Environment minister “surprises” Ria Formosa islanders with new round of demolition notices

“Inadmissable” – this is the message coming out of Ria Formosa today after islanders were “surprised” by a new slew of demolition notices.

Contrary to everything said nine months ago (click here), environment minister João Pedro Matos Fernandes appears to have sanctioned a rearguard action against 22 homes previously protected by court orders.

The homes – 12 on the community of Farol, 10 on the next door neighbouring hamlet of Hangares – include primary residences which the minister had previously assured would be protected.

As Farol parish president Feliciano Júlio told reporters, the criteria of homes less than 40 metres from the shoreline being used to justify demolition is “highly suspect” given that it is not being used for any other of the lagoon’s island communities.

Added to this is the fact that promised sand-replenishment of the Ria has not taken place, thus the sea has encroached further into the island, potentially leaving more properties vulnerable to the 40 metre ‘rule’.

But perhaps most suspect of all is the fact that Sociedade Polis Litoral Ria Formosa, the entity overseeing demolitions became (or should have become) officially extinct on January 9.

The notices received by islanders on Friday are advising them to quit their homes on February 27.

Says campaigning group SOS Ria Formosa’s latest Facebook entry, this is “inadmissable”.

For now, islanders’ group response is awaited but it is unlikely to be compliant.

Bloco de Esquerda MP for the Algarve João Vasconcelos is already in fighting mode, saying the whole situation is a “disgrace”, while SOS Ria Formosa has re-posted the short film made about life on the islands, (Portuguese title: Hei de Morrer onde Nasci – I have to die where I was born) with the message that “while the public recognises the value of our history, others continue to want to end it… the struggle continues”.

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Aerial view of Culatra island, showing three ‘nuclei’ of Farol, Hangares and Culatra. No demolitions are planned in Culatra, just in Farol and Hangares.