Controversial Petersburg skyscraper set to be built: reports

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A skyscraper Russian gas giant Gazprom wants to construct in Saint Petersburg in the face of bitter opposition is set to be built after a key state body approved the plan, reports said Saturday.

Opponents of the project have contested that the Okhta Centre -- a conical glass skyscraper planned to be 403-metres (1,322-feet) high -- will wreck the historic skyline of Russia's former imperial capital.

But the Kommersant newspaper said that last formal obstacle to the tower had been removed after the state body charged with assessing construction projects in Russia had given its green light to the plan at a meeting on October 7.

It said the state body -- Glavgosekspertiza which answers to the ministry of regional development -- had declined to comment but several sources in the Gazprom unit responsible for the tower had confirmed approval had been received.

The deputy director of the Okhta Centre project, Vladimir Gronsky, also confirmed to Moscow Echo radio that the approval had been received from the commission that the building would not impact the Petersburg cityscape.

Kommersant said that now only intervention at the highest level from the Russian leadership could prevent formal planning permission being given.

The planned construction of the building has already worried UNESCO, which has warned that Saint Petersburg, founded by Peter the Great in 1703, risks being excluded from its world heritage list if the tower is built.

It has also proved massively controversial among Saint Petersburg residents, who cling fiercely to their elegant city's distinctiveness from the urban chaos and breakneck expansion of Moscow.

Lawmaker for the local Petersburg parliament Sergei Malkov told Moscow Echo that the approval of the tower was "a nonsense for any Petersburger".

"The only means left to us are extra-parliamenatary, in other words, meetings, protests and pickets. The people will protest not only against the construction but against Saint Petersburg becoming a second Moscow."

© 2010 AFP

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