Lagoa dos Salgados: Millenium/BCP “threat” with millionaire compensation claim

CEO of the bank considers that there are “fully valid acquired rights”

Lagoa dos Salgados – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

The CEO of Millenium/BCP threatens the Portuguese State with a millionaire compensation claim if it advances the classification of Lagoa dos Salgados, in the municipality of Silves, as a natural reserve.

In an email sent on 7 January to the Ministers of the Environment and Economy (Matos Fernandes and Siza Vieira), to which the Sul Informação had access, CEO Miguel Maia expresses his "apprehension and perplexity" at the news, which he will have learned through the media, regarding the classification of 400 hectares on the coast of the municipality of Silves, which include Lagoa dos Salgados, the Marsh of Pêra/Alcantarilha, as well as all the lands between these wetlands and the dune cord.

Now, in about 110 of these 400 hectares, there is a land for which companies that today are owned by the BCP Group – Finalgarve, Bichorro and Fiparso – foresee a project for 4000 tourist beds, with hotels, villas and a golf course, right at the shore of Lagoa dos Salgados.

Considering that there are "fully valid acquired rights" and using legal opinions from four specialists from the universities of Coimbra and Lisbon (see the chronology below), Miguel Maia threatens the two ministers with a request for "compensation" for the damages that those companies of the BCP Group will allegedly suffer if the Nature Reserve advances, losses that he estimates at «100 million euros».

At a time when it takes place, until tomorrow, January 20th, the public discussion on the classification proposal of Lagoa dos Salgados as a Nature Reserve, those responsible for that bank cling the issue of approval, by the City Council and later by the Municipal Assembly of Silves, in December 2007, of the Execution Unit 1 of the Praia Grande Detailed Plan, which refers precisely to the mega tourist project promoted by companies from the BCP Group.


Young flamingos, on Saturday, at Lagoa dos Salgados – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

Yesterday, during the public clarification session on the Nature Reserve proposal, promoted by the Câmara de Silves and the Almargem association, at the Parish Center of Pêra, with the physical presence of more than forty people and the online participation of several dozen others, the The legal situation of this Detailed Plan (PP) was explained by councilor Maxime Bispo, who is himself a jurist.

«The Plan does not confer rights, it only confers expectations», defended the councilor, adding that «the current executive of the Municipality of Silves does not see himself in the PP of Praia Grande, which is dated, is outdated». Furthermore, he added, “the execution of this Plan is very conditioned”, because only a small part of the land is actually owned by Finalgarve.

In fact, explained Maxime Bispo, the new Silves PDM, published in January 2021, so a year ago, despite not revoking the Praia Grande PP (for procedural reasons), does not provide for the construction of a tourist resort in the area, but yes, «rustic occupation and natural space», which, he stressed, «is perfectly compatible with the whole logic of the classification of Lagoa dos Salgados».

«Do we want to persist in a model of the Algarve coastline with concrete and mass tourism, with precarious employment? Or do we prefer to invest in sustainable activities, in taking advantage of environmental values, in qualifying, to attract another type of tourism, with another quality, with more money, which guarantees jobs with some security, so that people can have a quality of life here in the territory?”, asked the councilor of the Silves Chamber. Moreover, he added, “what territory do we want to bequeath to future generations?”.

Maxime Bispo concluded: «the Detailed Plan of Praia Grande is in a coma and is just waiting for someone to turn off the machines». Who will? The mayor didn't say so, but therein lies the crux of this whole matter.


Former agricultural fields where the Algarvian Linaria exists – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

In a public consultation process that is proving to be one of the most participated ever at national level – already has close to 800 participations - in addition to the Millennium/BCP, there are others who are not comfortable with the classification of the area as a natural reserve. For this reason, last week, a petition from some landowners to be covered by the classification arrived at the Municipality of Silves, expressing their concern.

Interestingly, yesterday, at the public clarification session in Pêra, none of these owners was present, at least no one identified himself as such.

