Gazprom's new skyscraper gets first green light
Authorities in Russia's former imperial capital of Saint Petersburg have given permission to Gazprom to build a skyscraper after its initial plan fell through due to protests.
The gas giant's controversial plan for the Okhta Center, dominated by a 400-metre high-rise, was shot down last year after a series of protests by residents who said the building would ruin the historic city's vistas.
Gazprom's new project, Lakhta Center, includes an even higher 470-metre building, but a city land use commission "has recommended to authorise the surpassing of height restrictions," a commission representative told AFP on Thursday.
City regulations in Saint Petersburg, whose skyline is protected by UNESCO, limit buildings' height to 27 metres.
The final decision to give permission for the construction of the skyscraper will have to be approved by another committee on architecture.
Critics scoffed at the decision to waive the maximum height requirement for the high-rise to be built near the Neva River in the northwest of the city.
"What is dangerous in this decision is that one can easily obtain permission to surpass the height requirements by nearly twentyfold," activist for the Living City preservation movement Antonina Yeliseyeva told AFP.
"This could become a precedent," she said, admitting however that the plan was an improvement on the previous project.
The Okhta Center was to tower over the city's historic center from just across the Neva River, while Lakhta Center is planned for further away and is less likely to spoil the city's picture postcard views.
© 2011 AFP