Developers present revised plan to build three hotels in Portimão

After receiving a resounding ‘thumbs down’ around five months ago (click here), developers have presented a new environmental impact study for a revised plan to build three five-star hotels in “one of the last untouched areas”, João de Arens in Portimão.

As Expresso newspaper points out, there are five main changes to the project which spawned a wave of protests from local citizens earlier this year.

The total number of rooms has decreased from 411 to 353 while the maximum height of each hotel has been lowered from 15 to 12 metres to ensure that they are not visible from the coast.

Developers have also reduced the total construction area to 8,200sqm, which accounts for just 1.8% of the area included in the UP3 urbanisation plan.

They have also proposed to transfer a 92,500sqm area of privately-owned land where the popular coastal trails are located, “the size of nine football stadiums”, to the local council.

In fact, the developers say they plan to create new trails with signposting as the current ones are “disorganised and can be dangerous when it rains”.

They have also guaranteed that the construction of the hotels won’t affect Linaria Algarviana (a species of plant native to the Algarve, belonging to the figwort family and included in the Natura 2020 network).

To make sure that this protected species is not damaged in any way, the developers even say they will hire an external entity to “regularly evaluate the impact” of construction works.

João Jacinto, a representative for one of the developers, says there has been “a lot of misinformation” about this project which he says aims to be a leading example of “ecotourism and sustainability”.

“This old idea of building tower-like hotels no longer exists. These days, tourists in five-star hotels want the experience of being in areas that are looked after,” Jacinto told Expresso.

However, the revised plan has failed to win over most of the local citizens who belong to ‘A Última Janela Para o Mar’ – a Facebook group created to oppose construction in the João de Arens area.

Among the most notable people speaking out against this new version of the project was João Vasconcelos, an Algarve MP for Bloco de Esquerda (BE) who called on the people of Portimão to hit the streets again and “stop the construction of this aberration”.

Others have commented saying “no to more concrete” and vowing that they will keep fighting to protect the area from development.

This will be the second attempt by the developers – Top Building, Astronow, Areia Feliz and Estoril Investe – to move forward with their plans after the project’s initial draft received a negative assessment from the regional development commission CCDR Algarve in May.

The assessment was based mainly on the impact that the project would have on the “biodiversity and landscape” of the popular João d’Arens coastal strip between Praia do Vau and Praia dos Três Irmãos.

The committee responsible for analysing the study stressed that the project would involve the “destruction of nearly 3,000 hectares” in one of the few spots where the Linaria Algarviana can be found. And the measures that were proposed by developers to “mitigate, prevent and compensate” the impact of the construction plans were far from convincing.

The committee targeted the “irreversible impact on the scenic quality and structure of the area, likely compromising the identity of one of the areas where the Algarve’s original coastal landscape is still untouched,” and also took into account that the development is framed by a territorial plan which foresees that this coastal strip of Algarve could be subjected to even more development plans involving an extra 20,000 beds.

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