Loulé council has suspended its municipal master plan (PDM) in a bid to stop development in the heart of the Almargem lagoon, described as one of the last green areas between Quarteira and Vale do Lobo.
The project involves demolishing Quarteira’s Orbitur campsite and make room for a 499-room tourist development with six-storey buildings.
Público newspaper broke the story last week saying the council has used climate change – rising sea levels in particular – to justify its decision.
The project is led by a real estate fund called Invesfundo VII, part of the Novo Banco group, which has already contested the decision in a letter sent to municipal councillors.
It calls on the council “not to commit an illegal act that is damaging to the interests of private (investors)”, adding that a decision like this shouldn’t be made without hearing the opinions of everyone, from local citizens to companies and other regional entities.
Developers plan to demolish the campsite by the end of this year to make room for the ‘Quinta do Oceano’ development which includes the construction of an aparthotel, several six-storey buildings as well as one- and two-storey villas.
Loulé council and the developers have been at odds over the project since 2009, when the local authority said that it would only back the development if an alternative location for the campsite was provided.
According to the POOC coastal plan, the lagoon at the mouth of Almargem is part of a group of wetland areas between Armação de Pêra and Ancão, as is Lagoa dos Salgados near Galé which has also been under threat of coastal development for years.
Loulé’s municipal assembly tried to classify the area as a “protected local area” but the bid was not successful. The issue is that the campsite is designated “urban space” since 1995. Despite this, the council believes that the proposed development is not in line with the municipal strategy against climate change, which is the base for the municipal master plan (PDM) that has been under revision for around a year.
Loulé’s coastal development restrictions have already received “favourable opinions” from the Portuguese environmental agency (APA) and the regional coordination and development commission (CCDR).
APA even highlights a number of “environmental vulnerabilities” that Loulé’s PDM should try to minimise on this stretch of the coast.
Loulé’s decision to suspend the PDM is valid for two years and can be extended for another until a new plan is approved and implemented.
The council has already come up with 28 climate change-related measures to implement as part of the PDM’s revision. One of the priorities is a study on the “mean sea level” and the elevation of the tide during extreme events like floods. The goal is to “safeguard and reduce urban density in vulnerable areas”. Thus, the campsite project could be reduced in scale to less than half of the proposed building density.
As Público points out, there is no shortage of coastal development projects despite the evident risks of building so close to the sea.
The newspaper highlights a number of coastal properties built in Vale do Lobo around 30 years ago which are at risk of cliff falls due to rising sea levels.
Around €2.5 million has already been invested in sand replenishment projects to try to counteract the effects of the higher sea levels.
PDM suspended for second time
This is not the first time Loulé council has suspended its PDM municipal plan, although last time it was precisely for the opposite reason.
In 2007, the PDM was suspended to allow the approval and construction of the Conrad Algarve hotel at the entrance of Quinta do Lago.
The land was classified as “forest area” which prevented the project from moving forward. But the hotel was considered “too important” and an advantage to the Algarve’s tourism sector.
Three new hotels in the pipeline
Meanwhile, another coastal tourist development is in the pipeline for the Algarve.
The project involves the construction of three hotels in a coastal area between Três Irmãos and Vau in Alvor, Portimão and covers a total area of 460,000 square metres.
Representing an investment of €43.1 million, the hotels will occupy an 11,500sqm area and boast 411 rooms in total.
The project is backed by two Portuguese property development societies and a Spanish hotel company.
Astronow, MI Estoril Invest, Areia Feliz, Top Building and Prainha are the owners of the plots, with Top Building acting as the project’s main representative.
According to Jornal de Negócios, the developers came together because they owned separate adjacent plots in the area.
An environmental impact study is currently under public consultation until March 15.
Nearly 600 new apartments planned for Faro
Nearly 600 new apartments – including an apartment building for university students – are due to be built in Faro as part of a development project entitled ‘Alta de Faro’ promoted by the Libertas Group.
The apartments will be built in Lejana, northwest of Faro, and are part of a €160 million investment plan that the group has for Portugal.
Libertas is also building 400 apartments in Albufeira, 260 of which have already been built and sold, as well as several villas in Parchal and Ferragudo, Lagoa. The group also has plans for Tavira and Portimão.
By MICHAEL BRUXO