While the story of the SIRESP communications tower originally destined for a residential area in Carvoeiro may no longer be news (Algarve Resident, April 3, 10, 17), we hope you will permit us to raise some important background issues.
First, the opposition of residents of Areias dos Moinhos to this tower was based not on NIMBY (which can be translated as “anywhere else but here”) but on the bizarreness of its location. No residents, permanent or otherwise, can object to the area being linked into a national security communications network. However, none of the apparent reasons for the placement of the tower, provided grudgingly only after the work was well underway, can withstand scrutiny.
Elevation? There are higher locations nearby with the added advantage of being well separated from human habitation.
Public land? Not exactly. Technically, it is “owned” by the Câmara but its use is determined by the statutes governing the urbanisation and the original intent was for use as a park.
Security? Clearly the planners never gave it a second thought.
Whatever communication benefits to Portugal a tower at this location could offer would be far outweighed by the disadvantages: severe damage to the tourist industry of the area and consequent loss of jobs to an economy already in trouble. And, let’s be honest, a huge drop in real estate values for both foreigners and Portuguese residents in the neighbourhood.
Although most villa owners in Areias dos Moinhos are foreigners, it would be wrong to describe this as a dispute between “us and them”. At least half of the people who signed our petition opposing the location of the tower were Portuguese.
And there were only two non-Portuguese in the sole meeting residents had with members of the Câmara to discuss this problem. Portuguese residents played a key and vital role in our bid to see common sense prevail.
The best thing to emerge from this example of heavy-handed government is the extraordinary sense of community it generated. Tourist areas by definition are transient in nature but not only have we made friends with neighbours we’ve never met before, we’ve experienced kindness and support from complete strangers.
But most importantly, we’ve all learned the importance of keeping a closer eye on local government and politics. Sometimes they’re not as benign as we’d like to think.
Maureen and Hal Jones, Carvoeiro