A commune in northern Switzerland has agreed to remove land from a protected area to allow German Formula One champion Sebastian Vettel to build a pool and tennis court.
The Swiss branch of the WWF and the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Protection (SLP) say they will fight Tuesday’s decision by the local parliament of Kemmental, canton Thurgau.
The parliament agreed to a council proposal to re-zone 918 square metres next to Vettel’s house in the village of Ellighausen as a “special zone for leisure facilities”.
The local authorities said they would compensate by redesignating a total of over 1,700m2. This will be made up of 1,500m2 taken from a building zone elsewhere in the commune, and more than 200m2 that is part of Vettel’s property.
However, this is not enough to satisfy environmentalists. In a statement, the WWF and SLP said the decision represented “a defeat for nature and equality before the law”.
The two groups are considering whether to file a complaint with canton Thurgau.
According to the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper, the federal authorities have also expressed their doubts about the legality of the move. The paper said the Federal Spatial Planning Office has already informed its cantonal counterparts that the re-zoning could be in contradiction of accepted Swiss practice.
“It’s delicate from a spatial planning point of view because creating a special area outside a building zone is being done only to satisfy the wishes of a private person,” said Stephan Scheidegger of the office.
In 2002 Formula One star Michael Schumacher abandoned plans to build a luxury home in eastern Switzerland after running into opposition from SLP and other environmental groups which said the property would contravene zoning regulations.
Schumacher lives with his family on the Lake Geneva shore in canton Vaud. Many other Formula One drivers also live in Switzerland.
swissinfo.ch and agencies