Judges have decided that “various urbanizations authorised by Vila Real de Santo António council violate the town’s municipal plan (PDM) and should be demolished.
The bottom line is that scores of people who bought their homes in good faith face an agonising compensation process that current mayor Luís Gomes says will be the ruination of the already debt-strapped municipality.
Talking to television journalists earlier this week, Gomes put the possible damages for local coffers at €100 million.
A statement put out by Gomes’ party, the PSD of VRSA, claims “the situation could implicate the realisation of demolitions in various complexes and the payment of millionaire indemnities to homeowners and contractors, all of whom will lose their property”.
The bottom line is that this is a very political fight.
The planning decisions condemned by the courts go back to the years before 2005 when the council was in the hands of the Socialists (PS) under former mayor António Murta.
The PSD press statement stresses that the “ruinous management of the Socialist executives is still being felt in the day-to-day lives of VRSA locals, and the real person responsible for the council debt has a name: António Murta”.
It is no coincidence that Murta is planning his ‘comeback’ after 10 years ‘away’, and four previous mandates which have been described by website Sulinformação as “marked at their end by controversy and various court cases”.
Indeed, Murta’s executive lost to that of current mayor Luís Gomes in 2005. Gomes is now in the position where he can no longer candidate as mayor in the next municipal elections (2017).
As the dust settles on Gomes’ inflammatory statements in front of TV cameras earlier this week, Murta has come out fighting – claiming the whole story is a pack of “lies and calumnies”, designed to counter his own party’s revelations on the state of the council’s debts.
“Just in water they owe €21 million”, Murta told Jornal do Algarve on Thursday – stressing the borough’s full debtload is €140 million.
Local people are “subject to the highest tax-rates”, he added, “because of the debts”.
Murta adds that he has “not yet received any notification” from the courts about the properties in question, and he has not been made an ‘arguido’ (official suspect) “in anything” nor does he “know anything”.
But he stressed that the owners of the various properties in question (see below) “can relax”.
“It is natural that they will be worried about their properties”, he told JA, “but they can be tranquil because there is absolutely nothing (to worry about)”.
The next installment of this new spat at the easternmost end of the region will no doubt follow quickly.
For now, the local PSD party claims the properties deemed ‘illegal’ are in three parishes:
VRSA: where urbanizations, among them the swanky riverside Varandas do Guadiana, have been ruled as having too many apartments. According to a report in CMTV, there are “tens of court processes” pending;
Monte Gordo: two luxury buildings – one in the middle of the central avenue with a floor “too many” (comprising various apartments), and another where the constructed area “invades the public domain”;
Vila Nova de Cacela: three ‘situations’ involving the Monte Rei tourist development, a building at Cevadeiras and the construction of homes “with an area that violates the PDM” at Manta Rota.
Coincidentally, dozens of homeowners in Albufeira faced a similar ‘shock’ last year, but have since been told that demolition orders on their homes will not be enforced and the council will instead endeavour to ‘legalise’ their so-called rogue properties with a new PDM (click here)