Portugal gives green light to Lisbon’s Montijo airport – on certain conditions

Portugal’s environmental agency, APA, has approved a plan to build a greenfield airport in Lisbon on condition the developer takes €48m of measures to reduce noise and protect wildlife.

Proposals to build an airport at Montijo, on the southern bank of the River Tagus about 25km from the centre of Lisbon, were put forward 50 years ago, but the case has become more pressing as Lisbon’s Portela airport struggles to meet Portugal’s influx of tourists.

The impact assessment points to birdlife, noise and transport infrastructure as the three main environmental concerns. The compensation measures include €7.2m towards bird protection, in particular the flamingos that use salt flats in the Tagus estuary. There was also €20m to add sound insulationto local buildings and €10m to buy two ships to improve transport on the Tagus.

The project’s developer is ANA Aeroportos de Portugal, the main airport operator in the country, and a subsidiary of French contractor Vinci. It said yesterday that it viewed the environmental conditions "with surprise and apprehension", but would "evaluate them in detail within the legal deadline".

Meanwhile, environmental group Zero also criticised the APA’s decision, which it characterised as "a non-compliant process with serious shortcomings". The NGO is presently pursuing a legal case against the project.

The Portuguese government has been a strong supporter of the project. Prime Minister António Costa said the Montijo location was "irreversible", and João Neves, the economics secretary, said it was "the only plausible solution" given the 11% annual growth in the European air travel market. The government has a set a target of 2022 for the completion of the project.

Vinci has said that it will invest €1.1bn in Montijo, and also in an expansion of Portela, where traffic increased 9% in 2018 to 29 million passengers.

Image: Flamingos on the Tagus estuary (Carlosalberto Lofffonseca/Dreamstime)

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