Silves Council ups the ante over Praia Grande Eco-Resort

As Millenium BCP attempts to sell “one of the last ecological oases of the Algarve” for a new €200 million tourist ‘megadevelopment’, Silves Council has entered the gathering environmental storm – not only saying it too is against plans as they stand for Praia Grande Eco-Resort, but that it has councillors on board who are almost certain to vote against it.

In a statement publicised yesterday by regional magazine Mais Algarve, the executive led by CDU councillor Rosa Palma explained that the council is bound by the 10-year-old “Detailed Plan for Praia Grande” that actually opened the way for three four- and five-star hotels, six tourist villages (involving almost 4000 tourist beds) and an 18-hole golf course.

This was changed in 2011 to the shape in which things now stand: the three hotels, two tourist villages (just under 2000 beds), a commercial complex and the 18-hole golf course flanking the treasured birding wetland of Lagoa dos Salgados – despite the fact that the current administration would rather see a “sustainable project that seeks to meet Nature tourism as opposed to that of mass construction”.

But while Silves’ hands are effectively ‘tied’ by the 2007 Detailed Plan, the council’s statement explains this does not mean the project will get the green light.

There are still all kinds of judicial challenges in the way – not least a comprehensive attack on the environmental impact study (click here).

Even more relevant is the fact that the plan has not got a valid ‘building licence’ or alvará as it is known here.

Former development company Finalgarve put in for a new alvará last July and, 10 months on, Silves has still not granted it.

Dubbing the project part of an “overused formula that involves the destruction of sensitive ecological areas which are so rare that they justify safeguarding and protection”, the council then cuts to the chase:

“It is important to understand that in this decisive process (of issuing a new building licence) where development plans have already been assumed by former executives, non-permanent council officers will also be taking part who have their own opinions, and a sense of (how they will vote) that goes against the majority of the permanent executive council”.

This situation, says the council, is thus likely to influence the destiny of what it calls “one of the last ecological oases of the Algarve”.

The bottom line, therefore, is ‘watch this space’.

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