Controversial hotel “slap on Monte Gordo beach” given last-minute environmental veto

It’s a new shock that will have environmentalists and many more delighting: controversial plans for a luxury hotel “practically on the beach” at Monte Gordo, in the eastern Algarve, have suddenly been stymied by APA, the Portuguese association for the environment.

Bizarrely, APA was reported to have initially given the multi-million euro project the green-light.

This led to the local council (Vila Real de Santo António) selling the 6000 sq metre beachside plot to Hoti Hotels Group for €3.6 million, explains tabloid Correio da Manhã today.

Hoti’s Spanish partner Meliá Hotels International announced it would start building some time this year, in order to open in 2018, or 2019 at the latest.

But this now looks to be very wishful thinking.

CM claims APA has changed its mind, saying the plans do not fit with its coastal plan, the notorious POOC.

This is exactly what environmental NGO Almargem, as well as Communist MP Paulo Sá have been saying for months.

Indeed, it could be as result of these ‘inconvenient challenges’ that APA’s mind has changed.

VRSA’s mayor Luís Gomes has told CM that he has asked APA for the reason for its apparent u-turn “but has still not received a reply”.

Keenly watching the situation are islanders further west in Ria Formosa where scores of homes are at risk of demolition for being less than 40 metres from the water’s edge.

In Monte Gordo’s case, the four-storey hotel would be just 15 metres from the shoreline.

As Paulo Sá queried on Facebook in April, perhaps “proximity to the water’s edge is only a problem when constructions are modest? If they are luxury hotels, perhaps they are no longer a problem?”

Eyes now are on ‘what happens next’.

Hoti Hotels are unlikely to accept the decision without a fight, while VRSA has had the nuts and bolts of a €200 million coastal ‘upgrade’ already sanctioned by APA in a bid to bring Monte Gordo into tourism’s 21st century.

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