Friday, 20 October 2017
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QUINTADAOMBRIAOn August 25th, the ceremonial first stone will be laid at the Ombria Resort, a 5-star tourist complex with hotel, residences, an 18-hole golf course at Estrada do Olival, between Tôr and Querença in the Algarve’s barrocal to the north of Loulé.

This is a first in Europe for the American Viceroy Hotels & Resorts group which will be managing the development, owned by the Finnish, Pontos Group.

The project first was proposed 20 years ago but was given a major boost in 2012 with a 'Project of National Importance' status handed out by the former Foreign Minister, Paulo Portas.

The development proposal attracted criticism from Brussels, as well as many of Portugal’s environmental NGOs, as it is in an ecologically sensitive area of the region and sits right on top of the Querença aquifer.

According to today’s press release, “The project will be completely integrated into the surrounding landscape, occupying about 153 hectares, across an area of green hills, holm oaks, cork oaks and other typical tree species, flanked by streams.

The official stone laying ceremony will be held on August 25th and according to Ombria Resort, will be attended by Ilpo Kokkila and Timo Kokkila, the Chairman and CEO of Pontos Group, the mayor of Loulé, Vítor Aleixo, the head of Viceroy Hotels and various other bigwigs.

The launch of the Ombria Resort might spell the end of plans for similar resort nearby, United Investments Portugal's Vale do Freixo development.

The European Union did state that after the Ombria Resort development was given permission, "there should be no similar developments in the same area." Vale do Freixo is just down the road.

United Investments officially ran out of patience at the end of May 2017, with the company’s director for Portugal saying he was fed up with waiting and that there are plenty of other investments that the company could be making - outside Portugal. The director claimed the government had been “obstructive and dilatory.”

The Government says the Vale do Freixo development it is in the hands of Loulé council. The council says the application if being assessed by the ICFN.

Meanwhile, the diggers will be allowed to start rearranging nature in the creation of the Ombria Resort's golf course after a decades-long wait. Subsequent buildings will need further permissions but the council will ensure these are dealth with swiftly.

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Algarve Daily News spoke to Julio Delgado, the CEO Ombria Resort, in March this year in an effort to clarify some environmental and ownership matters.

The European Commission warned of the negative impacts the Quinta da Ombria development will have on the protected Natura 2000 area. In 2006, the construction was given a ‘final warning’ by Brussels and the council told not to authorize construction "within an area of nature conservation of community importance." Brussels warned that if the planning breach was not addressed the complaint will go to the European Court of Justice.

Did this happen or is the case still pending?

“Ombria Resort obtained the final DIA - EIS (Declaração de Impacto Ambiental - Environmental Impact Statement) in 2010, following the Environmental Impact Assessment and Evaluation that were carried out. Ombria Resort's Final Master Plan was approved in 2012.

“The Ombria Resort implementation plan has as its fundamental principle a sustainable territorial occupation and a total respect for environmental values, aiming at the implementation of an attractive and high quality tourist development.

“Our goal is to be a pioneer of a new generation of Resorts in which the environment, social responsibility and support for nature and environmental and local heritage are priorities. Concept and low density architectural design, use of renewable energies, environmental certification, interaction and integration with other members of the local community and connection with nature will be some of the key elements used to achieve these goals.

“The primary concept of Ombria Resort is to be a destination in contact with the region where it is located and an extension of the area where it is inserted, encouraging our clients to connect with and discover the surrounding landscape, the local culture, historical sites and regional gastronomy in an environmentally responsible way, while the local and national economy is boosted.

“Some examples of our commitment are the partnerships developed with several companies and local entities, such as the TASA Project, the Parish Councils of Loulé (Querença / Tôr / Benafim) and the Municipality of Loulé. Additionally, there are other examples of our commitment with this region: our branding agency, Triple Sky, is from Almancil and was responsible for the rebranding we carried out recently, including the change from Quinta da Ombria to Ombria Resort; the agreement with the University of Algarve to do an Economical and Social Impact study of the project; amongst others.

“Besides this, we are working to help boosting the recruitment of local people. The perspective is that between the construction works and the start of operations we can generate more than 1000 direct and indirect jobs.”

In 2006 the project was being promoted by SRV Group and Leart both from Finland, and was the subject of a complaint filed by the League for the Protection of Nature in 2004. In June 2006, the European Commission stated that Portugal had been sent a "final written warning regarding the urban development and a golf course called Quinta da Ombria within an area of nature conservation of community importance in the Algarve." Brussels concluded that an environmental impact assessment, "would show a significant effect on at least three types of rare habitats covered by an EU directive aimed at preserving important natural habitats and of wild flora and fauna in the EU, including Lotocephalus Thymus (Portuguese thyme), which according to the directive, deserves priority protection.

Have these impacts been avoided?

“Pontos Group bought Quinta da Ombria, now Ombria Resort, in 2008 and introduced a new concept and layout for the project to minimize any interference with the natural habitats, and local flora and fauna species, whose preservation and promotion makes part of the project’s concept.

“Several environmental studies, including detailed Habitat, Flora and Fauna surveys and an Environmental Management Plan for the entire property were developed to verify the Environmental Conformity of the Project, as imposed by European legislation. These studies were presented to the Portuguese authorities and forwarded to Brussels, and, by 2012, the Master Plan was approved.

