Loulé municipal assembly approved last Friday the urbanisation plan for the Caliços-Esteval area, thus giving the green light for the IKEA project to move forward.
The plan was started three years ago and covers an area of 354 hectares, of which 40 hectares will be for the IKEA Group development, which includes an IKEA store, a shopping centre and a retail park (confirmed the group) to be located near the Loulé/Airport (Faro) A22 motorway junction.
The commercial area is scheduled to open in the second half of 2014 with works expected to start in May or June this year.
Loulé Câmara highlighted that the €200 million investment will create 3,000 direct and indirect jobs in the council, and the plan’s approval represents a “historical moment”.
As part of the agreement signed between the municipal authority and the IKEA Group, an “unprecedented” clause states the “right of reversion” should the developers not fulfil their obligations – in such a situation the land would return to its original use.
Among the compensatory projects that the Swedish group has committed to doing are restoration works to Almancil school (€100,000), improved road accesses (€631,000) and the creation of pedestrian and cycling trails (€60,000).
During the municipal assembly meeting, Loulé Mayor described the approval of the plan as a “historical moment” as, in times of crisis, this “significant investment would help generate thousands of jobs” in the Algarve, the region most affected by unemployment in Portugal.
“Workers will be treated with the utmost respect as the developers are noted for the social conscience,” he said.
To ensure minimal impact on local commerce, Seruca Emídio explained that the idea is to work in close collaboration with the developers and Loulé retailers in order to attract shoppers to the city centre.
Last week, in a statement sent to the press, environmental association Quercus accused the IKEA Group of “lack of environmental responsibility”, as it is about to build a commercial complex on land that is classified as National Agricultural Reserve (RAN).
The association admitted that the investment by the IKEA Group was important for the region but thought more effort should have been placed to avoid the RAN land.
The IKEA Group has refuted the accusations and assured that the commercial project would be situated in an area “agreed upon by all involved – the developers and the authorities (Câmaras, regional commissions of coordination and development (CCDR), Economy Ministry, Agriculture Ministry and Secretariats of State)”.
|| IKEA’s expansion plan for Portugal
The IKEA Group’s expansion plan for Portugal foresees the opening of seven stores (IKEA Alfragide, IKEA Matosinhos and IKEA Loures are already in operation), and further stores are planned for Gaia and Loulé. The remainder are yet to be defined), three commercial centres (MAR Shopping in Matosinhos already in operation, the future Algarve Regional Shopping Centre in Loulé and another yet to be defined), a retail park (in Gaia) and three Swedwood Portugal factories (Paços de Ferreira, already in operation).
The expansion plan for the country, running until 2020, represents a total investment of around €1.1 billion and the creation of 10,000 jobs directly and indirectly, stated the IKEA Group on its website.