Prague - Six months after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) opposed the new skyscrapers at Prague's Pankrác, City Hall has issued a planning permission approving the criticised high-rise buildings.
The World Heritage Committee, whose representatives visited Prague in the spring of last year, said the problem was that the new buildings are too high, and as such would damage one of the best preserved historical city centre skylines in Europe. The two new Buildings in Pankrác should be 80 and 104 metres high.
The Committee mission recommended to limit the height of the new high-rise structures to a maximum of 60-70 metres to limit the visual impacts on the historic urban landscape of Prague, UNESCO says in its last year's report that Aktuálně.cz has at its disposal.
City Hall circumvents UNESCO stance
The City Hall document already discussed by the city council shows that Prague is trying to avoid the World Heritage Committee recommendation. The document claims that the decision on the two Pankrác skyscrapers was taken before the UNESCO mission in Prague.
"The standing proposed buildings of 80 and 104 metres were approved before the July meeting of the World Heritage Committee. Buildings newly designed after the monitoring mission, which took place in the spring of 2008, will comply with the mission's recommendations and with the decision of the UNESCO Intergovernmental Committee for the Protection of the Cultural and Natural Heritage," says the document that Aktuálně.cz has at its disposal.
But City Hall confirmed the planning permission regarding the two Pankrác skyscrapers at the end of last year. "The UNESCO recommendation unanimously concerned these two buildings," said Martin Skalský of the citizen support centre at the organisation Arnika, one of the civic associations fighting against the planned skyscrapers.
"Although city representatives promised to respect the expert opinion of the World Heritage Committee, in fact we have witnessed the opposite. Authorities gradually issue more and more permissions for skyscrapers construction without any change," said lawyer Petr Kužvart of the environment protection association Ateliér pro životní prostředí.
Lawsuits will come
Civic associations that have criticised the construction of high-rise buildings in Pankrác for a long time are about to take further steps against these plans.
"We will notify UNESCO again, and in any case we will file lawsuits against the planning permission," Martin Skalský of Arnika told Aktuálně.cz. He added there is a real threat that Prague could be eliminated from the prestigious list of world heritage sights.
The association believes the lawsuit can have an effect. It has won one of the disputes over the new buildings in Pankrác. Prague's municipal court did not allow construction of new access roads because increased traffic would raise the already enormous pollution and noise in the area.
One of the planned high-rise buildings in Pankrác should serve as a congress hotel, while the other should be a residential building with views of the historical city centre. Some of the luxury flats have been sold already.
Adapted and republished by Prague Daily Monitor.