Ria Formosa demolitions begin in “worst possible way”

Despite the fact that islanders ‘accept’ albeit with heavy hearts the handful of demolitions now going ahead on Culatra island’s nuclei of Farol and Hangares, they began this morning in the “worst possible way”.

Householders whose homes have been spared the bulldozers were awoken shortly after 6am by maritime police banging on their doors, telling them to leave for reasons of safety.

One young man who refused to evacuate a building scheduled for demolition was forcibly removed, with the “lamentable” scene captured by TVI 24.

Tireless campaigner Vanessa Morgado who was on the jetty of Farol expecting demolition teams early on Monday morning told the station: “There is no need for this kind of behaviour”.

She explained the property in question was in the process of trying to get a court order, protecting it from demolition.

“They should have been given more time”, she told TVI. “This has all happened much quicker than people had imagined. We have tried making phone calls, but no one is answering” (due to the early hour). “There was no reason for this police show of force”, she added.

The next issue is where people told to leave their homes for safety reasons will sleep – as demolitions will now being going ahead for the next few days, and authorities say no-one can ‘breach the safety perimeter’ until they are over.

SOS Ria Formosa spokesperson Vanessa Morgado told us last week that all buildings about to be bulldozed are those that have been abandoned for some time, are in poor states of repair – or whose owners have “given up the fight to save them”.

But the issue has ignited local controversy with the town’s notoriously outspoken blog Olhão Livre suggesting ‘campaigners’ have been somehow nobbled by the authorities.

The truth is that these demolitions will be the last until the new POC (coastal plan for the area running from Vilamoura to Vila Real de Santo António) is decided.

This has been the pledge by Olhão mayor António Pina – currently part of the board of Sociedade Polis Litoral in charge of demolitions – and Socialist MP Luís Graça.

The POC will be drawn up over a period of 15 months in conjunction with island populations which are all adamant that no further homes should be destroyed – although they do accept that certain sheds and abandoned buildings are not worth saving.

As Morgado explained: “Now we have to put our efforts into steering the emphasis of the new POC so that historic human settlements on the barrier islands are not destroyed”.

SOS’ campaign slogan is “requalification YES, naturalisation NO” (meaning, the islands should be upgraded, but not ‘returned to the wild’, as environment agency APA along with Sociedade Polis Litoral have in the past been insisting).

The current demolitions are “dark and sad for the island community”, said Morgado – “but there is something that has to be stressed very vehemently: the future cannot see any further interventions of this nature”.

Hopes and trust are pinned on the POC negotiations in which islanders’ associations have all been assured they will have a voice.

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