Text by Carlos Dias
There is no “public interest” in the urban occupation of Herdade da Comporta, and there are too many decisions that privilege private interest to the detriment, then, of the public interest: the preservation of an area with great natural and landscape surplus value, say the environmental organization Zero and the civic association Transparency and Integrity (TI). The organizations today announce a set of reasons that they consider crucial to oppose to the real estate projects already put out to tender in a territory with 12,500 hectares and that includes the municipalities of Alcácer do Sal and Grândola.
One of the criticisms concerns the position taken in one of José Sócrates’s governments, which advocated “more construction in the Herdade da Comporta”, claiming a supposed “public interest”, as stated in Dispatch No. 2173/2008 issued by Ministers of the Environment, Nunes Correia, and the Economy, Manuel Pinho.
It raises arguments like “the absence of alternative solutions and the existence of imperative reasons of public interest”. The Government at that time was committed to carrying out the projects related to the detailed plans of Comporta (ADT 2), located in the municipality of Alcácer do Sal and Carvalhal (ADT 3), in the municipality of Grândola.
The current real estate projects already put up for competition for Herdade da Comporta reveal, above all, how “very contrasting views are possible for the built area and for the planned occupation”, the two organizations point out. While some of the proposals have projects that are moving towards 100% utilization of the area built for tourism purposes and 100% of the allowed levels of occupation, another proposal “is limited to building 41% in one of the areas of tourism development (ADT2) and 8% in the other (ADT3). “There are, therefore, alternatives” that present “a lower index of construction or even the non construction”, underline to Zero and IT.
“There is no justification for claiming the ‘public interest’ of an occupation, which is private, an area of enormous natural and scenic value,” argue the organizations, who argue against another procedure that also “violates the guidelines strategic plans with which the (current) Government has committed itself to the country “: the withdrawal of the municipal director plans of Alcácer do Sal and Grândola of 68% and 76% of the National Ecological Reserve (REN), respectively.
By means of dispatches, the Commission for Coordination and Regional Development of Alentejo (CCDRA), on the proposal of each of the municipalities, and with the approval of the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA), “delimited REN with a clear favoring of interests “With this “maneuver “, an occupation in areas previously REN was made possible, with” a clear benefit of the Herdade da Comporta “, both organizations note, lamenting that the Ministry of the Environment” has not yet corrected this unacceptable situation. ” In the municipality of Alcácer do Sal, in the territory mostly occupied by REN, seven intensive crop projects, nine tourist projects, three industrial units and one photovoltaic power station were installed from 2015 onwards.
In addition, they find it incomprehensible that the Natura Comporta / Galé Network Management Plan, which covers this area and which, under Community law, should already have been done, is “strangely late”. This network, which seeks to safeguard the EU’s natural values, covers this area, because at least three habitats are represented here, the protection of which is considered a priority. And if it is, this care must be kept in relation to the decisions about Comporta, they argue.
Zero and TI are concerned that the state “will lose the opportunity to intervene in this ruling on real estate assets.” And, in this sense, highlight the decisive role that Caixa Geral de Depósitos can assume, “as the main creditor” of the Closed Real Estate Investment Special Fund, in the future of Herdade da Comporta “by criteria other than exclusively price.”
They call for CGD to “execute the credits it holds on the Gesfimo fund and thereby revert to the public sphere the decision on the future of Herdade da Comporta”, thus guaranteeing “the defense of the public interest”.
The options to be weighed should “be able to guarantee” that the “return of real estate speculation resulting from the attempts of short-term recovery of capital invested by any of the buyers who submitted proposals is not promoted,” the two organizations conclude.
Zero and TI argue that the criterion for the sale of the land should take into account the type of projects planned for such a vast and environmentally sensitive territory, giving preference to those that guarantee a more sustainable occupation.
Article published in Público on September 17, 2018