The winter calm over tourist village Praia da Luz has been shattered by the erection of an innocuous sign on scrubland near the Miradouro (viewing point) on the way out of the village towards Burgau.
The sign alludes to a request for licensing for a building project, property of Aquazul – a company that can safely claim to be a ‘reference in Algarve tourism’.
No sooner had the sign been hammered into the ground than residents in properties alongside became very agitated.
The Resident received emails, along the lines of “the last thing we want is building work on the land right next to our properties. This would be a total nightmare…”
We have also been told that “residents bought their houses on the understanding that this land would be open land”.
This is particularly relevant considering the project under appreciation was first mooted in the 1960s.
Other complaints are that any development on the site would “cause major problems for the surrounding areas” in that it would ‘block light’ and add further pressure to the little town’s ‘obsolete sewage system’.
Local resident Emmanuelle Guitton accepts that some level of development had to be expected on the site, but she says this project is simply ‘too large’.
A petition has been raised on the national petição pública site, and an exhortation sent to the Mayor of Lagos claiming that because of the pandemic locals haven’t had enough time to register their antipathy to the proposed development.
A source for the council however has stressed that two periods of public consultation have been opened and closed this year – all in accordance with the law governing councils’ appreciation of projects requesting licensing.
The essential point of this story is that the plan put forwards by Aquazul goes back to before the 1974 revolution.
Thus if residents were led to believe when they bought their homes/ plots/ apartments that there would never be any building on the Miradouro site, someone must have been bending the truth.
Further ‘bending of the truth’ appears to have come in the form the development was presented to people in Luz. The project’s architects discovered images were being publicised which “manipulated the heights of the volumes and made small two levels townhouses look like skyscrapers”. This, understandably, will have powered local discontent.
Aquazul, based in Porto, is simply “very sad”.
Said director Filipe da Costa Lima: “All we have ever wanted to do in Luz is create a venture of great quality. This plan goes back a very, very long way. It has taken us years to get to the point that Lagos has a PDM and our project has been accepted within it. The council believes Luz needs a 5-star hotel, and so do we.
“Our belief is that if you have good facilities, capable of attracting other levels of tourists, you can elevate the area generally and create a lot of jobs. This is a strategic element of the plan”.
The fuss being generated “makes for very bad publicity”, he said – and he feels public opinion has been manipulated,
The plan – involving 56 apartments plus a 5-star resort with 120 suites and 97 apartments – involves “exactly the figures established by Lagos Câmara for the project.
“If you look at the images on our website (click here), you can see how the buildings in comparison with those across the street are very small, low density and they will be surrounded by beautiful gardens and landscaping”, said Mr da Costa Lima.
“We have actually kept the highest point of the site for the public to retain access, as it is indeed a viewing point. To be honest, we feel the ‘antagonism’ has been fanned by propaganda and well, ultimately, yes, someone has not been telling the truth”.
Where it leaves the venture, Mr da Costa Lima can only hope. The project has taken all of 20 years to get to the point that the sign was erected, before that were 40 years in which Aquazul was even for a time appropriated by a former Communist government.
“It is a long, painful story and we have still not managed to create what we hope to be able to do there”, he told us. “Right now, what you have there is simply an unsightly urban void”.
Aquazul meantime is about to start a development in Alvor, and has other projects in the Algarve and elsewhere. In the past, it has been involved in creating touristic havens like Quinta do Lago. The company ethos is that ‘tourism should be conceived with quality’. Says the website: “Our commitment with an ethical aesthetic has been leading our path in the pursuit of excellence”