Study hails Lagoa as Portugal’s ‘number one’ choice to live, opening up the door for a new wave of investors and residents
Lagoa is hoping to attract a new wave of investors and residents after being named the “best municipality to live in Portugal” in a study carried out by the Institute of Behavioural Technology (INTEC) and presented last week at the University of Coimbra.
The study, entitled ‘A Qualidade de Vida nos Melhores Municípios para Viver’ (Quality of Life in the Best Municipalities to Live), was open to all municipalities in Portugal that wanted to take part.
The participating municipalities (22 in total) were then judged according to 10 categories: tourism; well-being; safety, diversity and tolerance; environment; economy and employment; education and training; identity, culture and leisure; mobility and road safety; health; and urbanism and housing.
These criteria were set as a way of determining “quality of life” in the same way as the World Health Organisation (WHO), which defines it as “an individual’s perception of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns.”
Lagoa received the highest score in three categories (‘Tourism’, ‘Wellbeing’ and ‘Safety, Diversity and Tolerance’), which secured first place for the Algarve borough ahead of Caminha, Bragança, Cascais and Pombal.
Luís Encarnação, mayor of Lagoa, has described the accolade as an “early present” that comes just a few months before the municipality’s 250th anniversary.
“Those who know Lagoa and who live here are well aware of the reasons that led to this accolade of best municipality to live in Portugal,” Encarnação told the Resident. “However, this distinction is not a point of arrival, but a point of departure.”
The mayor believes there is still “much to improve” in Lagoa and guaranteed the local authority will continue working towards making Lagoa a better place to live, work, study or visit.
These efforts will become all the more important as Luís Encarnação is expecting interest in Lagoa to grow following publication of this study.
“Lagoa is already a highly sought-after borough for the purchase of first and second homes, and for being a territory with characteristics that set it apart from other municipalities,” said Encarnação.
“However, I believe that more people will become interested in investing and living in the borough,” he added.
Opposition accuses council of “buying study”
Lagoa’s election as Portugal’s best municipality to live in (according to the study) was not welcomed by everyone.
Local opposition members took to social media to question the validity of the study, accusing Lagoa Council of “paying €12,500 to buy the study”.
The Resident questioned Luis Encarnação about the accusations, which he vehemently refuted.
“This is the opposition we have, unfortunately: without ideas, criticising everything and everyone, and always underestimating Lagoa. I think Lagoa and the people of Lagoa deserve better,” he said, adding that the “people of Lagoa have made their opinion clear” in the last few local elections.
The mayor went on to explain the process behind signing up for the study.
“Participating in the study implies the access to a report of council management benchmarking, through the payment of a registration fee, which was the same for the many municipalities that participated in the study. However, only Lagoa won the prize of ‘Best Municipality to Live’,” he stressed.
Encarnação also reiterated that the study was carried out by INTEC based on surveys answered by thousands of citizens and coordinated by researcher Miguel Lopes at the Faculty of Law at the University of Coimbra, and featured the participation of municipalities such as Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra.
Major projects still in pipeline
With the new attention that results from the study are expected to bring to Lagoa, the Resident asked Luís Encarnação about some of the municipality’s biggest projects which have yet to move forward.
Ferragudo Marina – a project which has been in the pipeline for over 15 years – remains stalled and awaiting a decision from Loulé’s Administrative and Tax Court, the mayor told us.
At the root of the stalemate is a disagreement over the project’s environmental impact declaration. CCDR Algarve (the regional development commission) believes that the declaration 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.
Until a decision comes from the court, the project is expected to remain on the backburner.
On the other hand, the outlook is brighter for Match Lagoa – a project to create a high-performance sports centre in Lagoa, complete with football pitches, a state-of-the-art fitness facility and rehabilitation and sports science areas and its own private hotel.
Said Encarnação, the sports centre’s architecture project has already been approved by the local council, which is waiting for the developer to submit the specialty projects which will then be submitted, evaluated and, if all goes well, approved.
No deadlines have been revealed, however.
Alagoas Brancas protests “are legitimate”
Luís Encarnação also addressed the latest round of protests which have taken place in Lagoa against the land-levelling works underway at Alagoas Brancas wetland, a natural haven for wildlife.
Local citizens, who have been fighting the project for five years, have been joined in their efforts by several NGOs, as well as political party PAN which has lodged an injunction at Loulé’s Administrative and Tax Court in a bid to stop bulldozers from destroying what is left of the wetland.
While Encarnação says that the protests are “legitimate”, he continues to defend that the council’s hands are tied.
“When people are not happy, they have a right to protest. That is what living in a democracy means. However, it is important to understand that there are rules and laws which the municipality is forced to follow and enact,” the local mayor told us.
“There is a decision from the Central Administrative Court and Lagoa’s Urbanisation Plan, dating back to 2009, which gives the developer total legitimacy,” said Encarnação, adding that the plan has ‘thumbs up’ from all relevant entities, including the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA), CCDR Algarve and the Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation (ICNF), and was available for public discussion more than once.
“Inverting this process would mean not following the law,” he stated, adding that a series of consequences would follow including a multi-million-euro compensation for the developer which would jeopardise the local council’s financial stability.
In other words, protests may continue in Lagoa, but the council continues to defend that there is nothing it can do at this point to change the fate of Alagoas Brancas.