City centre development - Loulé to rejuvenate - Olhão to destroy

olhaoLoulé council wants to rejuvenate its ancient town centre and is to engage fully with its ratepayers and voters to ensure that the final plans have the best possible chance of success through consensus and discussion.

A public consultation period is in progress and Loulé council welcomes comments on the proposed area covered and on the detail put forward by the city planners.

The council wants to see "increased social cohesion through rejuvenating the historic centre which will attract residents and businesses to an enhanced area of historic heritage and public spaces."

The council also plans to tart up any old buildings that need a facelift and to appreciate and cherish what it refers to as "the memory of the city."

The urban renewal project should qualify for external funding and the plans can be seen in the town hall, on the council's Facebook page ...

... at the parish council of São Clemente and the São Sebastião parish council building. Open government at its finest.

What a difference in attitude in Olhão as the council seems determined to hide its plans for a €12 million redevelopment of the city's cherished historic centre.

A detailed plan, presented by a Lisbon agancy to the council in a private session, aims actually to increase the flow of vehicles through the historic centre of town, a move that residents view as crass, mistaken and foolish based on the little information we have managed to glean.

Of equal concern is the planned destruction of certain of Olhao's old buildings to create wider roads for the convenience of vehicles and something called 'greater liveliness.'

Which of the old buildings are destined for destruction in and around the historic centre is anybody's guess at the moment as the plans have not been released for inspection, or for comment from the very people that the project will impact. 

The council is to vote on the historic centre project 'as is' during its next meeting, and only then ask for the opinions of locals. This secretive way of operating has infuriated many residents as a plan that has been passed by the council will be 100 times harder to change than if there was proper public involvement in the first place.

Some of the project may indeed be suitable and in keeping with the unique historic centre of Olhão but without being able to see the plan before it is approved it will be hard to make changes and agree on what, if anything, really is needed.

Locals are not hopeful and of course reckon that much deliberately is being hidden by a council which is "not using its own money for the project, so why should it care?" according to one Portuguese retiree.

Olhão's recent city squares project that saw five ancient calçada squares ripped up and replaced with utilitarian paving slabs, predictably already marked with indelible staining, shows just what an unchallenged council can achieve when spending grant money insensitively and failing to consult with the city's stakeholders.

One city centre estate agent is infuriated at the council's attitude and lack of appreciation of how much of the city's business sector currently is being financed. The hundreds of old houses in Olhão sold in the past three years to French, German, British, Scandinavian and Irish clients among others have all needed money spent on them, primarily for goods and services from local suppliers.

The draw for these immigrants is Olhão's historic centre, winding cobbled streets, old world charm, beautifully maintained churches and other old buildings, small and interesting shops, the market and access by ferry to the islands. 

The worry is that the council, by failing to engage and listen to locals will continue the 'paving slab, modern street lighting and stone bloc seats' theme right into the historic centre and, when a few trees are planted, will look back with pride at their achievement in destroying the goose that laid the golden egg.




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