New criteria for Portugal’s monuments

By PAULO SILVESTRE [email protected]

The Portuguese Government is to reduce the number of monuments and buildings protected by law following a process of redefining the criteria.

This evaluation process of the potential protected buildings and monuments will close on January 1, 2011.

Experts from heritage organisations have expressed their concern about the implications of this as there are more than 1,000 monuments and buildings in the country still waiting to become national monuments or buildings of public interest.

Currently, buildings and monuments awaiting classification benefit from legal protection similar to those already rated.

There are some cases pending for classification for more than three decades and this was the reason for the creation, in October 2009, of new rules for classification.

A spokesman from the Algarve department of culture told the Algarve Resident: “All the buildings and monuments to be classified are intended to fulfil a social function, where it is not only important that the classification criteria are related to quantity but also with quality or the value of property in their relationship with the area and history.

“Heritage is an economic resource classified in the same way as the natural wealth of a country. Measures which lead to their preservation and proper use not only relate to local development plans.”

In the Algarve, there are 59 buildings and monuments waiting to be classified, some since the 1980s.

The Forte de São Sebastião in Castro Marim is waiting to be considered a national monument, while 16 others, including the slave market in Lagos, the megaliths of Vila do Bispo and the Roman villa of Alcoutim are waiting to be classified as places of public interest.

Legal protection

There are a further 42 sites which are currently at different stages of classification and are awaiting to become of municipal interest.

The deadline for the services of the Ministry of Culture (MC) to conclude the processes of classification is January 2011.

However, in special cases, this deadline can be extended by another year to allow time for assessments to be made.

According to the director of culture in Lisbon and Vale do Tejo, João Soalheiro: “It is already certain that many buildings will lose the legal protection that they enjoyed until now.

“Many do not have the characteristics of authenticity and originality that is required in the law for the protection of cultural heritage.”

João Soalheiro also said that it will be impossible to complete all the processes on time and that is the reason why the deadline can be extended for one more year.