Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Recent Changes in Territorial Planning and the System for Controlling Urban Development in Portugal

Academic journal article The Town Planning Review

Recent Changes in Territorial Planning and the System for Controlling Urban Development in Portugal

Article excerpt

Although the beginnings of a formal town planning system in Portugal date back to 1934, little effective progress was made in the next quarter of the century. Portugal was thus ill equipped to deal with the urban development processes which accompanied the significant migration flows of the 1960s and 1970s and the economic and spatial changes of the 1980s and 1990s. Despite attempts to strengthen the planning system, culminating in the first general framework law for planning in 1998, the general record of urban growth and development was one of extensive uncoordinated building, often without legal permission (the clandestinos). Even with the new framework of plans and regulatory mechanisms, more informal processes are still significant and leave issues of accountability open at national, regional and local scales.

Following an introduction to the changing demographic, economic and political contexts for territorial planning and urban development in Portugal, the paper continues to examine the changes that have taken place in the planning mechanisms for the control of urban development in Portugal. In particular, the discussion will focus on the last two decades, the present system and the problems that still remain. An understanding of the present situation in Portugal requires an understanding of the previous regime with its anti-planning philosophy and strong defence of private landownership.


Portugal has a population of about 9.4 million, 45 per cent of whom live in the two metropolitan areas of Lisbon (30 per cent) and Oporto (15 per cent) (Fig. 1). During the 1960s and early 1970s there was significant immigration into the Lisbon metropolitan area, mainly from the then Portuguese African colonies, but also including a significant amount of internal rural-urban movement. After the Democratic Revolution of April 1974, as a consequence of the decolonisation process, more than half-a-million people came to mainland Portugal within two years. With the European economic crisis of the mid-1970s, and before Portugal had joined the European Union (EU), a further half-million people returned home from other European countries. Most of these immigrants were housed in the Lisbon and Oporto metropolitan areas (CEPCEP, 1987). The population of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (AML) rose from 1.54 million in 1960 to 2.44 million in 1991-an average annual growth rate of between three and four per cent, although some municipalities close to the centre of the capital reached 15 per cent (INE, 1960; 1991).

In the 1980s and 1990s there were significant further changes in Lisbon. In the city of Lisbon itself office and service developments have considerably replaced former residential land use. In the late 1980s and early 1990s Lisbon office rents were among the fastest growing in Europe (Richard Ellis, 1998). By 1991, the city of Lisbon, only three per cent of the area of the AML, contained 75 per cent of the metropolitan region's tertiary employment (CML, 1994).

Today most of the nineteenth-century buildings in the major central avenues have been replaced by office blocks. There has also been considerable decentralisation of the working population, both secondary and tertiary sectors, from the municipality of Lisbon and of secondary sector workers from the whole of the AML. Between 1981 and 1991 the city lost 150,000 inhabitants in spite of the growth of its suburban neighbourhoods (INE, 1981; 1991).

After 1984, just before Portugal joined the EU, some major European development firms began to invest in Portugal, focusing mainly on three market sectors. First was the commercial sector both in Lisbon itself and along the main transport routes in Greater Lisbon,1 and in Oporto, Portugal's second city. The business parks in the municipalities of Oeiras and Cascais, redevelopment projects along the main and most prestigious avenues of Lisbon and Oporto, as well as new office areas in those two cities, provide good examples of this type of development focus (Fig. …

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