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Planning real actions

Gil da Silva Canha é vereador na Câmara Municipal do Funchal
Foto © Miquel Moniz

Gil da Silva Canha sits on Funchal Municipal Council and the councillor responsible for urbanism, directly supervising this and other projects.

ECO123: How would you evaluate the restoration project for the Santa Maria historical centre?
Gil da Silva Canha: I believe it grew weaker as the recovery of a historical neighbourhoods requires a general plan of action and thus far no such plan has ever been drafted. What was done involved sporadic and individual interventions.

What then might have been done better?
Drafting that general restoration and rehabilitation plan, perhaps making recourse to European funding. This has to be a well designed, thought through and planned project. However, this needs money and more favourable legislation freeing up the bureaucratic dimension.

Would such a project take place within the scope of your four-year mandate?
Launching such an integrated project does take time but we have to deal with issues over the short and medium term. Our objective involves adapting projects existing in many of Europe’s historical centres and attempting to put them into practice in the Old Town. For example, in Warsaw, Poland, for its historical zone, the council created a very interesting system in which entertainment cohabits with temporary accommodation. They set up a community laundry and a cleaning company that does the rental and the maintenance of tourist apartments (local accommodation). The owners restore the building and afterwards negotiate the rent with this company or themselves rent them out. However, they pay a percentage to the company running the laundry and the cleaning staff but which collectively turns out to be a lot cheaper and more profitable than landlords individually contracting a member of staff just to clean their apartments and do the washing. And this is just one of many more ideas. Indeed, we are currently working towards ensuring concerted action in the Old Town.

Will this integrated plan include the environment and security among its different factors? Above all, the latter has been generating some concerns in recent times…
My greatest current concern as regards the Santa Maria Historical Zone is the loss of authority of the council itself. The neighbourhood has taken on a new dynamic and the council has not kept up with that movement. It allowed private interests to dictate the law in this zone, as if some kind of wild west. One example is those establishments setting out esplanades in public spaces, which does not allow for the passage of pedestrians and emergency vehicles. Another factor of concern is the opening of bars and restaurants in completely run down buildings. Thus, on the ground floor, everything is in order but the upper floors are all abandoned and many of them with their roofs missing. Well, that’s kind of just madness for which the previous council holds a great deal of responsibility. I don’t want to be the prophet of doom but we imagine that the Old Town goes out of fashion and we get left with this area where the building ground floors are all jazzed up but with the rest all left to abandonment and ruin. Hence, we need to work now to overcome these situations, which are the worst.

About the author

Francisco José Cardoso (36) Has been a journalist since 2002, the year he completed his course in journalism and communication. Since then, he has been developing his career in Madeira, especially in the field of economics. At present, he is working on the newspaper DIÁRIO de Notícias da Madeira.

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