Having taken over the island’s management this week, the City Council plans to create a new scientific research hub, a cultural venue and a Civil Protection post as part of several new projects.
Starting this week, the municipality of Faro will be in charge of the public areas of the Farol Nucleus of Culatra Island. This handover ends a ten-year transfer of power process from the APSA (Administration of the Ports of Sines and Algarve) to the Municipality of Faro.
Following the approval ceremony, which took place on January 31, Faro Mayor Rogério Bacalhau explained that this is “a transfer of territorial management power”.
The difference will be “above all, operability. Until now, a problem here would have had to be handled by the APSA, and a public tender would be launched” to resolve it. “We have the operational capabilities to better look after this area”.
For now, says the mayor, it is necessary to fix the streets and legalise several houses, especially regarding inheritances. “Then there is a set of properties, which date from the time of the former Instituto Portuario e dos Transportes Marítimos (IPTM) that the APSA received, and which are now vacant and property of the municipality of Faro”.
Bacalhau refers to the group of buildings next to the pier, “there are several of them and of a certain size. We want to set up a Civil Protection station there with firefighter equipment to provide better security for those on the island, particularly in the summer, but throughout the year”, he says.
The buildings will also serve the Centre for Marine Sciences (CCMAR) of the University of the Algarve (UAlg), “which has already contacted us because it wants to create a hub here”, and also for culture, as “we can host artistic residencies, and have a cultural movement here. We are looking into this”.
“From today onwards, we have, in some way, this responsibility. We have ideas. We are going to implement them and develop a set of resources that will create added value for both the Farol nucleus and the municipality”, some even “in the near future”.
Contrary to the Culatra fishing centre, which has a unique building status, drawing up a Detailed Plan for the Farol nucleus will not be necessary. “We cannot build here. The only thing we can authorise is the improvement of existing facilities. We cannot build, create new constructions, new homes, new hotels, absolutely nothing”, stated Rogério Bacalhau.
“It is territory that we have to manage as it is occupied. We can requalify the buildings that come under our ownership, but we cannot add more floors, make extensions, or anything like that. Here, the idea and practice are to maintain what exists and redevelop the public area”, he added.
However, the Faro mayor revealed that later this year, a specialised company will be hired to “carry out a topographical survey of the entire area” and “of the Praia de Faro, to understand what exists today” in these essential bathing areas of the municipality, because “over decades, expansions were made, spaces were added to the public area”.
As a legacy, the APSA leaves a project that has long been demanded: a new disembarkation pier next to the existing one, which is at the end of its life.
At the ceremony, the president of the Administration of the Ports of Sines and Algarve, José Luís Cacho, said he believes that from now on, better conditions will be provided to those who live in or visit Farol, as well as boosting the development of the centre, creating value for the island and Faro.
“Naturally, with our maritime vocation, we lack the sensitivity or conditions to follow this. We made an effort with our team to permanently monitor it, with the support of the [residents] association and the City Council, which, over the years, helped us maintain what we were able to resolve,” he concluded.
In turn, Feliciano Júlio, president of the Residents Association of the Ilha do Farol, said that in addition to the thousands of visitors who spend every summer here, 160 to 180 people live throughout the year in the Farol nucleus and that he already has a list of problems that he would like to be resolved by the Faro municipality.
Culatra Island is one of the five barrier islands of the Ria Formosa. It integrates the Culatra, Farol and Hangares nuclei. The latter two were the target of a (controversial) renaturation project by the extinct Sociedade Polis Ria Formosa, which saw several houses in a risky area be demolished.
Original text and photos by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento