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Locals back Schumacher move

Locals gather in Wolfhalden to voice their support for Schumacher's plans

(Keystone)

Residents of a Swiss village have taken to the streets to support plans by German motor racing star Michael Schumacher to build a new villa.

The demonstration in Wolfhalden in eastern Switzerland coincided with talks between environmental organisations, Schumacher's lawyer, as well as cantonal and local authorities, to discuss the controversial plans.

The reigning Formula One world champion, who currently lives with his family in western Switzerland, wants to move to the village near Lake Constance and build a villa, along with horse stables and a swimming pool.

Environmental groups, including the Foundation for the Protection of Swiss Landscapes and the non-profit conservation group Pro Natura, are opposing the plans, which contravene local zoning regulations.

No agreement

A first round of talks on Monday between the parties concerned failed to resolve the dispute. However, officials said negotiations would continue next month to try to find a solution.

"The environmental groups restated their opposition," said Roland Scholz, who is mediating the talks. He added that Schumacher's lawyer reiterated that his client was interested in breaking the deadlock, but had no intention of taking the case to court.

Scholz said there was general agreement to seek a fair solution, despite some differences of opinion. He remained optimistic that the Schumacher family would be able to move to the region, possibly to a village near Wolfhalden.

Court threat

Peter Münch, a lawyer representing the Schumacher family, told swissinfo they were looking forward to moving to Wolfhalden.

"They look forward to finding a solution which would be suitable for all sides," Münch said.

"The Schumacher family plans to build and realise a project which cares for nature, the landscape and the environment," he said.

But Peter Rueck, a Pro Natura spokesman, said the environmental group was prepared to take its opposition to the project to Switzerland's federal court.

"There are zones for building and zones for agriculture. What Schumacher is trying to do is build up a house in an agriculture zone," Rueck said.

However, Wolfhalden stands to lose an important taxpayer if Schumacher, who allegedly earns more than SFr80 million ($48 million) annually, moves elsewhere.

swissinfo with agencies


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