Another €12m has been agreed for a second stage of ‘urban renewal’ in Olhão and locals are being kept in the dark about a plan which includes widening streets to make vehicle access easier rather than increasing the area of pedestrian only zones
This Facebook page, I LOVE OLHÃO, has been set up to keep people informed about these plans, and to provide a platform for the community to express views and comments, in the hope that public opinion properly will be taken into consideration before any plans are implemented.
Having already spent €500,000 on the Legends of Olhão project that saw five old squares modernised with slab paving and modern lighting,the council plans renovations to areas around the famous markets and include changes to parking, seating, lighting, and new surfaces to the paths and pavements.
Whether these changes are good or unsightly, the public needs to be able to express an opinion before the council agrees and authorises any more work in the same styl, a style that has reduced the main square to the look of a shopping centre with the now discoloured and dirt-stained paving slabs mot in keeping or up to the task for a zone of heavy foot fall.
What has residents and visitors more worried is the plan to widen certain streets in the old town to allow more traffic to pass through the centre. This will involve the demolition of a number of houses to make the streets wider for vehicles. The counciul will nopt say where yet has agreed the plan presented by the Lisbon-based architect specialising in urban renewal.
It is important for the people of Olhão to take a stand, because (unlike the Camara in Loulé which is keen to consult the public about its city centre redevelopment plans,) Olhão Camara intends to approve its plans first in a closed council meeting, and only then consult the community in a legally defined 30 day consultation period.
The chances of changing already approved plans will then clearly be very difficult. It is also not a proper democratic process as the council is under no obligation to pay any attention to views expressed by its citizens.
Plans for both stages of the ‘urban renewal’ have been commissioned from Baixa Atelier, Lisbon architects with a record of extremely modern designs of urban areas. (Examples of their previous projects can be seen on Google Images). Is this really the right choice of designers for an historic old town like Olhão? If it is not already too late, can we do anything about reversing some of the ideas that have pre-approval from a council more interested in spending free grant money than listening to local residents and the Olhão business community to provide a city centre that attracts tourists, the lifeblood of the local economy? The plans as they stand appear to attract vehicles rather than the footfall necessary for retailers and restaurants to make the most of the opportunities that tourism offers.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
What do you, the residents and friends of Olhão who will have to live with the results of this project, think about the plans? Have you seen them?
- What do you think of the general principle behind the plan?
- How modern do you think the style should or should not be?
- How much change is really necessary?
- What do you like or not like about the style of the benches, the lamps, the refuse bins, the bike racks, the planned materials for the pavements and tree areas, etc?
Clearly, modernisation is sometimes necessary to improve safety, maintenance and efficiency, but why is it necessary to alter the very character of Olhão just because the outside funds are available to spend?
Why commission a Lisbon design company with a reputation for modernism, rather than a company chosen for its expertise in developments in sympathy with historic town centres?
Outsiders will tell you that the charm of Olhão lies in the traditional Portuguese style of the town, the narrow winding cobbled streets, the old houses, the unique architecture, the traditional gentle style of seating, lighting, street furniture etc, This is why hundreds of houses have been sold to foreigners who have returned the often crumbling housing stock to its original glory, foreigners who not only appreciate our lovely working town, but bring income and energy to the town. This is what brings visitors to Olhão again and again.
Very few people in Olhão were aware of the first stage of development until work started, but very many were dismayed to see the traditional calçadas removed and replaced with ugly paving slabs which are already ruined, unsuitable street lighting, and unsympathetic concrete slabs.
The basic principle behind the planning to open the squares up, put in trees and plants, and create seating areas, was no doubt a good plan, but the style and finish has been an attempt to create a modern setting in an historic town, it has failed to excite and inspire and if this same style from the same architect is allowed to creep into the historic centre then much that is precious and emblematic of Olhao will be lost for ever……
LET’S NOT ALLOW THE CAMARA TO SPOIL OLHÃO WITH MORE BAD DECISIONS
We do not yet know the date for the final decision by the Camara nor do we know when the public consultation will take place, and which three buildings will be torn down to make life easier for drivers.
PLEASE COMMENT, POST PHOTOS, POST IDEAS.