Bearing in mind that the public discussion phase, which started on December 9th and ends tomorrow, January 20th, is open to all, it is assumed that those who signed the petition will also present their concerns on the portal. or by other means provided for participation. As Councilor Maxime Bispo stressed, “owners can participate in this process, which is public and transparent”.

Anyway, from what was said in the session, these owners can be more relaxed. The eventual creation of the Nature Reserve will not mean «prohibiting everything», as highlighted by Anabela Santos, leader of the Almargem association, or Joaquim Castelão Rodrigues, regional director of the Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF), which promotes the proposed classification of the Lagoa. dos Salgados.

«There will have to be an active management of the nature reserve, people will have to be able to enjoy the spaces, they will have to participate in that management, even to be proud of this reserve, which is a unique space», underlined Anabela Santos. «Hotels with golf courses? No! But agrotourism, yes!, there are conditions for that».

Castelão Rodrigues, for his part, spoke of the possibility of re-promoting agricultural activity on the land covered by the future reserve, namely by recovering the dry orchard (almond and fig trees) or promoting the vineyard, as well as maintaining grazing (at the moment there are two flocks of sheep to use the area).

This ICNF official also added that the future nature reserve will be managed under a “co-management” regime, the new system that includes the participation of Municipal Councils, public and private entities and citizens. In fact, the Executive Committee of the protected area under co-management is always chaired by (or by) the mayor.


Birdwatching at Lagoa dos Salgados – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação

There will also be space for nature activities and for the action of tourist entertainment companies, namely those that, every day, take tourists to Lagoa dos Salgados to go hiking and, above all, to watch birds.

«Lagoa dos Salgados is one of the most visited spaces in the whole country, either by people who want to know nature and watch birds, or by technicians and scientists from various national and international institutions», underlined Domingos Leitão, executive director of the Sociedade Portuguese for the Study of Birds (SPEA), also participating in the session in Pêra.

The rules and future uses will be enshrined in a management plan and in the regulation, whose discussion, also public and involving everyone, will advance after classification as a natural reserve.

In order to contest the alleged “acquired rights” by the promoters of the tourist development planned for the Praia Grande Detail Plan area, the classification proposal advances with the environmental values ​​in question.

Now, on Saturday, during a day of activities for the public promoted along the 400 hectares of the future nature reserve, these values ​​were clearly visible to all.

André Carapeto, specialist from the Portuguese Botany Society, who guided one of the tours, discovering the flora and habitats of that vast area, drew attention above all to the presence of the most important nucleus of the algarvian linaria, an already very rare and exclusive species in the Algarve, which is of priority protection according to community legislation.

In the entire Algarve region – and in the world, since it only exists here – the population in the best state of algarvian linaria is that of Salgados, therefore this area is essential for the survival of the species. The remaining existing populations are small and outside protected areas and are therefore liable to disappear.

André Carapeto, who knows the terrain like no one else, as far as flora is concerned, explained to the Sul Informação that this plant is a «therophyte», that is, the plant completes its life cycle in the same year, dying at the end of the cycle, before winter, but leaving seeds underground, which will germinate the following year. It needs, therefore, an area with some vastness to be able to leave its seeds well spread and thus survive.

André Carapeto added that, in addition to the known occurrences near Praia Grande, nuclei of algarvian linaria in the area that would be occupied by urbanization, so its management and survival is not viable if the resort advances.

The public discussion on the creation of the Lagoa dos Salgados Nature Reserve will take place until tomorrow and everyone can participate and give their opinion. Almargem, on behalf of the Lagoa dos Salgados Participatory Movement, prepared a manual for using the portal, as well as a draft opinion, which can be freely copied and used by all. Click here to learn more.


Nature activities in the area of ​​the future nature reserve of Lagoa dos Salgados – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Are there any urban commitments in the area included in the proposed classification of Lagoa dos Salgados as a Nature Reserve?

First, it is necessary to distinguish between two planes:

1. There are values ​​protected by two Community Directives (algarvian linaria in Annexes II and IV of the Habitats Directive and a number of breeding, wintering or migratory birds that are protected by the Birds Directive), so no building rights can overlap. The species are really there, which obliges the Portuguese State to conserve the habitats.

