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Voters give Zurich airport wings

(Keystone)

Voters in canton Zurich have rejected an initiative to limit flight movements at Switzerland's biggest airport to counter noise and air pollution.

In other regional votes on Sunday, the people of St Gallen approved plans to make the eastern city the first in Switzerland to allow surveillance cameras to be installed in public places.

The initiative to limit flight movements to 250,000 a year and extending a night ban at Zurich airport was launched in 2004.

It was supported by residents living under the flight paths who say their quality of life is damaged by air traffic.

The situation was exacerbated when Germany banned night and weekend flights to Zurich over the southern part of its territory, redirecting planes over populated areas in the canton.

However, around 60 per cent of Zurich voters rejected the initiative, following an appeal by the authorities and business lobby who argued the restrictions would cost the economy billions.

Last year, Zurich's runways handled over 260,000 takeoffs and landings but that number is forecast to increase to 450,000 by 2030 to meet growing demand.

Ahead of the vote, the cantonal authorities put forward a counter proposal that foresees applying the brakes if annual movements reached 320,000. This was accepted.

Surveillance cameras

The plan to improve security in St Gallen by installing video cameras was approved by the city's voters, who agreed to finance the move to the tune of SFr2.48 million ($2.25 million).

More than 20 closed-circuit television cameras will put in different places in the inner city including underground pedestrian passages. A further 15 are earmarked for the city's new football stadium to discourage hooliganism.

Changes to the local law to allow the installation of cameras were already passed by voters two years ago.

Butt out

Cantons Graubünden and Appenzell Ausser Rhodes will become the third and fourth Swiss cantons respectively – after Ticino and Solothurn - to introduce a ban on smoking in public places.

Three-quarters of voters in Graubünden approved the measure which will ban smoking in all public places including restaurants as of March next year. The result was much closer in Appenzell Ausser-Rhodes with 8,412 votes in favour and 7,176 against. The new law will be enforced in the small eastern canton as of January 1, 2008.

According to the federal authorities, the Swiss parliament as well as 17 of the 26 cantons are considering laws to protect citizens against the harmful effects of passive smoke.

In other votes, the people of canton Glarus confirmed that they want to see a radical administrative reform.

Show of hands

In a show of hands, local residents voted against an initiative which would have overturned a decision they made last year to reduce the number of administrative bodies in the canton from 25 to three.

Decision-making at the cantonal level in Glarus is still done in an open-air assembly (Landsgemeinde) – the last place in Switzerland along with Appenzell to practice this traditional style of voting.

The council in Davos also received more administrative power. Residents in the mountain resort agreed to merge with neighbouring Wiesen. The plan means Davos will soon be the community with the largest surface area in Switzerland.

Voters also went to the polls in canton Basel Country. They came out in favour of reducing the corporate tax rate to bring the canton more in line with the Swiss average, and approved a law which would allow the authorities to ban dog breeds it considers dangerous.

swissinfo with agencies

Key votes

Zurich: Electorate rejects initiative to limit flight movements at Zurich airport.

St Gallen: Voters approve of financing scheme for the installation of video surveillance cameras in inner city and football stadium.

Graubünden and Appenzell Ausser-Rhodes: Approval of law to ban smoking in public places.

Basel Country: Government plan to reduce corporate tax rate wins acceptance, and people say yes to law change to make it possible to ban dangerous breeds of dogs.

Glarus: Voters confirm decision to reduce administrative bodies from 25 to three.

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