By: CECÍLIA PIRES
PORTIMÃO’S PUBLIC Prosecutor has made the owner of Quinta da Rocha an arguido for violating environmental regulations after ignoring orders from the regional development authority to stop alleged cleaning operations at his property on the banks of the Ria de Alvor estuary.
Aprígio dos Santos, who is the owner of Quinta da Rocha and president of Imoholding and CEO of Butwell, the companies that manage the 200-hectare property, is now confined under the terms of his status after ignoring orders from CCDR-Algarve (Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional do Algarve) and ignoring fines from the GNR – SEPNA inspections.
The regional development authority has ordered the Quinta da Rocha owners to stop what they have called “cleaning works” at their property.
The order has been repeated several times over the last couple of years, but it seems it is now proven that it was never respected by the owners despite the different national and international environmental regulations protecting the area (see The Resident edition of December 7).
A spokesperson from Instituto da Conservação da Natureza e da Biodiversidade (ICNB), the national environmental state agency, told The Resident that the owners of Quinta da Rocha “have been repeatedly fined for disrespecting the environmental laws” and considered this recent legal action as the inevitable consequence of that behaviour.
This decision of the Portimão Public Prosecutor is seen as an important moment by some of the local communities involved in the preservation of the Ria de Alvor against the real estate development threat.
Ten other official complaints are already being analysed by the Portimão Court against the owners of Quinta da Rocha, as well as a special preventive request from the A Rocha, an environmental association working in the Ria de Alvor, who is waiting for a decision from the Loulé Court, to stop any intervention in the property.
The first public alerts to the authorities started two years ago when the A Rocha members called the CCDR – Algarve environmental inspectors, the GNR-SEPNA teams and the Portimão Câmara inspectors after spotting several cleaning fires in an area of about 10 hectares inside the property of Aprígio dos Santos.
The fires destroyed several species of plants existing in the protected area and under the Rede Natura 2000 regulations. However, Butwell have always denied being responsible for any environmental crime.
The arguments from Butwell are that the fires were due to agricultural cleaning in an area of cultivated land, as proven by the maps of the location of Quinta da Rocha, where the affected area is registered for agricultural use.
The company aims to develop a project inspired in the concept of a nature tourism resort.
For that, it plans to refurbish the old agricultural warehouses existing in the property, as well as 18 old houses. The original project also includes biological production, the reopening of the salt plant and a fishing facility.
The Resident contacted Quinta da Rocha but no one was available to comment.
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