Santarém emerges as ‘possible location’ for new Lisbon airport
There is no infrastructure in place in this new location: just open countryside

Santarém emerges as ‘possible location’ for new Lisbon airport

Plan involves no significant public investment

A ‘brave new plan’ to try and break the deadlock over where to site Lisbon’s new airport has been presented to prime minister António Costa, to the (main) PSD opposition and to 11 municipalities most affected.

Said an exclusive by SIC television news last night, the PSD is very keen for the project to be included in negotiations with the government.

The apparent trump card of this latest idea – following a long series of ill-fated proposals – is that it will involve no significant public investment.

The plan has been put together by former TAP shareholder and businessman Humberto Pedrosa, and involves “a group of private investors” this far unidentified.

Says SIC, it involves constructing a new complex 90kms from the current Lisbon airport – a terminal so ‘old’ and beset with issues that it has already been classified in a global ranking as ‘one of the worst airports in the world’.

The ‘exact location’ seems to be between the parishes of São Vicente do Paúl and Casével, alongside the A1 service station of Santarém.

The land in question is flat, rural and this far belongs to ‘other people’. If seen as ‘a good plan’, in other words, land purchases will have to be negotiated.

But as huge as this one issue may sound, enthusiasm for the plan in the Santarém district is thought to be robust.

The way forwards will involve a period of  ‘public consultation’, and a great deal of further negotiations.

This is an enormous undertaking in the long-term. All studies have pointed to Portugal desperately needing a new airport – although in the short-term (due to the various global crises) visitor numbers may be set to fall.

The current government has managed to create a great deal of noise about Lisbon’s new airport, but achieve nothing

Indeed, the last few soundbites involved the first ‘crisis’ of António Costa’s executive.

Suffice it to say the emergence of Santarém into the mix may signal the end of frenetic soundbites about Montijo – a location that too many have denounced as ludicrous, given the fact that it is alongside an important birding wetland. Even this week, in interview with Expresso, the president of Azores’ airline SATA Luís Rodrigues said that in his opinion, Montijo is “not a good solution” as the country “has to protect its ecosystem, and Montijo does not allow that… any airport operation that develops there could destroy the ecosystem of the Tejo estuary”, he said. Mr Rodrigues’ choice also did not mention Santarém. In his mindset, Alcochete is the “most obvious choice”.

And so the question of where to site a key infrastructure that political leaders say is long overdue continues to swirl.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com