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Wednesday23 July 2014

Authorities to review Gazprom tower plans

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Russian authorities are set to review RMJM’s Gazprom Tower in St Petersburg following a report from Unesco’s World Heritage Committee.

The 403m-high tower, being built for Russian gas giant Gazprom, and known officially as the Okhta Centre, has been the subject of fierce controversy since being granted approval last year.

Unesco has repeatedly warned Russian authorities that St Petersburg would be stripped of its World Heritage Site status if the tower, which would be the tallest in Europe, is built.

In a document seen by BD, Unesco said the city was co-operating with its demands and welcomed the fact that “regional authorities have now expressed their willingness to proceed with further dialogue with Unesco”.

The city authorities have also agreed to undertake an independent impact assessment of the project, addressing its effect on the “outstanding universal value” of St Petersburg, despite both Gazprom and the St Petersburg state government having submitted environmental impact reports.

Unesco has also requested“significantly modified design proposals”, to be submitted to the World Heritage Centre for review before any formal planning approval is given by the state.

A spokesman for RMJM insisted work on the project was forging ahead.

“We anticipate working with our client to demonstrate to Unesco that the location of the proposed building is outside the city centre and as such the integrity of any historic sites in the city centre will be robustly protected,” he added.

The Okhta Centre would include Gazprom’s headquarters for as well as a concert hall, business centre, hotel and museum.

A source close to the project told BD that even if work to redesign the tower went ahead, this would be reversed if Vladimir Putin became Russia’s president again.

“Putin has always supported this project unlike the current president Dimitry Medvedev,” said the source. “If, as everyone expects, he returns to the role after being prime minister I am sure it will push ahead.”

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