In “surprise news” this week, Portimão Council has revealed that it wants to buy land in the coastal beauty spot of João d’Arens to create a “green park”. The idea is to protect the area while allowing everyone to enjoy it.
Speaking to local newspaper Portimão Informa, Portimão Mayor Isilda Gomes said that a bid had already been presented to one of the owners of land in the popular coastal strip.
Little else has been explained about the project and contacts made by the Resident for more information about the council plans failed to produce a response at time of press.
This is nonetheless the first major announcement relating to João d’Arens since it was revealed in September 2020 that controversial plans to build three hotels in the area had received a “second environmental thumbs down”.
Said the mayor at the time, this effectively spelled the end of any hopes of development in that coastal area.
Locals and environmentalists strongly opposed the project from the moment it was made public and created a citizens’ group called ‘A Última Janela para o Mar’. The group was committed to raising awareness about how João d’Arens is “one of the last untouched coastal areas in Portimão” and how building three hotels would ultimately destroy what makes it so special.
After failing to receive approval in the summer of 2019, developers Top Building, Astronow, Areia Feliz and Estoril Investe presented a new environmental impact study for a revised plan in a bid to bypass the initial rejection.
The first draft of the project’s environmental impact study was rejected after the evaluation committee responsible for analysing the study decided that the plans were “in no condition” to be approved.
The committee feared the impact that the project would have on the “biodiversity and landscape” of the coastal strip between Praia do Vau and Praia dos Três Irmãos.
The changes made by the developers failed to change the outcome of the second DIA, which stressed that the project would have “significant impacts that could not be mitigated in terms of the destruction of the morphology and usage of the soil, of biodiversity, territory and landscape”.
Another important factor taken into consideration was that the project would lead to the destruction of Linaria Algarviana – a species of plant native to the Algarve, belonging to the figwort family and included in the Natura 2020 network. Said the DIA, the project would have a “definitive and irreversible impact on the population of this protected species”.
The controversy also seems to have raised international awareness about João d’Arens and its secluded beach, which in May was named the “best beach in Europe” by UK travellers, according to online travel platform Vacaay.
“Whilst not the easiest beach to get to, it is understandable why the remote João de Arens was voted number one, with its majestic golden cliffs and crystal-clear turquoise waters making it one of the most visually-appealing beaches in the world,” the platform said in a statement to the press.