Ria Formosa demolition plans “in hands of new government”

Campaigning islanders desperate to save their homes from government-backed bulldozers have reached another bend in the road. A meeting designed to prolong the life of the reviled agency leading demolition plans has been delayed, for a second time.

Polis Litoral’s lifespan now hangs by a thread. It was due to become ‘extinct’ at the end of December last year, but was given a further year’s grace by the former coalition government in order to demolish 800 properties on the islands of Faro/Olhão’s Ria Formosa – all in the interests of the environment (click here).

That extended mandate – that has locally become synonymous with oppression and destruction – will be running out at the end of this month. Thus a decision has to come from the new environment minister, and fast.

Talking to reporters yesterday – when the general assembly of Polis failed to meet for the second time in a month – Olhão mayor António Pina said he hoped the minister would use “good sense” and not make any decision before talking to Polis’ partners “which are local mayors”.

Protestors, who had mobilised at least 100 placard-waving supporters, told newspapers they had hoped for a decision, once and for all – particularly as the stress of waging this campaign has worn many to points of exhaustion.

“Right now, people want to know if the PS (government) will go through with what it promised during the time of the elections: the immediate suspension of demolition work,” said Vanessa Morgado, a leading campaigner of the group SOS Ria Formosa. “We are not against the continuing mandate of Polis,” she added. “What we are against is article 37 in the POOC Algarve (the coastal plan) that seeks re-naturalisation of the area, as opposed to requalification.”

Islanders have long explained there are many improvements that could be made to their islands, but razing the homes that many have had for generations to the ground out should not be top of the list.

Already, Polis has managed to remove 370 properties from what it terms “vulnerable coastal areas”, and as yet another ‘only home’ of a long-term resident came down on Faro island this month, islanders heard that “bit by bit” the masterplan is to demolish everything.

“We’re extremely concerned”, Morgado told the Resident. “We have managed meetings with the PCP and BE over this – and they are on our side. But the PS has not replied to our requests, and the government’s failure to show its position does not fill us with optimism.”

Eyes now are on December 30, when Polis’ future must be decided at the third attempt to reconvene its general assembly.

Morgado explained the assembly was delayed because the PS claimed it had not had enough time to evaluate the situation.

“That in itself sounds suspicious. If they were against the demolitions before the election, they should still be against them now,” she said.