Câmara Municipal_Vila Real de Santo António.JPG

VRSA in new “demolitions shock” as councils gear-up for October elections

What has already been denounced as a pre-election ploy continues to play out in the border town of Vila Real de Santo António, threatening the peace of mind of thousands of hapless residents.

Following judicial orders that various apartment buildings and complexes ‘should be demolished’ as they conflict with the town’s PDM (municipal plan), a new ruling has now included yet another block – this time in the parish of Vila Nova da Cacela.

Current PSD mayor Luís Gomes has told journalists repeatedly that this would require the spending of up to 100 million euros, and technically bankrupt the borough (click here).

Blame is being put squarely on the shoulders of former Socialist mayor António Murta who, by coincidence, has recently announced his intention to stand again for the town’s top job in borough elections due to go ahead in October.

All the buildings under threat date back to planning decisions made before 2005, when Murta was at the helm and his wife was chief planning officer.

Murta meantime has said the whole brouhaha is “lies and slander” – and national tabloid Correio da Manhã has brought some perspective into the story by explaining that usually when these kind of issues blow up, the best way forwards is to alter the PDM so that the buildings are no longer deemed to be in contravention.

“This looks likely to be the solution to adopt in this latest case”, says the paper, stressing that behind-the-scenes, the council “has been proceeding with alterations to the PDM to try and legalise the constructions which were targets of a demolition order” earlier this year.

The problem, CM accepts, is that the council “cannot guarantee that it will be able to settle all the situations” in time. Hence the drama in the lead-up to a fierce election fight in a year when Luís Gomes is being forced to stand down due to time-limits on tenure.

The latest ‘deadline’ for demolition is six months away: 13 June 2017.

A very similar situation exists in Albufeira (click here) and there a very relaxed mayor Carlos Silva e Sousa told the Resident over a year ago that “everything will be sorted eventually. No one will end up losing their homes”.

[email protected]