Loulé Council has taken action to prevent a project by a real estate fund to transform the campsite of Quarteira into a 499 room tourist development - also to halt further property incursions along the Council's coastline.
The municipality has used ‘climate change’ and the predicted rise in sea levels to justify the suspension of its Municipal Master Plan (PDM) and is establishing preventive measures to halt further property developments.
The proposed Quinta do Oceano tourist development, including an aparthotel, six-story buildings and single-family and two-storey houses, has been suspended. The location is at the campsite at one of the region's cherished wetlands, the Almargem lagoon, between Quarteira and Vale do Lobo.
The development site is owned by Invesfundo VII, itself owned by Novo Banco, but progress has been suspended by the Council’s executive.
This long-running dispute, between the Council and Invesfundo VII, has been dragging on since February 2009, when the Council decided that if the campsite was to be built over, the developer should provide a new one.
It is not the first time that the Loulé PDM has been suspended, but for reasons other than those now invoked by the Council.
According to the Coastal Zone Plan (POOC), the lagoon at the mouth of the Almargem is part of the wetlands corridor between Armação de Pêra and Ancão, as is the case with the Lagoa dos Salgados near Galé, which is also in risk.
In 2011, Loulé Council’s municipal assembly decided to propose to its executive that the zone be classified as a "protected local area" but the process never got any further.
The main problem that the Council has, is that the camp site has been classified as an ‘urban space’ since 1995, so the latest move to use climate change is an inventive and welcome use of current legislation.
Importantly, the Council’s new restrictions on development have the backing of the Portuguese Environment Agency and the Regional Coordination and Development Commission for the Algarve (CCDR-A) which has issued a "favourable opinion on the suspension of the PDM,” and the establishment of preventive measures in this particular wetland area.
Despite the encroaching sea, there is no shortage of projects planned for seaside areas despite the obvious folly of bulding there.
A good example are the properties at Vale do Lobo, built about 30 years ago more than two hundred metres from the coast, which are losing value year by year due to the erosion of the cliff, despite work to halt the sea’s effects at a recent cost of €2.5 million.
Loulé Council’s suspension of the Almargem camp site development is good for two years and then can be extended for a year until the new PDM is produced and agreed.
The proposed PDM already contains of 28 climate change considerations and measures, including, a "Study on the rise of the Middle Sea Level and the elevation of the tide in extreme events of coastal flooding and flood."
The Council’s aim is to preserve sensitive areas and reduce urban density in vulnerable areas.
As a result, the campsite project, at minimum, will be reduced in scale to less than half the proposed building density, if not, thwarted completely.