Saint Petersburg governor backs relocation of Gazprom tower

3rd December 2010, Comments 0 comments

The powerful governor of Saint Petersburg on Friday backed the relocation of a contentious tower that Gazprom gas giant plans to build in the historic centre of Russia's northwestern city.

"A possible turn of events would be us suggesting other options to Gazprom on the construction of such a large investment project," Valentina Matviyenko told journalists in an apparent concession.

"I think we will find a compromise solution that will suit most of the residents," she said.

The plan to build the 403-metre (1,322-feet) skyscraper has sparked fears that it would spoil the low-rise skyline of the city, whose centre is protected by UNESCO, and was recently criticised by the Russian culture minister.

Matviyenko had given consent for the Okhta Tower project to go ahead, even though the building, nicknamed the Gazoskryob, or Gas Scraper, broke planning rules in the area which restrict the height of buildings to 100 metres.

In October, the plan crossed one of the last hurdles as the state body charged with assessing construction projects in Russia gave its approval.

A campaigner against the building said Friday that Matviyenko could be trying to save her political skin after President Dmitry Medvedev in August fired Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, notorious for demolishing historic buildings.

"Maybe the governor is worried about her fate, looking at that of Luzhkov," said Olga Kurnosova, a member of the Yabloko opposition party.

"But I can't rule out that this declaration shows the strengthening of the authority of Dmitry Medvedev, who was against the project, unlike Vladimir Putin," she said.

This spring, a leaked letter from a presidential aide expressed Medvedev's opposition and he later publicly called it a "very big question." Putin, noiw prime minister, said in 2007 while president that "such buildings would not hurt the city."

UNESCO has threatened to withdraw Saint Petersburg's status as a world heritage site if the skyscraper project goes ahead and to place it on a list of endangered sites.

© 2010 AFP

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