Portugal's Supreme Court has ruled in favour of protecting the Ria Formosa islands’ chameleon thus continuing the suspension of demolitions at the settlements of Hangares and Farol.
The successful Loulé court action to protect the island protected reptile had been appealed by the Polis Ria Formosa Company which was keen to demolish as many island properties as possible in this final year of its operations.
A decision to uphold the Polis appeal was thought to have been issued by the Supreme Court but further legal deliberations have resulted in the Loulé judgement being upheld, the chameleon must be protected. This represents a huge victory for the islanders in their fight to protect their properties and their way of life.
The Polis Company now is legally prevented from making any ‘administrative acts’ in the settlements of Farol and Hangares and may not continue its demolition programme. Lawyer for the islanders, António Cabrita, said "The admission of the appeal, by the Supreme Administrative Court suspended the demolitions."
The islanders’ Facebook page this evening carried the jubilant message that Polis has ‘suffered a blow and that common sense and justice has reigned’ in this decision.
However, Polis director Sebastiao Teixeira said the court ruling does not suspend the demolitions and that he has 2 million euros left in the budget to knock down more properties.
The Algarve mayors group AMAL already has approved a motion that demands an end to the demolitions and the Minister of the Sea, Ana Paulo Vitorino, was in Olhão recently and stated to protestors that the demolitions situation was being studied by the Minister of the Environment and in two weeks time "a consensual solution" will be announced. The two weeks is up on April 1st.
Olhão Mayor António Pina said the demolitions issue can not be solved overnight and wants to see the settlements on Culatra and Hangares come under the administration and protection of Faro council. This is a sensible way forward but Polis is adamant that up to 800 properties are cleared in a process it calls ‘renaturation.’
Armona island’s administration was transferred to Olhão council years ago and hence the islanders are not threatened by demolitions.
If Faro council takes over the full legal administration of those island communities already in its municipal area, the future may look less bleak for the island communities which have suffered enormous mental pressure while fighting tooth and nail for their rights against a State machine determined to clear the islands using a series of increasingly spurious reasons.