Lisbon planning authorities struggling to process permits in ‘reasonable time’

Effective due diligence will help investors predict the likely outcomes of planning applications – meanwhile, good architects that understand the planning system are vital.


As Portugal enjoys an unprecedented property boom, Lisbon’s planning authorities are struggling to process permits within a reasonable time, according to Vieira de Almeida partner Pedro Ferreirinha.

“I think it’s a natural consequence of so much investment in Portugal,” he says. “You start to feel that in Lisbon they have so many projects they need to review, it’s a problem of manpower.” In Ferreirinha’s view, these delays represent a risk to the market as they could lead to some investors looking elsewhere in the future. “In real estate, time to market is everything,” he says. “Obviously, when investors start to feel things are starting to slow down, in terms of licensing, they get nervous and they start to be more cautious in their approach.”

Impeccable due diligence
So, what can be done to tackle the issue? Impeccable due diligence is key, according to Ferreirinha, as it helps investors predict likely outcomes of planning applications, subject, of course, to the discretion of authorities. “You should have good architects on board that know the planning instruments very well,” he explains. “They can give you an idea of whether an application is perhaps very bold and will have problems, or whether what you are trying to do is something that’s not admissible, according to the planning regulations.” Ferreirinha adds: “The clients we assist usually do this homework very thoroughly, so they have an idea of how things will go.”

It is also essential to build positive relationships with planning authorities. “There is always some tension between the investors and the authorities,” Ferreirinha says.

“Investors usually want more than they can get, and authorities try to resist.” He continues: “I think, at the end of the day, if there’s good co-operation and people stick to the planning instruments, probably some of the problems will just go away.”

Laura Escarpa