For the tens of thousands who signed the Algarve's 'Save Salgados' petition, news of progress has been sporadic with long periods of silence but this does not mean that nothing has been going on.
Salgados is the local term for the Praia Grande development whose proponent, Finalgarve, has been keen to get permission to develop the countryside site, the last untouched area of coastal wetland in the Algarve.
After a highly selective and controversial environmental impact assessment that was paid for by the developer, the Secretary of State for the Environment Paulo da Silva Lemos signed permission in November 2013 to forever change this sensitive birdland area by allowing the construction of tourist accommodation, three hotels, and yet another golf course.
Then in June 2014, news of a rare plant was released. Algarve Toadflax, or Linaria algarviana (pictured below), was not mentioned in the official environmental study as the plant is rare, protected and, from a developer's point of view, worryingly photogenic.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has a red list of rare plants, and Linaria algarviana is on it -
“Linaria algarviana is listed on Annex II of the Habitats Directive and under Appendix I of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). It is legally protected in Portugal. Appropriate site management for this species including traditional grazing activities or control of urban and tourism expansion should be established.”
A legal bid was submitted to Loulé court by local eco-organisations on the Friends of Salgados platform which sought to halt building development due the presence of this protected plant.
This was bad news for the builders who had hoped to get permission for the project and sell it on. Finalgarve is part of the Galilei Group which in turn is tainted by the fallout after the BPN banking scandal. Finalgarve admits it has no money to build the development and wants to sell it on asap when full permission are in place.
News of a mysterious Angolan buyer soon was swirling around the media but with the oil price already sliding, the laundering of Angolan money using this project now seems a long shot.
Angolan businessmen do not have a reputation of being foolish and the whole Praia Grande/Salgados development is mired in so many problems, 'what ifs' and uncertainties that finding a buyer for such a tainted and difficult project will remain elusive.
And so to today, when news reached us via the current International Bird Fair in the UK that the Linaria algarviana court submission seems to have been treated ‘favourably’ and that as a result, Portugal’s forestry authority ICNF has issued an instruction that not one square metre of the 360 hectare site can be disturbed until a complete survey has been undertaken in 2016 for the presence of Linaria Algarviana.
This is excellent news for the Save Salgados campaign platform and indeed for the 33,900 people who so far have signed the petition to keep the area as it is, not turn it into a ‘me too’ tourist resort of the type that even now is out of date.
The campaigners therefore have gained at least another 6 months until the rare plant again shows its flowers and its various locations confirmed.
Unless Linaria algarviana is ‘accidentally’ sprayed off or eradicated by unknown agents, its recorded presence next Spring will give the ammunition needed to continue the campaign to keep this natural area ‘as is’ – truly one of the Algarve’s wonders.
The 'Friends of Lagoa dos Salgados' platform includes the following organisations:
A Rocha, Aldeia, Algarve123, www.algarvedailynews.com, Almargem, Birding in Portugal, Birdwatching Algarve, LPN, Portugal Resident, ProActiveTur, Quercus, SPEA