2. There may have been ignorance on the part of the Municipality of Silves in relation to these natural values, which led to the practice of administrative acts that have generated some expectations and quasi-rights (these are even rights from the point of view of the authors of the legal opinions requested by Millenium/ BCP).
But that will not give the right to build, because they are there for the species; may eventually entitle you to compensation. And this is what the CEO of Millenium/BCP has already talked about, in his email to the Ministers of the Environment and Economy.

Is Finalgarve entitled to compensation or not?
After analysis by jurists heard by the Sul Informação, it is not liquid that has.

First, because CCDR Algarve decided negatively on the environmental compliance of the execution project (DECAPE). Therefore, the interested company did not have the right to carry out the urban planning operations of the UE1- PP Praia Grande construction project, as it lacks the favorable DECAPE, which is the essential document to allow the issuance of deeds of licensing or authorization of projects covered by the EIA regime. Without him, nothing is done.

Then, although the DIA is not the final act of this procedure, it can be argued that it may give the tenderer certain rights.

However, in the case of Salgados, the DIA was issued in the preliminary study phase, being necessary, to complete the DIA, that the requirement of environmental compliance of the project with this DIA was verified, which did not happen. In other words, the environmental impact statement was made, but the measures proposed by the promoters are not enough to compensate for the environmental damage.

Thirdly, the EIA (environmental impact assessment) is not the actual procedure itself. It is just one step in a larger administrative procedure, serving only to assess the significant effects of the project if it were carried out.

And it is understandable that this is the case, especially with regard to the strictly protected plant habitat, the algarvian linaria.



07/12/2007 – The Municipal Assembly of Silves approves, on a proposal from the Municipal Council (CMS), the Detailed Plan (PP) of the Operational Subunit of Planning and Management II of Praia Grande.
22/06/2012 - Signing of the urban development contract
07/11/2012, 11/09/2013 and 09/07/2014 - Approval on these three dates, by deliberation of CMS, of the subdivision and urbanization works projects
07/02/2013 – The UE1 project, in the preliminary study phase, is submitted to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA)
30/10/2013 – CCDR Algarve issues a favorable Environmental Impact Statement (EIA) conditioned
05/06/2015 – Notification of “Finalgarve- Sociedade de Produção Imobiliária e Turistica, SA” to comment on the proposal to amend the DIA, in a prior hearing
22/06/2015 – CCDR Algarve approves an amendment to the DIA
03/08/2017 – The Municipality of Silves issues the Allotment Permit no.
29/09/2017 – RECAPE on general EU infrastructure1 is submitted
20/10 to 10/11/2017 – Public discussion takes place (reference to the judicial process to challenge DIA running at TAF de Loulé
15/11/2017 - Extension of the validity of the DIA
18/12/2017 - Submission of the unfavorable DECAPE proposal for pronunciation in the preliminary hearing phase
13/07/2018 - Issue of unfavorable DECAPE by CCDR Algarve
24/07/2018 - Presentation of complaint by Finalgarve
22/11/2018 - The company filed an administrative action at the Sintra TAF for declaration of nullity/annulment of the unfavorable DECAPE and for recognition of its legal position arising from the tacit favorable DECAPE, as a constitutive act of rights
11/2/2019 – Deliberation, by CMS, to suspend the effectiveness of the Allotment Permit no.
14/05/2021 - Decision of the Sintra TAF, which judges the action totally unfounded
07/06/2021 - CCDR informs the company of ICNF's position
September/2021 – Millenium/BCP sends ICNF two legal opinions, authored by professors Fernanda Paula Marques de Oliveira and Dulce Lopes (University of Coimbra Law School) and João Miranda and Diogo Calado (University of Law School) Lisbon)
November/2021 – Ministry of the Environment and ICNF announce the proposal to classify Lagoa dos Salgados as a protected area of ​​national scope
December 9, 2021 to January 20, 2022 - Public discussion
January 2022 - Pending appeal filed with the STA