Thumbs down for ‘massive coastal development’ involving Benfica/ BES money

Residents and nature lovers in Lagoa are heaving huge sighs of relief this week following news that a €180-million development between the iconic beaches of Benagil and Marinha has received a vital thumbs-down.

The project – originally ‘launched’ by Benfica boss Luís Filipe Vieira and involving BES money – would bring “very significant negative impacts that could not be minimized” the CCDR (commission for regional coordination and development) has announced.

The CCDR presided over the commission that evaluated the development’s potential environmental impact.

Justifying its “unfavourable declaration”, the CCDR highlighted what it called “relevant increase in human pressure” on an area where “beach capacity is already overwhelmed”.

The plan for 5-star luxury in the form of a hotel, hotel-apartments, and a touristic complex comprising over 1270 beds would “spell a five-fold increase in traffic flow” in and out of the area, as well represent a “visual intrusion” on a stretch of coast that “preserves original features”.

Another significant reason for blanking the project is the presence in the area of Linaria algarviana, a plant under attack throughout the Algarve and found nowhere else in the world.

Linaria algarviana is also the plant that helped stall mass touristic development in the neighbouring borough of Silves (click here).

But whether this is an end to the project remains to be seen.

For now, the CCDR’s ruling is being welcomed as an early Christmas present by all those who have been working behind the scenes to expose the project as a folly – and a potentially sinister one at that.

“No one could be sure where the money was coming from”, explained a resident who asked not to be named.

Reports earlier this year suggested the resort was hoping to get started in 2019, but still lacked much of the finance.

Said Expresso, Benagil Promoção Imobiliária – based in Lisbon, passed from Vieira’s property company Inland to BES and then on to Novo Banco – “means to construct general site infrastructures during 2019 though it will take a decade to build all the resort units”.

When it was first announced, in the ‘good old days’ where PIN classifications (government approvals for ‘projects of national interest’) bypassed so many planning rules, the project was given PIN status.

But as Expresso concedes, this meant very little in the context of the global financial crisis, and the fact that Vieira already had his hands full with “other projects of vast investment, namely in Brazil”.