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Redevelopment stirs up trouble

THE CONTROVERSIAL redevelopment of a former English monks’ convent in Lisbon, Convento dos Inglesinhos, has stirred up environmental groups. Amorim Imobiliária, one of the largest Portuguese property developers in the country, is transforming the run-down 18th century Bairro Alto monastic complex into luxury town centre pads for the well-heeled.

The listed Baroque buildings and courtyard had belonged to Lisbon-based charity group, Santa Casa da Misericórdia, which sold the walled premises two years ago to Amorim Imobiliária, in order to fund its charitable projects.

Environmental groups are concerned that the property developer will fail to maintain open green spaces, an accusation the latter denies, saying it will maintain and add green spaces, both in and around the premises.

Lisbon’s Fiscal and Administrative Court placed a prohibition order on Highgrove (a subsidiary company of Amorim), to stop it from pulling up shrubs, bushes and trees at the site. The order was issued after a series of petitions by local residents and environmental groups were handed into leading agencies, such as the câmara and the courts.

Rui Alegre, executive president of Amorim Imobiliária, guaranteed that “the English convent would retain plenty of green sites. In fact, the total garden area will be greater than it is now. We only cut down a tree because it was absolutely necessary to the project”.

Lisbon Câmara’s Urban and Environmental Officer, Gabriela Seara, affirmed that the câmara had authorised the felling of trees that were not classified, while others should be moved where possible.