“The preservation of native vegetation is a guideline of this project, promoting its integration in the design of exterior spaces, to the detriment of the use of exotic ornamental species. In this way, the affirmation of the characteristic landscape of the Barrocal is enhanced.”

The important Querença-Silves aquifer is considered strategic for the region's fresh water supply. The Commission considers that building the resort would be "a violation of the EU Directive on the protection of groundwater against pollution caused by certain dangerous substances."

Has this been avoided?

“In compliance with the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS - DIA), an extensive and detailed hydrological study was carried out to evaluate and identify all the risk factors related to the streams that pass at Ombria Resort.

“The importance of the Querença-Silves aquifer was considered in the Ombria Resort development. The project layout avoided construction on the most permeable areas of the property, where surface water infiltrates and the natural recharge of the aquifer occurs.

“Within Ombria Resort ‘s Environmental Management Plan some specific management plans were developed, such as the Water Management Plan, the Phytosanitary Products Management and the Environmental Emergency Plan. Each of them contributes to ensure the Querença-Silves aquifer protection and minimize any impact on underground waters."

What about the run-off of nitrates from the two golf courses and from sewage treatment systems?

“There will be only one golf course (18 holes) and with limited grassed areas. Planted areas on the golf course are minimized to enhance its natural environment and reduce water consumption for irrigation. Although the course covers an area of over 70 hectares in total, the areas planted with grass will only cover about 25 hectares, which is on average 30% below what is common in most other golf courses.

“Run-off nitrates from the golf course is not expected because irrigation will be automatically controlled per soil needs, using soil moisture sensors, minimizing run-off or leaching. On the other hand, the type of products that will be applied on the soil for turf have a short active life and are considered with no impact on soil and water quality.”

In May, 2015, Loulé council approved the Casas da Benémola project as a scientific center with accommodation funded by the Arto Carpus Castelo Foundation, (Arto Takala.) Almargem say the foundation is indistinguishable from Arto Takala's property development company, and that Takala was the initial promoter of the adjoining resort of Quinta da Ombria, and it was he who wanted a similar luxury development at Casas de Benémola but had been thwarted for years due to its ‘protected’ location.

What involvement does Arto Takala have in the current Ombria Resort?

“Mr. Arto Takala is not involved in any way with the Ombria Resort project.”


The Ombria website mentions a “new generation of sustainable resorts in Portugal by Grupo Pontos, a Finnish private equity fund.”

Does this include Casas de Benémola?

“No. Pontos Group and/or Ombria Resort are not involved in any way in the Casas da Benémola project.”

Is Viceroy, or any company with the name Viceroy in it, funding the construction of the resort? If not, who is?

Viceroy is not funding the construction of Ombria Resort. Ombria Resort is being developed by Pontos Group, who is funding its construction. Pontos is a Finnish family-owned private equity and real estate investment company. Viceroy Hotel Group is a luxury hotel management company.

The Portuguese company QdO Hotel SA, is noted as the developer of the Viceroy Residences at Ombria Resort, and therefore might own the Ombria properties for sale. Does QdO Hotel SA own the properties for sale and if not, who does? Who owns QdO Hotel SA?

QdO Hotel SA belongs 100% to the investment portfolio of Pontos Group.

The transfer of trademark license fees to Viceroy Cayman Ltd. Is this not a way of moving future profits to an offshore tax haven and lowering the amount of tax paid in Portugal?

“Viceroy Hotel Group is a luxury hotel management company with which QdO Hotel SA signed a hotel management agreement. Through this contract, QdO Hotel SA has appointed Viceroy for all operational responsibilities of managing the future hotel at Ombria Resort. As part of the agreement, and as a normal practice in this industry, Viceroy will be remunerated for its services through the payment of management and trademark license fees.”

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See also 'Querença 'scientific research centre' does not fool environmentalists'

 

Comments  

0 #4 Ed 2017-08-06 19:55
Quoting VicksB:
The diggers have been working for the past 2 years. Anyone who knows and respects the area will be horrified at what is taking place. Natural streams are being dammed and re-directed. Roads are being being built into the hillsides. A massive concrete bridge has been created for goodness knows what. There has been no respect at all given to the flora and fauna as great swathes of countryside have been obliterated. To create the golf course will require the use of many fertilisers etc. and that will impact on any wildlife that may have survived up till now. I could go on and on but will stop now!

Just what Loule council knew would happen when building it sversion of 'nature tourism'. Its greed is unsurpassed with revenue from QdeLago etc, still it wants more and more 'beds' as 'beds meanz money'
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+1 #3 VicksB 2017-08-06 19:39
The diggers have been working for the past 2 years. Anyone who knows and respects the area will be horrified at what is taking place. Natural streams are being dammed and re-directed. Roads are being being built into the hillsides. A massive concrete bridge has been created for goodness knows what. There has been no respect at all given to the flora and fauna as great swathes of countryside have been obliterated. To create the golf course will require the use of many fertilisers etc. and that will impact on any wildlife that may have survived up till now. I could go on and on but will stop now!
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+1 #2 Margaridaana 2017-08-05 16:22
Do we really need another golf course or tourist complex?
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+3 #1 TT 2017-08-03 18:59
The mere mention of Paulo Portas' name should set alarm bells ringing straight away after the submarines whitewash and his other suspicious dealings.
And for all the waffle of 'how much less water will be required for irrigation (of the golf course)', it will still require huge amounts. So where is all this water going to come from in this increasingly drought-stricken region?
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