The period for public discussion and individual comment about Olhão council’s detailed plan for the historic city centre started on October 28th and will run for a month.
The Historic Zone Detailed Plan is available on the council’s website and at the town hall during office hours (09.00 to 16.30 Monday to Friday.)
According to the council, one of the plan's objectives is "to ensure the rehabilitation of those buildings that are degraded or functionally inadequate, thus improving their living conditions and functionality."
The aim, according to the council, is to modernise the city’s urban infrastructure, to promote the general improvement of mobility, in particular through better management of public space, public roads and other traffic areas and promote accessibility for all.
The public has until November 28th to submit complaints, comments and suggestions by submitting the form on the website to the President of the Municipal Council of Olhão.
The plans include the raising of the roofline of selected buildings along the sea front Avenida 5 Outubro, the removal of selected old buildings, widespread repaving and the construction of a 20 metre viewing tower near the town hall which will overlook several recently renovated historic properties, significantly reducing their value and the enjoyment by the owners of their roof terraces.
Traditionalists and tourism business owners already have commented that Olhão "does not need modernising as this will reduce it tourism appeal," the very thing the council is aiming to increase.
One local property owner commented, “the council aims to modernise the city but by doing so starts to turn it into just another resort. The historic city centre simply needs signage and cleaning up, not new paving and smart street furniture. The number of shops that remain closed already gives an air of dereliction – maybe the mayor should concentrate on breathing some real life into Olhão, rather than sanitising it with smart ideas from a Lisbon based firm of architects which fails to grasp the essential appeal of the place.”
This and other comments will be looked at by the town hall but with councillors acting as amateur town planners, dedicated to the mantra that ‘new is good,’ Olhão's city centre may be in danger of losing tourists rather than attracting them.
In recent years, a steady stream of foreign buyers have been purchasing and refurbishing old properties in Olhão, a natural urban regeneration of tens of millions that has cost the council nothing. Buyers, mainly from northern Europe, have been attracted to the city by its authenticity.
Should this authentic appeal diminish, so will interest and buyer numbers and the vicious circle that once saw the city almost closed for business, may return. The removal of hundreds of square metres of cobblestones, to be replaced by anodyne machine-cut paving stones, was sharply criticised by the foreign community in Olhão and hardly at all by locals.
The mayor may have gone too far with the proposed modernisation of the city but if there are no complaints from those who are able to vote, this list excludes many foreigners who have failed to register or who do not qualify, Olhão's progress towards a 'me too' modernised Algarve city will expose the conculsion that it actually has little to offer but fish.