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Porto City Council approves new Municipal Master Plan

Porto City Council approves new Municipal Master Plan
24 May 2021

The Municipal Executive approved, at the beginning of this afternoon, by majority and with the PSD abstention, the proposal to revise the Municipal Master Plan (PDM). It is the culmination of a long process, initiated in 2015, which went through three councilors of Urbanism, and whose debate was widely participated, with the promotion of at least 35 public sessions. Being a reformist plan and not a rupture, it presents novelties in terms of major options, among them the enhancement of green spaces and the increase in available housing.

The city of Porto has a new PDM approved by the executive body, with votes in favor of the independent majority Rui Moreira: Porto, Nosso Partido, PSD abstained, and votes against by PS and CDU. The new plan will only effectively come into force after the approval of the Municipal Assembly, which will meet precisely one week from now, on May 31st.

In total, there are five Great Options of the Plan that will govern the city during the next decade, and the councilor of Urbanism, Pedro Baganha, synthesized them in his intervention. "A new approach to the municipal ecological structure, with the increase of the public green area and the qualification of its hydrographic network of rivers and streams; the increase in the provision of available housing, with a particular focus on its accessibility, in the background of the demographic recovery and the regulation of the real estate market." But also a PDM with a focus on "betting on soft modes, public transport, and the qualification of public space; the protection of the city's identity, atmosphere, and heritage; and the promotion of economic competitiveness and employment, a fundamental area for the promotion of social and territorial cohesion".

With regard to the economic and financial regime, this PDM "incorporates a paradigm shift", creating equitable tools for the entire city, "which will allow greater equity between urban operations, and will contribute to providing the municipality with the necessary resources for the execution of the foreseen actions in the plan itself", clarified Pedro Baganha.

On the part of the PS, councilor Manuel Pizarro said that there was "transparency in the process" and that, from a technical point of view, "the job was very well done". The socialists are "absolutely in agreement" with the five great options defined by the independent majority, highlighting the "very significant advance" in terms of the enhancement of the environmental structure, the creation of green corridors and the preservation of the streams.

As for the solutions expressed in the Plan to guarantee greater access to housing and greater territorial cohesion, PS considers that the document could have gone further, not least because, according to Manuel Pizarro, the problem has grown in the last two decades. The councilor also raised questions regarding the islands and the classification of certain equipment, which lost that classification, namely some old sports equipment. "We reacted negatively to the declassification of equipment spaces", he said.

Pedro Baganha clarified that the final document of the PDM incorporated one of the participations presented by the team Aitor Varea Oro, an architect who collaborates with Porto Vivo, SRU in the scope of the rehabilitation of the ilhas, explaining that the autonomous regulation was changed in order to provide for urban exemptions for rehabilitation works aimed at "social housing, accessible or at controlled costs".

Regarding the classifications of equipment, the director of the Municipal Department of Urban Planning, Isabel Martins, informed that the equipment was revisited "one by one", and that in the option of preserving the classification of the equipment, the verification that they were being used prevailed. However, with the exception of the valuation exception for "properties that were inventoried or with an evident equipment matrix".

Álvaro Almeida, PSD councilor, who abstained from voting, highlighted as a positive aspect the fact that the new PDM is a "reformist plan" and of "continuity", realizing that it also brings news. Among the innovations, the Social Democrat highlighted the option for the network of green corridors, which will compete to make the city "more sustainable and resilient".

However, the councilor stated that this would not be the PDM that his political force would choose, having shown that the main difference lies in the "option for densification", as he understands that it "is not properly accompanied by the solutions necessary to maintain the quality of life of the people".

Referring to the rules of the building, Álvaro Almeida considered that some may "generate ambiguity" and "result in procedural obstacles" This aspect was later discussed by Pedro Baganha during the debate, noting that the "inclusive zoning" (which foresees the affectation of a percentage of the building area for accessible housing, in the center of Porto, for operations with an area of ​​implantation greater than 2,000 square meters and according to a specific formula), defines a set of possibilities that are clarified in the Regulations for Building and Urban Charges.

On the part of the councilor of the CDU, questions were raised regarding housing, the expansion of the metro line, the pedestrianization of the Historic Center, among others. Ilda Figueiredo, who expressed her agreement with the general objectives, shared, however, her disagreement as to how to achieve them.

All doubts and comments, including that there was no participation by the population, were counter-argued by Pedro Baganha, who both highlighted the breadth of the public debate and, going into detail in the comments of the communist councilor, said he did not agree with the criticism that there was "little ambition in the expansion of public transportation", explaining that "the PDM inscribes the great certainties", and that, for this reason, it does not deepen the mobility plan, although it mentioned the inclusion in the new PDM, of the letters prepared in this area, which have a great focus on intermodality, he said.

Regarding the association, made by Ilda Figueiredo, that the inscription in the PDM regarding the intention of the progressive pedestrianization of certain areas of the Historic Center would be linked to tourism, the councilor of Urbanism said that the so-called "zones XXI" intend, at least on the contrary, to serve the people of Porto and the population itself, and are in line with the sustainable development that this Municipal Executive intends for the city of Porto.

Timeline of the PDM review process

"This is the culmination of a long process of revision of the previous plan, which started in March 2015”, stressed Pedro Baganha today, recalling that, at this time, the works were successively coordinated by three councilors of Urbanism, namely by the architects Manuel Correia Fernandes and Rui Loza, and by himself, since November 2017.

In what he classifies as "an exercise in multidisciplinarity", Pedro Baganha attributes the lion's share of the elaboration of the new PDM to the municipal services of Urbanism, without neglecting the entire municipality. "The plan's technical file names 75 members of the City Council with direct intervention in the process, but many others participated, in one way or another".

The councilor of Urbanism also highlighted "a wide, important and active participation of the Academy", as well as the involvement of the population itself, which was not only heard in the formal moments provided for in the law, but also, by municipal initiative, their active involvement, through a website exclusively dedicated to the work of revising the PDM or by participating in numerous public clarification sessions. These sessions took the form of decentralized meetings in the parish councils, as well as the encompassing "PDM Week", promoted in 2018 by the municipality for the presentation and discussion of reports on the characterization and diagnosis of the territory.

In total, at least 35 public sessions were held, "widely publicized through the media, including the City Hall's channels, through which it was possible to massify, in less technical language, the great options, and priorities of the future City Master Plan”, underlined Pedro Baganha today.

And, in addition to the considerable scope of the civic debate, the independent majority held 13 working sessions with the Commission of the Municipal Assembly for Planning and Spatial Planning Monitorization, as well as a meeting, extended to the plenary of the Assembly, to which were added individual meetings with each one of the six political forces of the Municipal Assembly and the other extended to the council. These meetings served, above all, to clarify the questions posed, as well as to collect the contributions and concerns of the opposition, "to incorporate them, as much as possible, in the final version of the Plan proposal", detailed the councilor of Urbanism.

After the end of the work of the Monitorization Commission, coordinated by the CCDRN (Norte Regional Coordination and Development Commission), 31 entities with specific tutors in the municipal territory gave a favorable opinion to the proposal to revise the PDM.

The public discussion period resulted in 403 participations, of a very different nature, some within the scope of the PDM, others outside that scope, listed the councilor.

"It was a long planning exercise that was very demanding, exhaustive, and dense; but transparent, widely participated and eminently democratic", concluded Pedro Baganha.