The media blackout continues at the 'Salgados – Praia Grande eco-Resort' with the press still unable to get answers to questions of public interest.
The HK Strategies PR agency handling the account, the CBRE sales consultancy charged with selling the development and MillenniumBPC which now owns the development plan - and maybe some of the land - all are unable to utter anything more than standard PR waffle.
The sales consultancy, CBRE, has refused to answer questions put to it by algarvedailynews.com so the enquiry was sent to the bank's property manager, José Araújo who batted it on to Erik T Burns, the head of corporate communication at Millennnium bank.
Bearing in mind the huge public concern from locals, thousands of people living outside the country, politicians - most recently the left Bloc, Silves council, the media and environmental organisations, answers were requested of Erik T Burns to the following:
Not wishing to include MillenniumBPC in the list of those entities involved which refuse to engage, I would like answers to the following questions:
Q. Your promotional video shows an area of Praia Grande (beach) shaded and linked to the built area and golf course, as if for exclusive use. Does the Salgados – Praia Grande ‘eco’- Resort intend to section off the dunes and the beach for exclusive use of the development's owners and guests?
Q. Can you tell me when this project was acquired by MillenniumBPC?
Q. Can you tell me whether the issues currently in court, especially the inadequate Environmental Impact Statement from Finalgarve, have been settled?
Q. Are you aware of the 'Save Salgados' petition with 34,109 signatures to date and are you aware that this is the largest environmental petition ever run for a regional issue?
Q. What are your views on the public desire to keep the land as it is, and to improve the area to become a zone for 'nature tourism' in accord with current regional thinking on tourism.
Q. Does MillenniumBPC, or any entity controlled by MillenniumBPC, now own the land on which the resort is planned to be built?
Q. Can you tell me how the addition of 'eco' to the resort's name makes this an 'eco' project. ie how does the resort plan now differ from the one originally submitted by Finalgarve?
Q. What are you views on the recent statement from Rosa Palma from Silves Câmara?
Q. Do you think that MillenniumBPC could suffer reputational damage for promoting the sale of this natural area for building development? If so, how will you work to prevent this?
Q. Do you think that your appointed agency, CBRE, by refusing to engage with the media, is acting in the best interests of MillenniumBPC and its shareholders? Do you intend to keep this agency or find another one?
The answer came back:
Thanks for getting in touch and for your interest in Millennium bcp.
As regards this matter, our only comment is that Millennium bcp respects and will respect all directives and orientations from the appropriate regulatory bodies regarding the environment.
As part of its activity and in compliance with the financial sector regulations regarding the holding of real estate not used in the course of business, Millennium bcp is selling, in its current state, the asset referred to in your questions.
Erik T. Burns
Head of Corporate Communication
This was followed up with a request to reconsider:
Seriously, is that the best Millennium can do?
As the Bank is selling the development, Millennium does not have to follow any ecological regulations as these apply to the various building stages.
The second part of your answer just says, in a rather long-winded way, that Millennium is selling the project - which we are aware of or we would not be having this conversation.
I can publish what you have sent in, which will trigger a degree of hilarity among readers, or give you the opportunity to answer the questions that I have given you the opportunity of answering.
There is huge public interest in this proposed development. Simply saying nothing of any use is not helpful to the bank's activity or image.
I look forward to hearing back from you.
This rare second chance was not taken up:
Thanks for your reply. We have no further comment on this matter.
This is an interesting tactic when there has been so much interest in this development that proposes to build over a significant chunk of the central Algarve’s last remaining wetland, a haven for wildlife and a natural zone that accords with the government’s expressed intent to promote ‘nature tourism.’
If the ‘nature tourism’ areas are given over to more ‘me too hotel plus golf course' tourist resorts, the reasons many people visit the area will be diminished. It is not good enough to say there is plenty of land to be developed as the reason many come to the Algarve is that it has not made the same mistakes as Spain, or not on the same scale anyway.
The replies from the bank’s head of communication, Erik T Burns, are intentionally vacuous, saying little and adding nothing to a debate that Millennium BPC clearly intends to avoid in the hope that the press will give up and go away.
As a mark of the importance of this area to public, the Avaaz ‘Save Salgados’ petition started by ‘birdman’ Frank McClintock now has 34,130 signatories making this far and away the largest 'non-oil' environmental petition in the region.
Interested parties looking to spend €200 million on the 'Salgados Praia Grande eco-Resort' have many hurdles to face and a simple search on Google will bring up a history of environmental opposition and concern.
If straightforward questions are not dealt with, inevitably the bank will face increasing pressure and opposition, as if it doesn't have enough to contend with dealing with the Angolan billionaire, Isabel dos Santos, as a major shareholder.