By NATASHA SMITH
Loulé and Faro Câmaras have criticised revisions of the Plano de Ordenamento do Território do Algarve (PROTAL), the master planning document for the Algarve region, for lacking strength and clarity.
The Comissão de Coordenação e Desenvolvimento Regional (CCDR), the commission of co-ordination and regional development closed the forum to discuss the aims of the Algarve’s development over the next 10 years last week. It had opened in August.
The respective câmara presidents criticise the document for not finding solutions to combat the drastic reduction of the population in rural inland areas of the region who are moving to urban areas in search of work.
Faro and Loulé believe that the development plans for the next 10 years are inadequate and, according to a spokesperson from Faro Câmara “is far from being an instrument of progress for sustainable development of the area”.
José Apolinário, Faro’s Câmara President, wanted PROTAL to mention plans for discussion about a high speed train, which will link Faro and Seville. Issues put forward by Apolinário during the public discussion period have, according to him, not been resolved in the document and the programme for public spending lacks vigour.
Before the deadline at the end of November, Loulé Câmara praised the CCDR for its foresight and many aspects of the document, but regretted that the CCDR did not adequately highlight the câmara’s objectives for the development of the rural inland areas as well as the coastline.
Both câmaras criticised the lack of clarity of many aspects of the PROTAL document and the lack of solutions to safeguard regional development. In the opinion of Loulé Câmara, the document presented no solutions to resolve the issue of the population abandoning rural areas to find work and accommodation in urban zones.
Following the public discussion in which Loulé Câmara presented a number of suggestions to combat population migration away from inland areas, the revised plan was released with few alterations or solutions having been made.
A plan which could eventually combat population migration to urban areas is the nomination of new headquarters for some parish councils (freguesias) across the region including Querença, Tôr and Benafim.
They could provide more assistance and support to residents living in remote areas as well as liaise with the national government on issues affecting citizens, which was welcomed by Loulé Câmara.
Loulé Câmara also declared its support for some of the suggestions that were accepted as part of the revised document where new evaluations of urban areas will take place and improvements made to infrastructures and conditions. The câmara was also pleased with new ideas, which will increase the value and validate rural areas in Silves, São Brás de Alportel and Loulé.
The lukewarm response from Faro and Loulé was shared by other areas across the Algarve and some câmaras believe they are fighting a losing battle to improve development strategies and plans throughout the region.