Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação – Photo: MUNICÍPIO DE LAGOA
Lagoa Mayor Luís Encarnação – Photo: MUNICÍPIO DE LAGOA

Lagoa mayor tackles borough’s most pressing issues

Lagoa mayor Luís Encarnação has addressed some of the most pressing matters in the municipality, from his sceptical stance on the plans to expand Portimão port to the long-promised Ferragudo marina project.

Encarnação also comments on plans to build an urban park in Lagoa, purchase the rundown Centro de Congressos do Arade and find a solution to the problems created by abusive motorhoming in Benagil, Praia da Marinha and Algar Seco.

 Arade dredging project

While authorities like the Algarve’s regional development commission (CCDR Algarve) have celebrated the “conditional approval” of the Arade River dredging works which will make way for larger cruise ships at Portimão port, Lagoa remains opposed to the project just like it did when the first version of it was rejected.

“Between the first and second discussions, the municipality of Lagoa participated in several meetings in a goal to contribute, in a positive and constructive way, to improve the project,” said Encarnação.

“Some conditions were guaranteed so that Lagoa would sign the agreement memorandum to allow the project to be reviewed: for example, the safeguarding of Arade’s archaeological heritage; the reduction of the outer harbour, the (navigation) channel and maximum length of the ships; the safeguarding of environmental matters at the port and the disposal of removed sand along our coast.

“However, we gave an unfavourable review yet again, as we continue to think the project is not adequate for the Arade. The size of those ships is not adequate for the size of the river mouth, and we see no advantages for the riverbanks. It is the opinion we will continue having until we are shown otherwise,” the mayor said.

“All the studies we have and especially our day-to-day experience in recent years show us that this project does not have any benefits for the municipality of Lagoa,” the mayor said, acknowledging, however, that it may bring some good to the Algarve region as a whole.

“We have a stance and a motto which guides us and is part of our governing strategy: what is good for the Algarve is good for Lagoa and what is good for Lagoa is good for the Algarve. We accept that the project might have some interest for the region. Maybe some passengers will want to visit areas like Sagres and Silves. But it does not seem to us that it has any relevance to the economic development of Lagoa,” he explained.

The council was hoping that by signing the project’s agreement memorandum, it would lead to the renovation of Praia da Angrinha in Ferragudo – but this was not the case.

Lagoa Mayor views the Ferragudo marina project as “fundamental to the growth and development of the town” – Photo: INÊS LOPES/OPEN MEDIA
Lagoa Mayor views the Ferragudo marina project as “fundamental to the growth and development of the town” – Photo: INÊS LOPES/OPEN MEDIA

“That responsibility has been passed onto the council, so we will handle it. For many years we have alerted the entities with jurisdiction over the matter to the need of renovating that whole (river) bank. It is an area with great potential, in a borough which lives essentially off tourism. We had expectations that the project could help solve the problem. So, we register the satisfaction of entities and regional bosses with this project, which is being presented as fundamental for the region. We hope they will have that same satisfaction, availability and commitment to solve the problem of Ferragudo Marina.

Ferragudo Marina project “not dead”

It has been in the pipeline for over 15 years, but Luís Encarnação guarantees that the project to build a marina in Ferragudo “is not dead”.

As the mayor explained, CCDR Algarve declared that the project’s environmental impact declaration had expired as the developer did not begin the works in time. Meanwhile, the developer defends that part of the works were carried out and that the only reason that full construction did not begin was because the relevant entities did not provide the conditions to do so.

Initially, Lagoa Council followed CCDR Algarve’s footsteps and also considered that the developer did not respect the deadline, before eventually suspending that decision following the developer’s complaints.

Said Encarnação, the process is in the hands of Loulé’s Administrative and Tax Court.

“The municipality of Lagoa has already told all involved parties that it is available to help solve the matter because we believe in the Ferragudo Marina project adapted to today (not the original project which is over 15 years old) and to current environmental and urbanistic concerns.

“We know the developer is also available to review the project and to sit at the table with all relevant entities to solve this matter,” the mayor added.

Motorhomes parked in Algar Seco – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA
Motorhomes parked in Algar Seco – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA

The council is certainly hoping this will happen, as it views the marina as “fundamental to the growth and development of Ferragudo, which is a gem of the municipality and the Algarve.

“The municipality of Lagoa wants that gem to remain as it is from an architectural and urbanistic point of view,” said Encarnação, adding that the marina will be built on land which was “completely artificialised over 30 years ago.”

“There is no life underneath those millions of cubic metres of sand which were placed there and which completely artificialised that whole area. We are used to seeing it like that, but it did not use to be like that. It appeared during the dredging that was conducted at the Arade river mouth at the end of 1980s.

“The project of the marina is to remove all the sand and take advantage of the potential of Ferragudo. We consider the size of the Arade to be more adequate for recreational boats than large cruise ships. We do not understand why there is such a large commitment to solve the matter of Portimão port when so many obstacles are placed in the path of a project with more feasibility.”

Council seeks to buy rundown congress centre

Once one of the town’s main venues, Centro de Congressos do Arade in Parchal has been left abandoned and at the mercy of vandals.

According to Luís Encarnação, the council has reached a deal with the mortgage creditor’s representative to buy the congress centre for €2.5 million – an investment which has already been approved by the council and the municipal assembly.

The mayor said the pre-contract agreement and all documentation is being analysed by the Court of Auditors, and awaits approval for the deal. This will be followed by the signing of the public deed.

