In what has been considered a “deadly blow” to the project, Portimão’s municipal assembly has approved a motion calling for the immediate suspension of the development plans for Quinta da Rocha, the 200-hectare estate near the Ria de Alvor estuary.
The motion – put forward by the Left Bloc (BE) – was approved with six votes in favour from BE and CDU. Only one councillor from the ‘Servir Portimão’ coalition voted against the motion, while the remaining 15 from the coalition PS/PSD abstained.
It’s the kind of news environmentalists will be delighted about, especially after a group of six environmental associations has been tirelessly fighting to ensure no development takes place at the protected estate.
Still, Tiago Branco from local conservation association A Rocha told the Resident he still hadn’t seen the approved motion, and thus preferred to comment on the feat later.
The estate’s development plans are being led by Butwell Trading – the firm owned by Aprígio Santos, the Portuguese property developer and football club owner who has gained a reputation locally for being an “eco-vandal”.
In fact, one of the defining points brought up in the motion was the 2014 court ruling that “all activities in the protected areas of the Quinta da Rocha estate should be suspended forever”, and that “it must be restored to its original condition”.
The motion also says the project “does not respect PROTAL (the regional plan for property development), the official map of the national nature and forest institute (ICNF) or Portimão’s municipal plan (PDM), which considers the land to be ‘rural’”.
Local councillor João Vasconcelos (BE) – the man also known for leading the regional anti-toll movement CUVI – says a “deadly blow” has been dealt to the project with the approval of the motion.
“The local council no longer has political conditions to move forward with the project,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
It was reported in April that Aprígio Santos’ project to build two holiday villages and two VIP hotels on the estate he owns near the Alvor estuary was fuelled by plans to then sell it to China’s Wanda Group, described as the “world’s largest owner and operator of commercial real estate’ (see story Algarve eco-vandal in billion-euro property deal with Chinese)
If news reports are to be believed, the businessman is nearly €600 million in debt and is in desperate need of money.
It remains to be seen, however, what effect the motion will have on the local council’s final decision about the project, as well as Aprígio Santos’ intentions to actually move forward with it.
By MICHAEL BRUXO [email protected]