Gazprom skyscraper plan for Saint Petersburg 'legal': court

7th June 2010, Comments 0 comments

A Russian court Monday rejected an appeal against controversial plans by state-run gas giant Gazprom to build a skyscraper in the historic city centre of Saint Petersburg.

The Smolninsky district court "confirmed the legality" of a decision by the city hall to give permission for the planned 403-metre (1,322-foot) skyscraper, a court spokeswoman told AFP.

City governor Valentina Matviyenko in September approved plans for the Gazprom tower to breach rules restricting building heights to 100 metres.

But activists including members of opposition party Yabloko had appealed to the court amid widespread fears that the skyscraper would dominate the low-lying city centre.

Yabloko activists plan to appeal the latest court decision, the party said in a statement.

Gazprom's building plans have raised eyebrows at the highest level, with President Dmitry Medvedev demanding officials look at "alternative variants of its height" in a letter leaked to Kommersant daily last month.

However, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, viewed by many as Russia's most powerful politician, gave his tacit backing to the project last week, saying that historic capitals Paris and London featured such skyscrapers.

"Look at London, look at Paris! How was the Pompidou Centre built? What's at the centre of the Louvre?" Putin said, referring to the glass-walled pyramid in front of the famed French museum.

The historic centre of Saint Petersburg is a UNESCO world heritage site and the agency has threatened to withdraw the status if the skyscraper -- nicknamed the "Gazoskryob" (Gaz-scraper) -- is erected.

© 2010 AFP

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