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Real estate developers launch action in Cascais after 22-year wrangle

in Regional · 18-10-2018 10:05:00 · 0 Comments

Two real estate developers, Prontohotel and Quinta do Guincho, have launched an action against Cascais council, the Portuguese State and national tourism board Turismo de Portugal, over a project in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, whose development they have been to-ing and fro-ing over for more than two decades.

Real estate developers launch action in Cascais after 22-year wrangle

Reports explain that Prontohotel and Quinta do Guincho have had plans to build a four-star hotel, a golf course and 235 houses between Guincho and Malveira da Serra since the late 1990s.
That exact area was destroyed in the recent wildfire that tore through Sintra during the first weekend in October, seemingly putting paid to their plans for good.
The developers are asking for €13 million in compensation for not being able to build on the land after more than two decades of wrangling and trying to iron matters out.
They have launched a court action against Cascais, the Portuguese State and national tourism board Turismo de Portugal, after a number of plots that were scorched in the fire on 6 October were immediately put up for sale.
However, the developers stress the lawsuit was filed before the weekend fire that struck Sintra and Cascais and destroyed nearly 500 hectares of the park. The local authority says it was notified of the action on 9 October, three days after the fire.
Speaking to newspaper Diário de Notícias (DN), Cascais Mayor Carlos Carreiras said he was unaware of the grounds that triggered the action, but confirmed that the municipality had been notified, and recalled that he has already “endorsed” a set of measures aimed at avoiding real estate speculation in burned areas.
“We have said and said again: under us, the Natural Park is not up for negotiations. Zero construction means zero construction. What we intend is to prevent this [speculation] from happening and for that there is a set of complementary measures. No building is allowed”, the mayor stressed.
Carlos Carreiras last week presented a set of measures to protect the Natural Park following the fires of 6 October, with tough measures against those who disregard the zero construction rules. According to the Mayor, “the strategy is to reforest land, to activate the right of preference whenever it is possible or simply expropriate” to avoid real estate speculation.
The rights of private individuals must always be compatible with public interest and with the superior natural and ecological interest of the ecosystem in question, explained Carlos Carreiras, who decided to “shield” the Natural Park.
However, the case involving Prontohotel and Quinta do Guincho dates back to 1996; and eleven environment ministers and three mayors later, the case is in court, and the companies in question feel entitled to be compensated for not being able to build.
According to DN, in 1996 Prontohotel and Quinta do Guincho submitted a project for a 4-star hotel and an 18-hole golf course. The project would occupy a land of 40 hectares, in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, between Guincho and Malveira, next to the national highway 247, which is precisely the area that burned earlier this month.
The location of the project was approved by an order issued by the General Directorate of Tourism on April 18, 1996. Over a year later, the Institute of Nature Conservation gave a favourable opinion.
After that, Cascais Council, then chaired by José Luis Judas, approved the urbanisation project in an order dating 27 March, 1997. The permit that allowed the work to start was issued on 9 March, 1998.
But in 2000, José Sócrates, then environment minister, suggested the denial of building permits; a decision that would lead to the revocation of building permits approved by the municipality.
António Capucho, the Cascais mayor who succeeded Judas, still tried to find a solution, proposing the exchange of land in a natural park for municipal heritage, but an agreement was never reached.
Later, with Cascais under the management of Carlos Carreiras, the process was stopped for good when on 16 October, 2017 the license of work granted in 1998 expired.
The two real estate developers never lost hope that they could reverse the situation; however the municipality declared war on real estate speculation in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park area and issued an order banning all construction in the area.

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Edition 1500
10 November 2018
Edition: 1500

Read this week's issue online exactly as it appears in print.

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