For Climate Justice
About our legal action in defence of Quinta dos Ingleses
On the 31st of October 2023, the environmental association SOS Quinta dos Ingleses filed a lawsuit against Cascais City Council to challenge the council's decision dated the 18th of July 2023, which gave the green light for work to go ahead on the mega-development of the 52 hectares of green space next to Carcavelos beach.
This lawsuit points to a series of flaws in the administrative procedure and flagrant breaches of law regarding the fundamental rights to life and the environment. With this action we aim to stop the destruction of the largest green area on the coast between Lisbon and Cascais.
The primary flaws include:
1. The clear violation of the principles, objectives and rules of the POC-ACE (Coastal Zone Management Plan), which was approved in 2019 and came into force on the 12th of April of that same year. The solutions contained in this Plan "promote the integrated valuation of coastal resources and manage urban-tourist pressure on the coastline, to ensure the sustainable exploitation of natural resources, the qualification of the landscape and adequate risk prevention"; and "to ensure a coastline prepared for climate change and its safe enjoyment, with a preserved natural, landscape and cultural heritage, with a good state of the bodies of water, promoting development opportunities based on the differentiation and valuation of territorial resources and on the capacity to make competitive and sustainable use of the potential of the terrestrial, marine and maritime areas", for this reason any new construction up to 500 metres from the sea line is prohibited and only allowing, with restrictions, re-construction up to 1,000 metres from the same line.
These prohibitions, and the principles of sustainability and intergenerational solidarity, cohesion and equity, and prevention and precaution that underpin them and give content to the constitutionally protected rights to life and the environment, are completely undermined by the decision now being challenged.
2. By authorising these works, the Cascais City Council (CMC) directly violates these fundamental rights, and this lawsuit is one of the most recent examples of legal proceedings related to climate justice/emergency. It should be noted that for the public consultation on this mega urbanisation project, CMC only accepted around 3,000 submissions from residents (out of a total of 8,000 sent in), 5,000 of which did not merit acceptance (namely in the report that is supposed to be an integral part of the process of this decision), which reflects a total disregard for democracy and a violation of the constitutionally enshrined right to participate in public life, a violation that SOS Quinta dos Ingleses considers to be manifest.
Criticising the population's lack of participation and involvement in public life and giving no relevance to the content of their participation is an impossible contradiction that only contributes to the degradation of democracy in Portugal, something that the CMC seem to be indifferent to. Before filing this lawsuit, SOS Quinta dos Ingleses filed a court summons against the Cascais City Council to obtain information that the council was obliged to provide and had failed to give voluntarily and within the legal deadline.
This court summons resulted in the council admitting that there is currently no ongoing legal action by the construction company Alves Ribeiro and/or St Julian's College against the municipality, but above all, admitting that there is no document to support the claims about the value of an alleged indemnity to be paid to the developer Alves Ribeiro and to St. Julians School, which would exceed 300 million euros, according to the public statements made by the Cascais city council authorities. It should be remembered that this was the main (only) argument used by the CMC to justify the continuation of the Alves Ribeiro and St Julian’s Association mega-development in the Quinta dos Ingleses.
The absence of this argument today makes it even more apparent that CMC has absolutely no reason to give the green light to Alves Ribeiro's project to the detriment of the clear public interest in preserving the area, its biodiversity and the beach itself.
In fact, the approval of the licence is intended to clearly and exclusively benefit a private individual to the detriment of all present and future generations. As SOS Quinta dos Ingleses has emphasised, there are clear reasons to defend Quinta dos Ingleses as a green area for public use, with the construction of a large public park, in line with Assembly of the Republic Resolution 208/2021, which recommended "safeguarding and enhancing the environment and heritage of Quinta dos Ingleses, ensuring the maximisation of space and the preservation of nature and relevant heritage, to prepare for its classification as a Protected Landscape of Local Scope" but the reasons for the destruction of this area, to the great benefit of the promoters Alves Ribeiro, S. A. and to St. Julian’s Association, are entirely opaque.
At a time of climate crisis, and with the consecutive demonstrations and public petitions by Carcavelos residents against the urbanisation of this green space, SOS Quinta dos Ingleses considers it unacceptable that, for no good reason, the City Council of Cascais persists in wanting to destroy this green lung, which is also essential for the integrity and maintenance of Carcavelos beach and surfing.
It should be remembered that this urban project envisages the preservation of only around 8 of the 50 hectares of green area, which will be surrounded by 850 flats in buildings of up to 8 storeys, hundreds of tourist units and shopping areas, in an area of the municipality that has been the target of intense urban and population growth, while we are confronted daily with new records for air temperatures.