Planning guidelines could spell end for Silves theme park

ATLANTIS PARK, a mega theme park representing an investment of 500 million euros and planned for construction in the Vales do Algoz area of Silves may not go ahead if investors are not given permission to extend the project to include a real estate development.

The park, described as the Algarve’s answer to Isla Mágica, the popular Disney-style park located in Seville, would be the largest theme park in Portugal if built.

The project, which is being funded by Icelandic investors operating under the company name of Castelote Unipessoal Lda., is intended to be built in an area covering 500 hectares, equivalent in size to 500 football pitches.

A variety of leisure and entertainment infrastructures are planned for this area: cable cars, a theatre, overhead monorail, indoor and outdoor cinemas, amphitheatre, horse-riding centre, mini-golf, tennis club, skateboarding rink, go-kart track, discotheques, night clubs, a casino, restaurants, a shopping centre, water park and swimming-pools, shooting club and bowling centre.

In order to make the project viable, the investors are seeking to extend the park to include a real estate component, which would involve the building of luxury apartments, chalets, villas and private condominiums.

New planning guidelines outlined in the Plano Regional de Ordenamento do Território do Algarve (Protal), the master planning document for the Algarve region, dictate a maximum number of tourism beds for the Algarve (24 million) over the next 10 year period.

The number of beds being allocated to the borough of Silves is not yet known, nor is it known if it is likely to be enough to cover this and other projects planned for the Silves area.

The Protal is due to be finalised and approved by the end of this year and will come into force in spring 2007.

If the investors consider that the number of beds allocated to the project are insufficient to make it profitable, they will probably pull out.

As well as the looming Protal hurdle, the Atlantis Park project faces a further possible setback. Currently, the area in question is part of the Tunes-Algoz industrial axis and still needs to be reclassified under the Plano Director Municipal (PDM), the municipal master plan, as an area suitable for tourism.

However, it is thought that this is the lesser problem of the two, since the project has the full backing of Silves Câmara, which is keen to welcome the investment to the borough.

If the problems are not overcome, however, the investors have mooted alternative sites for the project, including Spain.