Praia Grande's mega venture can go ahead at any time, now under the name "eco-resort"

The announcement, made a few days ago by the company CBRE, that it is "the entity responsible for the commercialization" of what is now called […]

The announcement, made a few days ago by the company CBRE, that it is "the entity responsible for marketing" the now called Praia Grande Eco-Resort, next to Lagoa dos Salgados, has once again attracted attention on this, which is the only strip of land not yet built on the coast of the municipality of Silves.

CBRE, which presents itself as the «world leader in the provision of services to the real estate sector», in a press release sent to the newsrooms, reveals that the new development has «a potential construction area of ​​122 thousand square meters», and includes three 4 and 5 star hotels and around 350 residential units integrated in tourist villages, as well as an 18-hole golf course.

The land is now owned by the bank Millenium bcp, in its capacity as creditor of the recently bankrupt company Finalgarve (formerly Galilei Group / ex-SLN-BPN). If advanced, the project could involve an investment of 200 million euros.

Above it was written 'if you go forward', but it should have been 'when you go forward'. Because, as Rosa Palma, mayor of Silves, said in statements to the Sul Informação, after all the approvals that the mega enterprise received, either from the previous municipal executive or from the central administration, namely from the Secretary of State for the Environment of the previous government, which issued a favorable conditional environmental impact statement, the owner company "requested the issuance of the urban permit permit", on 1 July 2016.

The mayor, who, when she was just an opposition councilor, voted against this bill, added that “the construction permit has not yet been issued, but it could be issued at any time, taking into account everything that had already been approved and decided by the former executive of the City Council».

"When they want, the license will have to be issued and then they just need to get the construction license", so that the works can start, added Rosa Palma. "If they wanted to start building the initial infrastructure, they could have already started."

Despite approvals at the local and central level, the Municipality of Silves recalled on Thursday, in a statement, that they are still ongoing «lawsuits challenging the legality of the Praia Grande Detail Plan, the terms of execution of Execution Unit 1 of this urban plan, and the environmental impact statement, whose uncertain outcome may influence the urban project, even though, so far, there has been no court order suspending the effects of the acts of approval practiced'.

For all these reasons, the mayor is "impotent" to stop a process that was already too advanced when, in 2013, the CDU won the City Council of Silves from the PSD. «I always said I didn't review this project, which provides for too large a construction area. In an area with such a particular environment, if there is construction, it should be a more sustainable project», added Rosa Palma.

In its statement, the Silves Chamber clarifies: «it is public that the current permanent municipal executive does not review the content of the Detailed Plan of Praia Grande, instead defending, for the territorial area in question, a different and sustainable project, which go towards nature tourism, to the detriment of mass construction, which is an already spent formula, which implies the destruction of ecologically sensitive areas, which, because they are so rare in the Algarve, justify their safeguarding and protection".

But the permanent executive of the CDU, which does not have a majority, does not fail to point the finger at the other councilors (two from the PSD, including the former president of the Chamber Rogério Pinto, and two from the PS): «it is also necessary to understand that , in this decision-making process, where there are already urbanistic commitments assumed by previous executives, non-permanent councilors also participate, who have had an opinion and a sense of majority vote distinct from the permanent municipal executive, thus influencing the fate of one of the last " ecological oases” of the Algarve».

Despite not saying so, the CDU executive is referring to the decision taken, as early as March 2013, by the majority formed by the opposition councilors (PSD and PS), which forced the Chamber of Silves to contest the action brought by the platform of environmental associations against the Detail Plan of Praia Grande.

Political issues aside, taking into account the announcement of the delivery of the mega resort's commercialization to a company with great experience in the sector - which even presents as credential the fact that she acted as a consultant in the «sale of Grupo Lusort, owner of Vilamoura, the biggest real estate transaction of the decade in this sector» – everything indicates that the works may start soon, on this strip of land along the beachfront with more of two kilometers, between Lagoa nos Salgados and Armação de Pêra.

Francisco Sottomayor, Director of Promotion at CBRE, in a note sent to the media, highlights precisely this location of the new resort, which is distinguished “by its privileged surroundings, next to Lagoa dos Salgados and next to the beach, in a premium area of ​​this region of Portugal ».

On the other hand, Eduardo Abreu, partner of Neoturis, another company linked to the business, underlines that «Praia Grande Eco-Resort represents a unique opportunity for tourism-real estate promotion, due to its quality, location and highly conserved natural surroundings. In addition to property developers, we believe in the interest of various hotel groups in the project. It is with great satisfaction that we accepted this joint challenge and supported the creation of a unique project in Portugal».

Despite now being presented by its promoters as an “eco-resort”, the environmental association Almargem, which has been fighting against this project, emphasizes that “the project now disclosed is exactly the same as in 2012, then presented with great pomp and circumstance, and that had the approval of the executive of the Municipality of Silves and of the Government of the time».

The association adds that the current promoters “are making an effort to associate their “Eco”-Resort with what was previously called the Environmental Park/Protected Area of ​​Private Initiative, that is, a supposedly untouched area, in order to whiten (or better) , green) the brutal impact of the enterprise».

Now, stresses Almargem, «that area is nothing more than the set formed by the restricted use areas integrated in REN, and as such, unfeasible for urban occupation, but which are still partially occupied by the golf course, in addition to land. located on the shore of Lagoa dos Salgados that are not part of the development, as opposed to the respective owners».

Almargem says that «obviously I would like to believe that the “Eco”Resort of these new promoters could have meant a radical change in the planned development paradigm for the area, in a model mainly centered on the natural values ​​that the area offers and from the perspective of tourism sustainable'.

But, he stresses, «this is not what happens, but revealing itself as another replica of many other existing projects throughout the coastal Algarve, repeating mistakes from a past that is unfortunately still very present and contradicting the good intentions so often propagated in recent times by those responsible for national and regional tourism, who have been defending the importance for the region of excellence and differentiating tourism».

Refusing to lower its arms, and following a meeting of environmental activists, on the 13th of May, in the area of ​​Lagoa dos Salgados and Sapais de Pêra, Associação Almargem decided to «go forward now with the presentation to ICNF of a project to classify this entire area as a National Nature Reserve or Protected Landscape».

“A presentation will also be sent to the main local, regional and national political leaders, so that they can make the necessary efforts so that natural values ​​become the number one priority here, to the detriment of the interests of real estate speculation”.

At a time when the Secretary of State for Tourism said that the Algarve has «all the conditions to be the world leader in sustainable tourism», the case of the mega-development of Praia Grande seems to call into question this beautiful intention.


See here the video released by the promoters of the mega project in Praia Grande: