Algarve Newsletter: Tod, Hoti, Oil and Ana

Dear reader

A week of news and views from the sunny Algarve...

The best news last week came from Odemira on the west coast, just over the border into the Alentejo, where the council had submitted an anti-oil drilling injunction for consideration by the court.

This legal challenge to Galp-ENI’s exploration plan was accepted by the court as ‘having valid arguments’ under the law.

ASMAA and anti-oil and gas supporters are delighted as the acceptance of this injunction by the court has put the oil consortium’s test well drilling programme on hold until the judges get around to hearing the case in full.

ASMAA’s founder, Laurinda Seabra, who has been spearheading the Algarve's anti-oil movement with unerring determination, commented on Wednesday:

“Today is a happy day, it’s a day of celebration for all who are actively involved in this cause, it’s another small step, some more ground has been gained in this fight for motivating the government and the oil companies to do the right thing to ‘keep the oil and gas in the ground’ - the fight is far from over but this is another small victory.”

This is a David and Goliath contest, made harder by the government’s clear support of the oil companies by riding roughshod over the public consultation process, but 'David' is doing well and has the support of many business associations, the Algarve’s mayors and a 42,000 signature petition from a concerned public.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11595-odemira-injunction-halts-galp-eni-oil-drilling

One of the quality marks for seaside tourism facilities is the Blue Flag scheme which assesses beaches for quality and safety.

For 2017, Portugal has come first in Europe with a higher percentage of its beaches receiving this accolade than in any other European country.

Surprisingly, Dona Ana beach in the Lagos council area is on the list despite the insensitive makeover in 2015 commissioned by the Portuguese Environmental Agency which caused much complaint.

As this State agency is run by Sebastião ‘Demolition Man’ Teixeira, the Spartan results at Dona Ana were predictable.

Well done to the Algarve for offering so many first class Blue Flag beaches for tourists to flop onto this year - this all helps the region’s summertime appeal.    

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11573-portugal-1-in-europe-for-blue-flag-beaches-2017

One tourist project that may have overstepped the legal mark is the plan for a new hotel in Monte Gordo.

This project aims to use land that has long been designated as a sports and leisure zone. The land also is likely to be within the public maritime reserve, the invisible line 40 metres from the seashore that has been used to justify the removal of properties on the Ria Formosa islands.

Portugal’s Hoti Hotels Group already has bought the plot and wants to build the Meliá de Monte Gordo hotel but environmental organisation Almargem, Local MP Paulo Sá and a protest group have questioned the council’s legal ground in giving this project the green light.

Almargem says that the planned hotel is another project in the “epidemic of destruction and occupation of coastal areas” and that “the dark clouds of dubious interests are covering the Algarve again.”

If the planned hotel is in an area where such a building is not permitted, it seems to be a pretty simple case.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11597-planned-hoti-hotel-on-monte-gordo-beach-may-be-illegal

The demolition crews last week started removing properties at Hangares, a settlement on the island of Culatra.

Hangares was established during WWI as a Naval supply base and takes its name from the original 'hangers' used to store equipment and munitions.

The island clearance campaign has shrunk from widespread removal to the targeted destruction of properties. The islanders have got pretty much what they have asked for with first homes and fishing related properties spared the State’s illogical purge.

The islanders’ struggle has not been without upset with many inhabitants exhausted after a campaign that ended up in parliament, on national TV and in the Portuguese national press.

The hope is that the new coastal plan will take into account the fact that these communities exist and have the right to remain where they are.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11596-demolition-crews-move-to-wwi-ria-formosa-island-settlement-of-hangares

The struggle continues over on Armona where a British couple, Paul Roseby and James Tod, received news that their luxury island home must be demolished as it is located in the public maritime domain.

The Ministry of the Environment issued its opinion late last week that the property should never have been given planning permission by Olhão council, unless the Portuguese Environment Agency had agreed the land could be used for building.

As it is this very agency, led by Sebastião Teixeira, that wants to seize the house and have it destroyed, retrospective exemption is highly unlikely.

Olhão ratepayers inevitably will end up footing the bill for this gross planning error. The amount could run into hundreds of thousands of euros as, if nothing changes, the council will be sued for costs and damages and is likely to lose.

Roseby and Tod may have a long wait for justice as the speed of this sort of legal action is notoriously slow.

One local lawyer advised a client who was determined to sue his local council that, “it’s best to be under 30 and in good health before taking action against a local authority."

The case of Roseby and Tod highlights just one of the many dangers when investing money in Portugal. Even when everyone says everything is fine, there may be serious underlying illegalities that only later will emerge, leaving buyers out of pocket, angry and facing an interminable judicial system as their only recourse.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11606-ministry-ruling-means-british-couple-s-island-home-must-be-demolished

The forces of law and order seem to have gone rather over-the-top in the case of a local councillor who was determined to make a stand against his own council which had authorised the creation of a car park on land designated as Ecological Reserve.

Clement Alves, a Communist Party member of Cascais Council, had joined a group of local people who saw the council’s actions as illegal. The Public Security Police assessed the situation differently, called the demonstration ‘illegal’ and told the councillor to clear off.

Alves refused to leave the site, was thrown to the ground and taken away in handcuffs by officers who said Alves had ‘disobeyed’ their instructions.

The police said that Alves behaved aggressively. Alves said, "I do not understand how the police can support this accusation, I did not resist anything, I just complained about the police presence at the site and I was beaten, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and taken to the police station. This was manifestly an excessive use of force by the police."

Well done Sr Alves - it’s about time a local councillor stood up for what he believes in.

If the land is Ecological Reserve, Cascais council was wrong to commission a car park.

As to what Alves said to the police to cause their perhaps 'over-zealous' reaction, I hope to report this when the case comes to court.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11592-hero-councillor-in-eco-protest-arrested-by-police

One of the silliest laws to be passed in recent years insisted that people returning empty gas bottles must be credited for the small amount of liquid left inside.

Each gas bottle retailer was to weigh the liquid left inside the bottle and credit the customer with the price of the residue.

The current Secretary of State for Energy, Jorge Seguro Sanches, said (with rare insight) that the original law "is not feasible because it is not possible to have a weighing machine at each gas retailer."

Instead of scrapping this wasteful, complex and wholly unnecessary law, Sanches has decided on an amendment: the average amount of gas left in a bottle will be credited to the customer.

This variation will be put into action after a crack team of gas residue engineers from the Regulator of Energy Services has managed to work out the national average.

The boss of Galp Energia had hoped that "the legislature must be able to find a common sense solution," but this is not to be.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11576-government-refuses-to-scrap-bottled-gas-refund-law

Another legal folly has been the pursuit of Uber Technologies Inc. through the Portuguese courts to halt Uber vehicles operating in this country.

The plaintiff is ANTRAL, the country’s taxi-driver union which seems not to have spotted that Uber Technologies Inc. is based in the US and has no involvement with Uber's operation in Portugal.

The Uber that should be in court is Uber BV, based in the Netherlands, whose Portuguese subsidiary currently is offering a transport to eager customers keen to use a cheaper, faster and more convenient service.

This court action anyway is a waste of court time as the government is soon to announce new legislation that will allow Uber and similar transport services legally to operate in Portugal.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11590-wrong-uber-loses-in-lisbon-appeal-court

Silves council became as fed up with those unsightly junction boxes that litter the region’s streets as many locals and launched a council-wide plan to cover the boxes with a tasteful and artistic outer layer.

Local artist Flávio Pontes was commissioned to design laminate covers that reflect local culture - buildings and people - and to cover the junction boxes with artwork between now and September.

Soon the entire Silves municipality will have been saved from this particular form of ugliness.

This was an inspired project from Silves council - well done.

http://algarvedailynews.com/news/11609-silves-council-project-covers-junction-boxes-with-artwork

The latest edition of the eco123 magazine ran an article titled ‘Pisciculture meets Horticulture.’

I thought this topic might interest some of you, i.e. growing fish and vegetables in a closed circuit, that I asked permission to reproduce the eco123 feature on algarvedailynews.

The system is “a closed water and nutrient cycle" for the production of strawberries, lettuce, pumpkins, tomatoes and freshwater fish all year round.

In the future, this type of mutually beneficial and highly efficient system for growing food should be common practice, especially if the founder, João Cotter, is successful in commercialising his project.

http://algarvedailynews.com/features/environment/11582-urban-farming-pisciculture-meets-horticulture

One of the Algarve’s treasures is Poppy Burr, a medical herbalist with clinics in Praia da Luz and Aljezur. With a host of qualifications and a natural ability, Poppy is 'specialising in treating chronic conditions by employing nutritional and psychosocial healing approaches as well as herbal medicines.'

Her latest article, ‘Cistus, Queen of the Algarve’ outlines some of the many healing properties of one of the region’s most abundant plants.

http://algarvedailynews.com/features/health-beauty/11575-cistus-queen-of-the-algarve

 

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Until next week

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