Locals are reporting that the lagoon is half drained and the bird identification signs have quietly been taken down; work has started on the controversial Vila das Lagoas, the new development in the Salgados nature reserve near Albufeira. Hersal, the construction company run by businessman Carlos Saraiva, has announced that it intends to build five hotels and a closed condominium composed of 370 apartments and 75 tourist villas on the site by 2006. The total cost for the project, which is situated in a 200-hectare section of a National Ecological Reserve and bird sanctuary area, has been estimated at 274 million euros. There is already a five star tourist complex in Salgados, which has an 18-hole golf course, but Hersal plans to add several tennis courts, a health club, a congress centre, a sports arena, an outdoor auditorium with 1,000 seats and a 3,000 seat exhibition hall to the facilities.
The investment has the financial backing of BES (Banco Espírito Santo) and CGD (Caixa Geral de Depósitos). Speaking to the press, Saraiva has said the support of the two banking institutions, “lends credibility to a project that already has the support of Albufeira Câmara”. The Resident contacted the Câmara about the controversial project, but a spokesman would only say that the local authorities had simply followed the guidelines set out by the Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Algarve (Commission of Co-ordination and Regional Development – CCDR) in Faro. And no-one from the CCDR was available to speak to us about Vila das Lagoas.
Meanwhile, Saraiva has confirmed that the properties began selling off plan last November and 100 had already been sold, saying: “The market is eager for a project of this kind, which is unique in the Algarve. It is a very interesting project from the point of view of the investor.” Saraiva added that he envisages an appreciation of at least 30 per cent in the value of each property before the completion of the project.