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Housing blues for Schumacher

It's been a tough few days for Schumacher

(Keystone)

German motor racing star Michael Schumacher looks set to drop his plans to build a luxury villa in eastern Switzerland.

Schumacher's lawyer, Peter Münch, said the Formula One world champion would probably abandon his proposed move to the Appenzeller village of Wolfhalden, following failed talks on Tuesday with local officials and environmental groups.

Münch said it made no sense to continue with the plans in the face of environmental opposition, which could hold up planning permission for years.

Schumacher and his family are currently based in French-speaking west Switzerland but were hoping to build their new home by 2004.

Luxury home

Under Schumacher's original plans, the 17-hectare site in Wolfhalden was to include a traditional Appenzeller farmhouse, a swimming pool and stables.

Part of the project would have involved re-designating land that can currently be used only for agriculture. It was this suggestion that came under particularly heavy fire from the environmental groups.

Tuesday's round-table talks saw ten different versions of the proposed building work put before the various parties, but no consensus was reached.

Barrage of criticism

Schumacher's housing setback could hardly have come at a worse time for the sports star who has been facing a barrage of criticism since his controversial victory in Sunday's Austrian Grand Prix.

Schumacher was gifted his latest win after Ferrari team-mate Rubens Barichello was instructed to let Schumacher overtake him on the race's final lap - prompting furious outcries from fans of the sport and many of the world's media organisations.

There was a brief respite from the criticism on Tuesday evening when Schumacher picked up the prestigious Laureus World Sportsman of the Year award in Monte Carlo.

The German star, who appears to have been stunned by the strength of criticism against him, refused to attend the traditional post-ceremony press conference.

The news from "back home" in Switzerland won't have lightened his mood.

by Mark Ledsom with agencies

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