March 30, 2022
Executive approved a decade-old strategic plan for the management of the Historic Centre
The new Management and Sustainability Plan for the Historic Centre of Porto, Ponte Luiz I and Monastery of Serra do Pilar, a strategic document for the safeguarding of this property inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 5th of December, 1996, has been approved. At the extraordinary public meeting this Monday morning, the Municipal Executive also decided to submit to the Municipal Assembly the evaluation report on the execution of the Urban Rehabilitation Operation of the Historic Centre of Porto. With a time horizon of 10 years, the new Management and Sustainability Plan for the Historic Centre of Porto, Ponte Luiz I and Monastery of Serra do Pilar defines a vision for the territory based on four strategic axes of intervention (heritage; population, housing and communities; economy; environment and mobility), noted the councilor for Urbanism and Public Space, Pedro Baganha, in the presentation of the document. The Historic Centre was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO - United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization on 5th of December, 1996.
Within these strategic axes, eight objectives were established, which include the safeguarding and enhancement of the Built and Intangible Heritage; the increase in residential attractiveness and levels of housing comfort; strengthening community cohesion and values; the promotion of diversity, inclusion and sustainability in economic activity; the promotion of creativity and innovation; improving accessibility and sustainable mobility; and enhancing environmental sustainability and increasing resilience. “When we look at the Historic Centre of Porto, at the beginning of the century what we were witnessing was an exodus of the population. It just wasn't more pronounced at that time because people had nowhere to go. When I presided over the SRU, we held several meetings with the population”, recalled the mayor of Porto, in response to the socialist Tiago Barbosa Ribeiro, emphasizing the changes made: “Today there is one thing that the city has achieved – there is a group of people who want to return to the Historic Centre. It is a good sign. Today the Historic Centre is desirable, the situation has changed.”

Slightly built municipal property
The importance of housing in the area classified as World Heritage had already been illustrated by Pedro Baganha in the presentation of the evaluation report on the execution of the Urban Rehabilitation Operation of the Historic Centre of Porto. The municipality owns only 13% of the buildings in that area, against 81% of private property, 3% of the State, church and religious orders, and 2% of foundations and associations.
“Since 1940, this territory is, year after year, losing population. It is a mystification to say that now it is tourism that is driving the population out. There was a radical change in the economic and social structure of this territory”, stressed the councilor, in response to the opposition.
The report provides an overview of the period 2014-2021. “732 works permits and 402 use permits were issued, counting the Historic Centre of Porto with 786 buildings rehabilitated since the beginning of the ORU”, underlined Pedro Baganha, adding: “Between 2014 and 2021 there was an increase of 18.5 % of plots in good condition. Of the 313 buildings in a poor state of conservation in 2014, 163 were in a good state of conservation in 2021.” “With regard to the occupancy status of the plots in the Historic Centre of Porto, there is an increase of about 10.9%”, he also stressed, noting that public investment in buildings “induced private investment 5.5 times higher”.
As part of the public housing policy in the Historic Centre, there are 377 supported income dwellings, 78 Porto Vivo dwellings for relocation and affordable housing, and 73 homes leased under the Porto com Sentido program. Between 2016 and 2020 preemptive rights were exercised in 18 buildings in the Historic Centre and in 12 in the Buffer Zone.

The issue of tax exemptions

“It was always considered reasonable in these territories to have tax exemptions. There is an added burden for the owner, in the end it's like having a piece delivered to a museum. It seems to me good that it continues to exist, but it is difficult for me to understand that, given the level of maturity of this Historic Centre, there will continue to be exemptions for those who do not rehabilitate the properties. It would be good for the Assembly of the Republic to look into this matter. In our case, it seems to me that it is no longer justified for someone to have a house in ruins and not pay”, warned Rui Moreira, having been corroborated by Tiago Barbosa Ribeiro, Vladimiro Feliz, Ilda Figueiredo.
Councilman Pedro Baganha would point out that “a classification is an intervention by the public power on private property. This has to be compensated for. The private is the faithful depository of a good that has collective value. In addition, this built park will never have the energy efficiency conditions of another that has no immaterial value. In a sense, it is compensation for the burden that classification entails.”
“We are witnessing an evolution that hardly anyone would believe”, congratulated the vice-mayor of Porto, Filipe Araújo, noting the “substantive improvement in the quality of life of that territory, which started to be enjoyed, inhabited”. “The buildings are occupied, they have a purpose. We have had active policies, care in terms of economic activity. We forget the problems of the past very quickly. The images quickly bring us back to reality. This is an effort by the city, not just the municipality,” he added, referring to Rua dos Pelames as a case of evolution without loss of identity.

Specific pedestrianization plan

Councilor Maria Manuel Rola, from BE, highlighted the reference made in the report to the need to pedestrianize and focus on smooth mobility in the Historic Centre. In response, Pedro Baganha noted that the elaboration of a “specific plan for pedestrianization of the Historic Centre is underway, very aligned with a strategy of soft modes”, and was completed by Rui Moreira: “There are paradoxical aspects: despite the works of Metro , since the bridge of the Luiz I Bridge closed, the flow of traffic has increased. The solutions are sometimes not the traditional ones. It's not because of the pandemic, the use of the individual vehicle has increased, but the truth is that traffic in the Historic Centre has changed today. It forces us to think and be bolder.”
As for the recommendations made by ICOMOS – International Council of Monuments and Sites in a recent report, to which Maria Manuel Rola alluded, Rui Moreira reiterated his disagreement with that body. “If the classification was within the competence of ICOMOS, we would no longer have it. If it were the responsibility of ICOMOS, we wouldn't want to have it. ICOMOS has a policy of taste that we do not,” he stressed.
Referring to the mandate of Rui Rio, after questioning Tiago Barbosa Ribeiro, Vladimiro Feliz (PSD) argued that in the past there was a need for the Municipality to sell assets in the Historic Centre because “it was necessary to put the accounts in order”. “The situation was different from what it is today,” he defended.
“What we found in the city at the beginning of the century was an enormous pain of aging. Today there are growing pains, but that is what should motivate the Chamber. Sometimes we forget what reality was like. I remember CH in the early 1960s. It was a complete doldrums. Today it is not”, summarized Rui Moreira.

Regular assessment and adaptation

The management and sustainability plan, coordinated by the architect Rui Loza and which involved a multidisciplinary team, including a consultancy from the University of Porto, was prepared as a “process-plan” that will remain valid over the next decade. “It is being evaluated and adapted”, highlighted Pedro Baganha. In 2024, 2027 and 2030 the document will be monitored and evaluated.
In response to the communist Ilda Figueiredo, the councilor for Urbanism and Public Space noted that the document gives attention to mobility issues, giving as an example the Ramal da Alfândega, “identified as a priority”, or the “interconnection of this territory with the eastern part of the city”. City". “One of the opportunities we have here is the interconnection of this territory with Campanhã”, he reinforced.
The evaluation report on the execution of the Urban Rehabilitation Operation of the Historic Centre was submitted to the Municipal Assembly with the favorable votes of the majority of councilors, with only the CDU abstaining. The new management and sustainability plan was approved with BE voting against and CDU abstaining.

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