Full-house unites university lecturers, architects and environmentalists over “abhorrent” plans for Olhão town centre

Friday night’s public meeting over council plans for Olhão’s historic centre saw a packed house vowing “active protests” if the “abhorrent” scheme is ever allowed to go ahead.

As the Resident explained earlier this week, locals and resident expats all believe the ‘plano pormenor da zona histórico’ will simply destroy years of treasured culture and send investors running (click here).

Last night’s meeting saw this feeling backed by local historians, university lecturers, architects and members of regional environmental groups.

And they didn’t stop at the municipal vision for Olhão’s historic centre.

Fernando Grade of Almargem laid into proposals to rip up the easternmost park, in favour of a luxury marina and carpark, saying it was “absurd”. Authorities are discussing the removal of fishermen whose livelihoods depend on their trade, in order to make way for “220 yachts which will block the view over Ria Formosa from local people and all the residents that have made this town their favourite place”.

It was a rabble-rousing occasion which local blogspot Olhão Livre says left people asking what more can they do “other than hold meetings”.

The consensus was that if the council continues to plough ahead with ideas that locals abhor, then protests will have to take to the streets, to “show indignation in front of the town hall”.

Meantime, the Resident has been made aware that local mayor António Pina – whose “vision for the future of the municipality” is behind the plans – was surprised that we had not been in touch with him, “to find out the municipality’s opinion”.

We have since been in contact to explain that this is an issue that transcends the municipality’s opinion. It is about the passion that hundreds of people living in Olhão hold for a beautiful old town whose charm and appeal is in serious danger of being indelibly destroyed by a misplaced desire to ‘modernise’.

Sources behind the scenes suggest Mr Pina is in fact “open to discussions”, and is not a fan of the idea for a 20-metre viewing tower in a prime residential area which dissenters have been disparagingly calling: “Pina’s erection”.

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PHOTO: an example of ‘gentrification’ in Olhão that has seen culture-buffs in dismay. Note the vestiges of ‘calçada’ cobbles on the edges of ‘new-look’ paving slabs. The silver statue is in honour of the local legend of a boy with large eyes who used to appear on his own in the middle of the night, and who was extremely heavy and immovable. The story goes that people were terrified of the child, as they believed his looks could kill – and thus they stayed inside after nightfall. Fishermen later took pity on him and tried to pick up him, but he was so heavy that they ended up dropping him, and he disappeared. People have tried to shift this statue themselves, but it is deeply rooted into the ground.