In general, building in the country is difficult and very limited. Although there is general legislation, each town council can set their own set of rules what is allowed in certain areas.
Besides the differentiation between REN (national ecological reserved) be and RAN (national agriculture reserved) we also have National Parks, Maritime zoning and more.
At the moment the west coast between Sagres and Odeceixe is hot! There is more demand than supply. Not long ago an area no one wanted to go, now it is the place to be, mainly because wave surfing has taken of here. The area around Aljezur is the favourite with many young families and for that reason I will highlight a bit more about what is possible and what is not.
Legal framework In the PDM (local planning consent) Aljezur.
If a property is completely inserted in the área of RAN ( Reserva Agrícola Nacional) it means that any type of intervention that is intended to be carried out, approval is always depending on the opinion of the state entity CCDR - RAN (Faro). This classification of RAN aims to protect areas of high agricultural potential from urban interventions There are a set of rules that define under what conditions you can build and how much you can build.
Within the RAN classification there are subcategories which differ according to the agricultural potential, the existence of water lines, such as rivers, valleys, etc. It could be that a plot of land is inserted in the area of Espaços Agrícolas. Once again, this category is subdivided according to the quality of the soil for the purposes of agricultural production. The classification goes from A to F, with A soil of high quality and F of poor quality. Suppose the soil classification is A.
What is the feasibility to be allowed to construct. In the area of Espaços Agrícolas, it is possible to build a house up to 300 m2, with only 1 floor and a maximum height of 3m. If the applicant cumulatively has the following conditions;
a) Insert on a property with a minimum area of 5 hectares;
b) Integration in a sustainable agricultural or Agro-forestry exploration, evidenced by a declaration issued by the competent entity in charge, except in the case of tourism in rural areas, where specific legislation applies;
c) In the non-built areas of the property, the dominant uses of the territory in which they operate should preferably be respected;
d) Infrastructures are the responsibility of the owner or developer and cannot contribute to the proliferation of public infrastructure networks; (this is regarding public water and electricity)
e) The building for housing purposes of the farmer must be intended for his own residence, once it is proven that there are no acceptable alternatives for its location on urban land and that there is no other dwelling within the same farm, and cannot be alienated within 10 years, this burden being included in the land registry. (it mean that you can’t sale the house during 10 years.)
Regarding of the point b) above. If we have an isolated plot the only possibility is to apply for Agro Tourism. Agro-tourism enterprises are properties located on agricultural holdings that allow guests to monitor and learn about the agricultural activity, or to participate in the work developed there, according to the rules established by their responsible. Keep in mind that in order to request approval for an Agro-Tourism project, the project must comply with strict rules related to tourism developments and this implies that there is one more state entity to have to give its approval called “Turismo”. This process of getting an approval to be able to build is not easy and takes some time. If a property has over 5ha. we have to present an agricultural project that is sustainable and economically viable. But because it is a sensitive area with very strong land use protection, there is no guarantee that approval will be obtained. The possibility exists but it is conditioned.
Please not that if 300m2 is allowed it includes all covered areas. For example if you want to have a pool this area + surrounding terraces is part of the 300m2. A standard 10m x 5m = already 50m2, but if you have 2 meter terraces around is already means 126m2
Please note, agricultural and agritourism are two totally different processes. In the first case, the landowner must have a profitable agricultural activity to comply with the law and justify that he needs a house to live / work.
In agricultural tourism, a company (Lda) must be created that will manage the enterprise and within the activities that this company is engaged in, one of them will have to be related to agriculture. Even if the products are for internal consumption only. To have a company is quite easy to set up, but it also is not cheap to run (see my article about Portuguese companies).
It means that in Agro-tourism, the beginning of agricultural activity can start in parallel with construction or later. Because you have to create the conditions for customers first.
Which might be easier to approve, it’s hard to say.
Final note, when the person or company is required to have agricultural activity, this means that they have had to exercise that activity for at least 1 fiscal year.
You don’t need to own the land, you also can rent it. But the activity must exist.
In order to make sure that you can do what you want to do it is necessary and advisable to put in prior to you buy a PIP request. This means Pedido Informação Prévia (a binding opinion of the local town council what can be build). Although people tell you that is a swift procedure it is not always the case. The result of the this ddecision is called a Declarção Prévia. Once received you have 12 month to submit a project!