The IKEA project for Loulé continues to face setbacks, this time from Faro opposition councillors who do not want to see a “gigantic” shopping development – “three-and-a-half times the size of Forum Algarve” – being built in the area. But IKEA stands firm and has the support of Faro mayor and a majority of the Algarve population.
The latest setback came last month after an application for a licence to build an access road in Faro was rejected by local councillors.
The licence was voted against by five opposition councillors from PS and PCP, who together outnumbered the ruling right-wing PSD/CDS-PP coalition (four).
“The IKEA project does not have the right conditions to be approved because it affects, or will affect, the natural heritage and landscape of the municipality,” said socialist councillor Paulo Neves, adding that the development will “strongly affect the economic and social development” of the municipality.
He also said that Loulé’s administrative court is still analysing an appeal put forward by Algarve retailers association ACRAL, claiming the project’s environmental impact study (EIA) was conducted by an entity commissioned by IKEA itself, therefore impartiality is questionable.
Faro mayor Rogério Bacalhau has since guaranteed, however, that the rejection “will not compromise the construction of the IKEA outlet, only the single access road”. And thankfully for a majority of the population (82% voted in favour of the IKEA project in the Resident’s online poll last week), the development is “moving along swiftly”.
Contacted by the Resident, IKEA spokesperson Ana Teresa Fernandes refused to comment on the vote down but guaranteed once again that “everything has been done by the book” and the project is “moving along swiftly”.
But for Algarve retailers the Faro councillors’ decision to reject IKEA’s licence application was something of a minor win in their war against the Swedish furniture group.
Vítor Guerreiro, head of ACRAL, said that “the PS and PCP councillors showed good sense” in their decision to vote down the application.
“They showed the good sense that Loulé council should have shown when voting on the project,” he stated, warning of the “serious damage” that the IKEA outlet may cause.
“This is an unparalleled project for the Algarve, with 220 stores in two shopping centres and an IKEA store, which IKEA would have us all believe will have a low socio-economic impact. This is neither proven nor credible; in fact, quite the opposite,” he concluded.
Young socialists support IKEA project
Interestingly, the Socialist Youth Group of Loulé (Juventude Socialista de Loulé) has come out in support of the IKEA project.
Shunning ACRAL’s concerns and going against the vote of socialist councillors in Faro, the young socialists in Loulé believe the project will bring “a huge number of benefits to the Algarve”, helping “fight seasonality” and “encouraging youngsters to settle in the region”.
But most importantly they consider the opening of an IKEA outlet a “fundamental measure” to combat youth unemployment.
Along with its own megastore, IKEA is planning to build two large shopping centres boasting over 200 retail outlets, as well as a cinema complex, food halls and a 2,600-vehicle car park.
The project is earmarked over a 242,353sqm site near the junction of the Loulé/Faro stretch of Via do Infante motorway and the Algarve stadium.
According to IKEA, the development will bring 3,000 new jobs to the area and will generate 20% of extra spin-off business.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]