The Environmental Compliance Reports of the Execution Project (RECAPE) of Hotel B and the General Infrastructures of the Execution Unit 1 (UE1) of the Praia Grande Detailed Plan, on the edge of Lagoa dos Salgados, were yesterday put up for public discussion on the portal Participa.pt, with a deadline until the 18th of February.
Both projects are promoted by Finalgarve Sociedade de Produção Imobiliária e Turistica SA, the Millennium/BCP Group company that owns part of the land next to that protected area and has been trying to build a mega tourist development there for years.
At a time when, finished a few days ago, the public discussion of the proposed classification of Lagoa dos Salgados, including the adjoining lands, such as a Nature Reserve, pending the decision on this new protected area, the beginning of the public discussion process of those two RECAPE took by surprise the environmental associations, as well as the Municipality of Silves itself and even the Institute of Conservation of Nature and Forests (ICNF).
One of the projects RECAPE which has now entered provides for the construction of a 4-star hotel, with 193 rooms and 386 beds, SPA, gym and indoor pool, three outdoor pools, two restaurants and a bar-lounge with a terrace.
The other refers to infrastructure that support the future occupation foreseen for the UE1 area:, namely the construction of two hotel establishments (Hotel B and Hotel C), a tourist village (Village B), a tourist complex (comprising Hotel A and Village A), a commercial lot and even a golf course.
Even before, in 2018, these same projects, then included in a single process, had received an unfavorable Decision on the Environmental Compliance of the Execution Project (DECAPE) by the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR).
Finalgarve, however, did not comply and took the case to the Administrative and Tax Court (TAF) of Sintra, asking for the declaration of nullity of the unfavorable DECAPE, arguing that, due to a matter of deadlines, there would be a favorable tacit DECAPE, which conferred rights on the company. However, in May of last year, the Sintra TAF judged this action to be totally unfounded.
But even so, the company gave up its attempts. In early January, and as Sul Informação reported exclusively, while the process of public discussion of the proposal, presented by ICNF, to create the Lagoa dos Salgados Nature Reserve was still ongoing, the CEO of the Millennium/BCP Group himself sent an email to the Ministers of the Environment and Economy in which, among other considerations, threatened to demand compensation of 100 million euros from the Portuguese State if the real estate projects could not proceed.
O Sul Informação contacted Joaquim Castelão Rodrigues, ICNF regional director in the Algarve, to find out how these two RECAPE can now affect or coordinate with the process of classifying that wetland as a nationally protected area.
Castelão Rodrigues explained that “the RECAPE of the Detailed Plan had an unfavorable opinion in 2021, so, as a whole, nothing could be done”. That is, the overall project had an unfavorable opinion, so the promoters could not proceed with it. Therefore, they decided to divide the project into several, in order to try to overcome the obstacles that were then posed.
On the other hand, the favorable conditional Environmental Impact Declaration (DIA) had “a deadline that ended on January 27, if nothing was done” and thus would suspend the Detailed Plan. Therefore, «the presentation, now, of two RECAPE (infrastructure and hotel) is a way to circumvent the previous unfavorable RECAPE, going through partial opinions, in the expectation that there will not be [in the area to be occupied by the tourist development] priority habitats» and that, thus, “there may be a favorable opinion”.
Castelão Rodrigues added that “the ICNF will analyze the reports and issue its opinion during the month of February”.
To what Sul Informação also found out the environmental associations, companies and individuals that make up the Lagoa dos Salgados Participatory Movement, which has the Almargem association as its main mentor, is already analyzing the processes, in order to issue an opinion within the scope of the public consultation. The Chamber of Silves will also speak.
Once again, the Movement should also appeal to the participation of everyone to manifest, in this process, against the approval of the hotel and the infrastructure of the mega enterprise.
The fact is that an eventual approval of the construction of the hotel and infrastructure, as is now proposed by Finalgarve (and which does not differ much from previous projects included in a single one), could jeopardize the natural values that led to the proposed classification of Lagoa dos Salted as a Nature Reserve.