The Praia Grande resort would have seen building over 400 hectares of natural wilderness

New ‘PDM’ of Silves excludes controversial touristic resort: bank threatens €100 million compensation claim

The new PDM (municipal development plan) of Silves borough council excludes the controversial Praia Grande tourist resort that sought to build three hotels, 350 homes and a golf course on one of the last ‘untouched stretches’ of Algarve coastline.

Instead, the municipality – and the ministry of the environment – want to create a natural reserve (click here).

The news has delighted environmentalists and nature enthusiasts who have campaigned consistently against this resort ever getting the final go-ahead. But it has clearly outraged the bank that ‘inherited’ the land when previous owners Finalgarve went bankrupt.

CEO of Millennium BCP Miguel Maya has told the local Portuguese press that he has already written to the ministers of the environment, and the economy, threatening a petition for damages.

He suggested these could run to €100 million.

In the bank’s mindset, the old PDM (dating back over 15 years) conferred “rights” – meaning the owners, whoever they were, would essentially have a right to carry out the project they had inherited, in spite of all the opposition and controversy that has ensured no building has ever moved forwards.

A petition launched in 2012 against the development by Alentejo rural tourism owner Frank McClintock amassed almost 35,000 signatures (click here); and efforts to fight against the ‘urbanisation’ of this little corner, home to 13 species of rare plants and straddling Lagoa dos Salgados – one of Portugal’s most precious birding wetlands – to the east side, and a vibrant marshland area to the west, have been relentless.

As a result, the ICNF (forestries commission) finally accepted a touristic development was out of keeping for the area, and has put its proposals for a natural reserve to public consultation, which ended yesterday..

In other words, BCP Millennium may well lodge a petition for damages, but it is unlikely to change a thing.

Silves councillor Maxime Bispo explained at a recent meeting to outline what a nature reserve entails that, in the council’s mindset, a PDM does not confer rights. It confers expectations. And expectations change over the years, as do realities.

Understanding in 2022 (as it has been almost since this project was ‘approved’) is that yet another mega-touristic development on prime coastal land – when there are already so many which cannot manage to  operate 12-months a year – would be hugely damaging from an environmental point of view, and essentially pointless. 

“Obsolete” has been the word used, for both the original resort plan, and the old PDM.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com