The Secretary of State for Planning and Nature Conservation, Célia Ramos, has been to visit beach infrastructure work on Fuseta Island and at Cavacos beach where a new swimming area has been made with sand banked up for the benefit of beachgoers.
The work has been carried out by the reviled institution, Polis Litoral Ria Formosa, whose claim to infamy has been its energetic involvement in demolishing Ria Formosa island properties.
At Fuseta, walkways have been rebuilt after the Spring storms - the tourist-friendly operation has cost Olhão’s ratepayers €219,000 with zero government help.
Célia Ramos said, "The last time we were here, in March, we had a four metre slope, now we have an excellent beach, completely restored, that can be enjoyed by the people of Olhão and also the people who visit it, more and more of them."
Mayor António Pina is aware that Polis is in liquidation and will cease to exist at the end of this year with any uncompleted work to be handed to other bodies such as the local Councils.
It is this future that makes the mayor of Olhão apprehensive, "From the government we have no idea what can be counted on regarding the maintenance and rehabilitation of the Ria Formosa area and we want to make the government aware of what we have done and what remains to be done in the future.”
"We are worried about what may happen to the Ria Formosa in two or three years," said Pina, high on his list being a further swathe of demolition orders for island homes on Armona. A scheme to resettle home owners to a registered area on the island seems not yet to have sunk in.
Local Blog, Olhão Livre make clear that Pina’s Council has prepared a draft Intervention and Requalification Plan for the Island of Armona, which provides for widespread demolitions not the redrawing of the concession area to incorporate the properties.
In the past, the Council has approved houses in locations where they should not be and hence is liable for a huge compensation claim is these houses are knocked down.
Last August, Mayor Pina said he had a commitment from Minister, João Matos Fernandes, that, "by the end of 2017, the all-important Armona Intervention and Re-qualification Plan (PIR) will be approved by Fernandes." This has not happened but aimed to moves a line on the Armona land map to incorporate the technically illegal properties.
In addition, the minister made it clear that before the end of 2017, the council’s concession for Armona will be renewed for another period of 30 years, along with this new land deliniation so as to “to safeguard the interests of all those who own a house on the island.”
The Council’s latest 'solution,' according to Olhão Livre, is to allow people to ‘move’ their properties from these illegal locations outside the concession area, to plots within the concession area which they will be granted.
The people affected may not have the money to rebuild their properties in their new locations but certainly will lose their old structures when the bulldozers move in.
This new intervention project has to be signed off by the Minister of the Environment who will reap what he sows if he authorises demolitions on Armona which, so far, has avoided the wrecking ball.
The area in question contains over 140 houses, many of which are owned by wealthy foreigners and well-connected Portuguese families. It is expected that front line properties will be first.
The mayor will not be able to side-step this issue as it soon will be his signature on the demolition orders, not the convenient scapegoat in the form of the Portuguese Environment Agency.