing the existing cafés and restaurants with the possibility of upgrading their offer, for example, extending their terraces so that more customers can sit outside in warm weather. This, it is hoped, could persuade tourists to stay a little longer in the village.
“This square has been known for 50 years as the ‘square of the coaches’. Each time a coach wants to pass by and a car is parked here, the GNR fines the driver. I’ll be happy when my clients are no longer fined,” the café owner commented.
Júlio Tropa, the village priest, is in agreement with the improvement of the village, however, he does not agree with the way the project has been handled from the beginning. “Local people were not consulted and everything was done in a hurry,” he lamented. “Everything was pulled down at once and they didn’t start with the work straight away.” He also pointed out that, in the village, there are many qualified people in the areas of patrimonial, environmental matters and landscape architecture, who could have given a valuable contribution to the project. For the priest, it is clear that the work went ahead without definite ideas as to what was going to be done.
Another issue is the decline of the village’s traditional style. Marble is apparently going to be used in the refurbished areas, replacing the original stone that existed there. “My idea is that we must preserve the typical style of the village when we are carrying out a renovation project of this sort,” commented Júlio Tropa.
Local residents believe the project should have been handled in phases, so as not to cause great disruption in the village. According to locals, children have nowhere safe to play now, meaning that they are being forced to choose areas that may not be suitable.
There are also many complaints about the lack of progress with regard to the renovation work being carried out in Largo Ossónoba and Largo Humberto Delgado, where there is a kindergarten. When asked about the delay, the Câmara confirmed that work would begin at Largo Ossónoba within a week.
On hearing the locals’ complaints, a spokesperson for Faro Câmara was quick to point out that the renovation work was already underway when the new council executives took office, following last October’s local elections. “Therefore, it was only possible to make minor alterations to the existing projects, following suggestions from local residents,” the spokesperson said.
The renovation work is being made as part of the Programa Aldeias do Algarve (the Villages of the Algarve Programme), developed by the Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Algarve, the commission for the co-ordination and development of the Algarve, which has been co-financed by European Union funding through the ProAlgarve programme.