Mayor hits out at “collective hysteria” behind Olhão’s town plan

Olhão mayor António Pina has come out fighting over what he calls “collective hysteria” whipped up over a council-backed plan for the town’s historic centre (click here).

Blaming the mood on “people who want to create difficulties”, Pina told the Resident on Friday that it is time to set the record straight.

“This is all lies and political scaremongering by people who have not even read the plan”, he told the Resident on Friday.

“At no point will you find anything about lighting, or replacing calçadas (traditional cobblestones). There are no demolitions. This plan is all about implementing order that does not exist.

“We want to demystify this situation, so that people can relax”.

Pina was talking to us in the company of borough architect Ditza Reis who refutes absolutely the notion that Olhão’s “plano pormenor da zona histórica” has been ‘hidden away from public scrutiny’.

Following various articles in national media, television interviews with ‘outraged expats’, stories in the local press and an international petition exhorting people to say “No to plans destroying the character of the historic centre”, Reis said “not one person has come here to ask to see the plan, nor have the various architectural designs explained to them”.

The documents have not been put on public display because there are simply too many of them, and they are “incredibly detailed”, she added.

“But we have them all here, and we would be more than happy to take people through them”, she said.

The trouble is that antipathy towards the plan is now at fever-pitch.

A heated public meeting over a week ago saw various experts ratchet up local distrust (click here) – a local petition has since gathered over 1400 signatures (click here) and now a ‘head-to-head’ with responsible architects Baixa Atelier is scheduled for Tuesday evening.

Pina’s hope however is that his point of view by then will have been taken on board.


“The only truth in all this hysteria is the question of the tower”, the mayor conceded – referring to the 21-metre-high structure planned for a site overlooking the town hall, and disparagingly referred to in local blogs and websites as ‘Pina’s erection’.

For the tower to become a reality, an 18th century building owned by the municipality would have to come down (so this would mean at least one demolition) – but Pina stresses it is not a priority and only after “ample debate” will the question be fully decided.

Reis explained the reasoning behind the ‘viewing point’. “The açoteias (flat roofs) of Olhão are our ex-libris, yet there is no point where visitors can see them (see below). The idea is to promote our cultural heritage”.

But Pina is now acutely aware of hostility towards the plan, and has said he is still very much open to suggestions, either for a better location, or “if the great majority of people is against it, not to build” the tower at all.

“When the Eiffel Tower was constructed in Paris, everyone was horrified”, Pina attempted to bring in some perspective. “Now, it’s a major tourist attraction. To help relax people, we can say that we are available for further discussion if a better proposal appears”.

But what our conversation with Pina did highlight was the council’s (newfound) zeal to deal with ‘illegal renting’ (the clandestine side of ‘Alojamento Local’).


“We are committed to making sure that the number of houses that can be used for Alojamento Local never exceeds 10%”, said the mayor – stressing that the council will be concentrating on the “many illegals” currently in operation in the historic centre.

“One of the cornerstones of our plan is to make sure that homes are available for young couples”, Pina explained.

“Much as we love our foreign residents, we do not want to get to a point in 15-20 years time when the historic area of Olhão is just inhabited by foreigners”.

And this was the point where we asked António Pina – only last month hailed a hero for his work behind-the-scenes in the struggle for recognition by local Ria Formosa islanders (click here) – if it was true that he planned to uproot one of the town’s riverside parks, in favour of a parking area to service a new marina.

Wincing theatrically as he pretended to bite the knuckle of forefinger, he resorted to English: “Do you think I am crazy? This is what I am talking about: the lies, the scaremongering, the completely erroneous information being put out. This has to stop.

“For our next interview, I will tell you about our project for the riverside area, and it does not involve uprooting trees,” he assured us.

Meantime, next Tuesday’s public meeting is scheduled for 6pm at the Mariano Gago municipal library on Avenida Dr Bernardino da Silva – and the town’s foreign resident population promises to be there in force.

As to Ditza Reis’ comments about there not being ‘anywhere to see the ex-libris (flat roofs) of Olhão, local social media page ‘I Love Olhão’ has just posted the following video, to show that there has been a viewing tower in the town for over 360 years:

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