Alagoas Brancas

Citizens take to street against Alagoas Brancas “destruction”

Government claims decision to save wetland side is in Lagoa council’s hands; council says it cannot change laws; citizens insist council has the power to stop development plans

Dozens of citizens gathered in Lagoa on Wednesday afternoon (April 19) for a slow march against the “destruction” of the Alagoas Brancas wetland site.

Holding banners calling for authorities and developers to “Save Alagoas Brancas” and to “Stop killing animals”, the protestors marched from the Carlos do Carmo auditorium to Alagoas Brancas, stopping at town hall along the way.

The protest came just a few days after a public disagreement over who has the power to stop the site from being levelled to make way for an “industrial park” and “commercial areas”.

Speaking in Parliament last week, Secretary of State for Nature Conservation, João Paulo Catarino, said the government is available to “find a solution to manage and safeguard the wetland site”, although he stressed that the decision is ultimately in the hands of the local authority.

Lagoa Council reacted this week, reiterating in a statement to the press that it is powerless to stop the development plans without paying millions of euros in compensation to the developer.

Alagoas Brancas

“It is with satisfaction that we hear the government show its total availability to preserve Alagoas Brancas. But we were very surprised to hear the secretary of state say that the decision is up to the council, because the decision to change laws is certainly not up to local councils,” said Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação.

The council stressed that the project was included in the municipality’s urbanisation plan (PU), approved in 2008 with no protests or issues raised and with positive reports from key institutions such as the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA), the Algarve Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR Algarve) and the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF).

Despite the vehement protests that erupted after the project started moving forward, the council always maintained that cancelling development plans for the area would leave the council in financial ruin.

However, the council vows that it will revoke all the “legally approved” plans so long as the government “clearly authorises it” by publishing a decree law or law in the State gazette Diário da República and by taking over the responsibility of compensating the developer.

“If the matter is simple for the government, it will be simple for the council as well. Change the law, cover any compensation owed to the developer and the decision will be made,” the local mayor guaranteed.

Alagoas Brancas

Citizens’ movement ‘Salvar as Alagoas Brancas’ joined the fray on Wednesday, insisting that the council does have the power to suspend the development plans.

“There is legislation that allows altering urbanisation plans, giving the council leeway to stop the construction at Alagoas Brancas without having to pay compensation,” the group says.

The group cites article 115 of Decree-Law 80/2015 to defend that “whenever there is a change of circumstances that were not known at the time of the urbanisation plan’s approval, the council can take the initiative of making changes (to the project).”

“The council should tell the developer that there is a new situation, that they are going to revoke the urbanisation plan and that they can no longer build there,” says the group, adding that the right to compensation lapses three years after the urbanisation plan’s approval.

Citing the same article, the group adds that the right to compensation is also suspended when the “characteristics of the soil present risks to people and goods”.

“These statements from the council are misleading to people who are less informed and are not true. The council has the option to save Alagoas Brancas at zero cost.”

By Michael Bruxo
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