Home News Ria Formosa island properties disproportionately targeted for demolition

Ria Formosa island properties disproportionately targeted for demolition

Published on 13/07/2019

Of a list of 1,120 buildings along Portugal’s coastline which have received demolition orders in the last decade, less than half have been removed.

In the last ten years 489 coastal properties have been demolished, most of them on the Algarver’s Ria Formosa isands.

The excuse for these demolitions has been ‘the houses are in areas at risk of coastal erosion,’ despite the removal of island houses increasing the risk of coastal erosion, and ‘rising sea levels’ leading to spurious state concern for citizens’ safety.

The properties torn down under the messianic management of Sebastião Teixeira, the former president of Polis Litoral Ria Formosa before his unceremonious removal by the Minister for the Environment, represent 43% of the 1,120 buildings on the national list of coastal proerties to be demolished.

The Ria Formosa islanders legitimately claim to have been targeted, with rumours still swirling that big tourism businesses have been given the nod that parts of the islands will be leased for development when the inconvenient buildings have been removed.

There remain 631 houses, whose demolition should be completed by 2030, involving a bill of €20.5 million, or €32,500 per property, paid for by Brussels, as are most inconveniently large bills.

This latest deadline, issued by the Ministry of the Environment, should be treated with as much derision as previous announcements as the lame project now depends on the approval of new applications under the Brussels support for 2020/30.

Of the 884 buildings that the Polis Ria Formosa Society identified to be demolished in the island settlements of Farol, Hangares, Culatra, Praia de Faro and some islets, 442 have been trashed.

Of those, the first 77 were wrecked by the sea in Fuzeta in 2010. Of those still standing, 111 are first dwellings, most of them in Praia de Faro, and can only be removed when the residents are re-homed – which no-one is keen to pay for. But this process is long overdue, and Polis is being wound up – as it has been for the past three years.

In other parts of the country, progress has been slow. Further north, between Caminha and Espinho, 30 houses (26 in São Bartolomeu do Mar) were removed from a list of 213 identified along 122 kilometres – hardly brisk progress.

Meanwhile, new construction on the coastline is still being authorised, such as the vila development right on Galé beach.


As Mr Peter notes in the Comments section, the cold hand of the EU is involved:

Integrated Coastal Management


  • The Commission adopted on 12 March 2013 a new initiative on Maritime Spatial Planning and Integrated Coastal Management. Read more about the proposal here.

What is it about?

Coastal zones are among the most productive areas in the world, offering a wide variety of valuable habitats and ecosystems services that have always attracted humans and human activities. The beauty and richness of coastal zones have made them popular settlement areas and tourist destinations, important business zones and transit points. Currently, more 200 million European citizens live near coastlines, stretching from the North-East Atlantic and the Baltic to the Mediterranean and Black Sea.

But this intensive concentration of population and excessive exploitation of natural resources puts enormous pressure on our coastal ecosystems leading to biodiversity loss, habitats destruction, pollution, as well as conflicts between potential uses, and space congestion problems.

Coastal zones are also among the most vulnerable areas to climate change and natural hazards. Risks include flooding, erosion, sea level rise as well as extreme weather events. These impacts are far reaching and are already changing the lives and livelihoods of coastal communities.

Because the well-being of populations and the economic viability of many businesses in coastal zones depend on the environmental status of these areas, it is essential to make use of long term management tools, such as integrated coastal management, to enhance the protection of coastal resources whilst increasing the efficiency of their uses. A sectoral approach, lead to disconnected decisions that risk undermining each other, to inefficient use of resources and missed opportunities for more sustainable coastal development.

Integrated coastal management aims for the coordinated application of the different policies affecting the coastal zone and related to activities such as nature protection, aquaculture, fisheries, agriculture, industry, off shore wind energy, shipping, tourism, development of infrastructure and mitigation and adaptation to climate change. It will contribute to sustainable development of coastal zones by the application of an approach that respects the limits of natural resources and ecosystems, the so-called ‘ecosystem based approach’.

Integrated coastal management covers the full cycle of information collection, planning, decision-making, management and monitoring of implementation. It is important to involve all stakeholders across the different sectors to ensure broad support for the implementation of management strategies.

In order to further promote sustainable development of coastal zones, the Commission adopted on the 12th of March 2013 a draft proposal for a Directive establishing a framework for maritime spatial planning and integrated coastal management.

The proposed instrument will require Member States to establish coastal management strategies that build further on the principles and elements set out in the Council Recommendation on Integrated Coastal Zone Management of 2002 and the Protocol to the Barcelona Convention on Integrated Coastal zone Management, ratified by the EU in 2010. 

Coherent application with maritime spatial planning will improve the sea-land interface planning and management, such as for instance connection of off shore wind energy installation to the electricity network on land or effects of infrastructure works to protect coastlines against erosion or flooding on activities in coastal waters such as aquaculture or protection of marine ecosystems.

Last updated: 08/06/2016