The planned demolitions for the centre of Culatra, one of the Ria Formosa islands, have been shelved, according to the Minister of Environment Jorge Moreira da Silva.
The Coastal Zone Management Plan will now include an exception and the Sociedade Polis Litoral Ria Formosa will instruct its contractors not to procede as the properties at the centre of Culatra are to be legalised, according to the minister.
The assurance was given by the Jorge Moreira da Silva at a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Environment, Regional Planning and Local Government following issues relating to Polis that were raised by Algarve MPs Cristóvão Norte, associations and local Algarve mayors.
"The minister announced that 'there is openness to review the legal status of the housing on Culatra, to legalise the existing homes there,'" according to Cristóvão Norte speaking to press after the committee meeting.
Culatra has about a thousand residents and is viewed as the centre of fishing and shellfish harvesting for the Ria Formosa islands. 113 hopuses are due to be demolished, many of them are first homes, not second as stated in their categorisation.
The same demolition exemption has not been extended to the Hangares and Farol areas on Culatra. Here the work of Polis and its contractors will continue as planned.
Cristóvão Norte said that there is some primary housing in Hangars, not second homes, and warned of the need to provide for the relocation of families living there, "possibly to the centre of Culatra.”
Speaking at the Parliamentary Commission, the Algarve MP said that in the plan for the interventions on the Ria Formosa islands started out as “renaturation," but when Polis started its work, people "quickly began to speak of demolitions."
Whether additional housing can be erected on Ciulatra for those already made homeless by Polis remains to be seen but this is a big step forward for the islanders who have been campaigning with determination to preserve their way of life and basic living arrangements.