“We still have to carry out a big investment in the recovery of the property, which was totally vandalised, especially inside. There is a not a single window left intact,” said Encarnação.

The council plans to return the congress centre to its glory days, adding that it was always its “main client and promoter”.

“We believe in the project, we know its potential well and believe that, with the management of the council, it will gain new life all year round.”

Motorhomes parked in Benagil – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA
Motorhomes parked in Benagil – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA

Abusive motorhoming must be tackled

Benagil, Praia da Marinha and Algar Seco are among the main coastal areas of Lagoa blighted by “absolutely abusive motorhoming”.

While Luís Encarnação guarantees that the council has “nothing against motorhoming”, which he describes as a niche that can help mitigate seasonality, it “must follow rules”.

The mayor admitted he is “very concerned” and said the council is working together with Clube Autocaravanista Algarvio (CCA – a regional motorhoming club based in Lagoa) to find solutions.

“It must be understood that Lagoa has 17 kilometres of very sensitive and incredibly beautiful coastline. We have even greater concerns about the area between Albandeira and Praia de Vale de Centeanes due to the pressure of visitors it receives,” he said, adding that the council is open to working with coastal authorities to find ways of relieving this pressure – and not only on land.

“Every day we have hundreds of boats entering Benagil cave. This cannot continue. A maximum capacity must be set, similar to what happens in other regions,” said the mayor, who believes this would bring benefits for everyone.

“It would regulate and add value and quality to the experience that tourists seek and would bring huge benefits to the populations that live there. I have no doubt that summer is hell for residents of Benagil, Praia da Marinha and surrounding areas.”

Encarnação also addressed the issues at Algar Seco, which has become littered with human waste and rubbish left behind by motorhomers.

He believes one solution could be to reposition the sign that prohibits motorhomes from parking on the road that leads to Forte de Nossa Senhora da Encarnação to also ban motorhomes from parking at Algar Seco. But, as he recognises, that would only address a “tiny part” of the problem.

“We must ensure that there are no motorhomes on clifftops. I know it is fantastic to wake up in the morning and see the sun rise over the ocean, but we must understand that the vehicle (motorhome) must be parked in a location designed for it,” said the mayor.

He added that the council is working with CAA to find the right spots for motorhome parks.

“We already have one in Parchal and we will have others, possibly even at the Fairs and Exhibitions Municipal Park (commonly known as Fatacil), which could receive them during a large part of the year,” Encarnação said.

Motorhomes parked in Benagil – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA
Motorhomes parked in Benagil – Photo: BRUCE HAWKER/OPEN MEDIA

Meanwhile, the mayor also revealed that the project to turn the Fatacil fairground into an urban park has been scrapped.

“Lagoa will have an urban park, but in another area,” he said, adding that the goal is to turn the fairground into a venue that hosts events all year round, and not just for the 10-day Fatacil fair – which is why the council is expanding the space to seven hectares.

“High expectations” for Fatacil

The return of Lagoa’s Fatacil fair is just around the corner, and expectations are running high for two reasons.

“Firstly, because in 2019 we had our biggest and best edition ever. It had the most exhibitors, visitors and largest box-office revenue. It was a huge success,” said the mayor, who lamented that the pandemic forced a two-year suspension.

“Unfortunately, we still do not have a new riding arena, but I can say that the equestrian sector will increase and have even more shows. The reason is that we need to have favourable opinions from several entities and, at the moment, we are still lacking one from the Portuguese Institute of Sports and Youth (IPDJ),” said Luís Encarnação.

Further changes are also planned for this year’s edition. The main stage will be changing location again, being set up this time at one of the spaces formerly used as a car park. The council has signed a protocol with the landowner to use it, although its plan is to eventually buy it.

“This will allow us to welcome more exhibitors, especially those linked to the car and industrial machinery sectors. There was great demand from these sectors and the 5,000 metres of fairground area were not sufficient to respond. We are also officialising the purchase of the former Mitsubishi facilities, which will add another hectare of land to the venue,” said Encarnação.

‘Algarve Golden Terroir’ here to stay

Despite having lost to the Douro region in the bid to be named European Wine City of 2023, the Algarve candidature entitled ‘Algarve Golden Terroir’, which brought together the municipalities of Albufeira, Lagoa, Lagos and Silves, is a brand that still has a future, according to Encarnação.

“In the final phase, Douro presented stronger arguments. We were not ready for the fight. We respect the decision that was made in Brussels on June 15, but the brand is registered and has a future,” said the mayor.

“I won’t guarantee anything, but I think my fellow mayors want to continue working on this project and there are conditions to present a new bid in 2025,” he added.

A “different” museum

Another project being developed in Lagoa is Casa da Cidadania, which will be set up at the old town hall and is described by Luís Encarnação as a “different museum, dedicated to social movements, which at an initial stage will focus on important figures of Lagoa’s history and its growth as a municipality and a community with an identity of its own.”

Among them are ‘Remexido’ (José Joaquim de Sousa Reis, a notorious guerrilla leader born in Estômbar who fought for Dom Miguel I, King of Portugal between 1828 and 1834), General Vasco Rocha Vieira (a retired Portuguese Army Officer also born in the borough who was the last Governor of Macau) and Hermínio da Palma Inácio (a revolutionary born in Ferragudo who fought against the Salazar regime).

The council is aiming to reveal more in 2023, when the borough will celebrate its 250th anniversary.

“We have been working on the content for more than two years, there are also several matters being researched which are part of the archive which will be available to the public at the physical space, as well as digitally,” said the mayor.

Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper