Latest attempt to halt hotel plans in João de Arens rejected

Portimão’s municipal assembly has voted against a citizen-backed motion to end the threat of construction in “one of the borough’s last untouched areas”, João de Arens.

The motion was signed by around 1,000 citizens and urged the local council to suspend the UP3 urbanisation plan – which would effectively make it difficult for developers to move forward with their plans of building three five-star hotels in the area.

According to Lusa news agency, the motion was voted against by the ruling Socialist Party’s 12 representatives, which outweighed the 10 votes in favour from PSD, Servir Portimão, Bloco de Esquerda and an independent councillor.

“The worst part is that the council has already admitted that this was a political decision, even though we presented well-founded technical reports that were not taken into account,” Lucinda Caetano from citizens’ group ‘A Última Janela para o Mar’ told Correio da Manhã tabloid.

After receiving a resounding thumbs down last summer, developers presented a new environmental impact study for a revised plan in a bid to bypass the initial rejection.

Five main changes to the project were made. The total number of rooms decreased from 411 to 353 while the maximum height of each hotel was lowered from 15 to 12 metres to ensure that they are not visible from the coast.

Developers also reduced the total construction area to 8,200sqm, which accounts for 1.8% of the area included in the UP3 urbanisation plan – which the citizens’ movement wanted the council to suspend.

They also proposed to transfer the management of a 92,500sqm area of privately-owned land where the popular coastal trails are located, “the size of nine football stadiums”, to the local council.

The developers – Top Building, Astronow, Areia Feliz and Estoril Investe – said they plan to create new trails with signposting as the current ones are “disorganised and can be dangerous when it rains”.

They also guaranteed that the construction of the hotels won’t affect Linaria Algarviana, a species of plant native to the Algarve, belonging to the figwort family and included in the Natura 2020 network.

The project is expected to create more than 350 direct jobs and 520 indirect jobs in an investment estimated at between €35 million and €40 million.

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