The Department of Environmental Protection of the Prague Metropolitan Authority decided that the first of the pair of the planned „Epoque“ skyscrapers of the company ECM in the Pankrác plain will not be subjected to the procedure of environmental impact assessment. According to the Metropolitan Authority, the so-called EIA process is not necessary in the case of construction of the skyscraper. This a very controversial project, concerning which disagreeing statements were issued by several citizens associations, Scientific Council of the National Conservation Institute, as well as local inhabitants. Also state institutions and opinion of the Capital City of Prague draw attention to serious defects of the project.„The decision of the Metropolitan Authority is shocking. The Act enables the officers to waive the environmental impact assessment, but, in practice, this happens only in the case of banal intentions against which nobody has any objections. However, in the case of a controversial building, to which many serious reservations of experts, as well as inhabitants, exist, this is a very non-standard solution, which can be perceived more like a result of political and financial pressures than like an impartial evaluation of the situation in Pankrác,“ said Martin Skalský from Centre for Citizens Support of the Arnika Association.
Through refusal of the EIA procedure, the Metropolitan Authority closed the last possibility of the inhabitants to express their opinions to construction of the skyscraper. According to the Czech legal order, EIA is the only possibility for listening to, and taking into account, opinions of citizens associations, as well as the individual inhabitants of the city, within the framework of decision-making concerning new structures. Afterwards, the authority commissions an impartial expert assessment, which must take into account all objections, and propose a universally acceptable solution. „In view of the fact that the Metropolitan Authority closed the whole process, only negotiations of the developers with the Building Department will be carried out. The public will be excluded from decision-making concerning a completely fundamental town planning intervention. A few officers will de facto decide about the future Prague appearance,“ said Skalský.
According to Arnika lawyer, Mgr. Lukáš Matějka, there exists a whole number of reasons why the Metropolitan Authority should carry out the EIA assessment. „There exists a whole number of reservations to the project for construction of the pair of Epoque skyscrapers. The Scientific Council of the National Conservation Institute says that the structure endangers presence of Prague in the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List. The Public Health Station of the Capital City of Prague stated that legal limits for noise and air pollution were being exceeded in the Pankrác area already now, and this situation would be further aggravated. The Capital City of Prague stated in its opinion that the intention aggravated the traffic situation, and was not in compliance with the structure plan, in view of binding vegetation coefficients. These discrepancies may be hardly solved without a detailed expert assessment, and, therefore, an impartial and expert prove that the structure does not damage the Prague environment will be missing in all permitting proceedings,“ explained Matějka the justification of the EIA process. According to him, it is also impossible to neglect the fact that a crushing majority of inhabitants of the Pankrác plain expressed their opinions against construction of the skyscrapers.
„Although result of the environmental impact assessment is only one of expert basic documents for permission of the structures, the expert assessment is a way how to consider controversial intensions impartially and from every angle,“ says Martin Skalský. „The Metropolitan Authority decided to use an undemocratic way of decision-making. Thus, it sent a message to the inhabitants that a few officers and politicians may push through any intervention into the Prague appearance, although the inhabitants themselves disagree with it and the intention is clearly bad.“ According to Skalský, the citizens associations will take part in the subsequent administrative proceedings, because restriction of discussion concerning the Pankrác skyscrapers is unacceptable for them. The Building Department of Prague 4 started proceedings on planning permission in connection with the „Epoque“ hotel already.
Information on ascertaining procedure of the EIA process: click here
Main reservations to the project of the „Epoque“ skyscraper:
The structure will aggravate the traffic burden of the locality
At the present time, the Pankrác plain ranks among localities with the highest car traffic burden. The hygienic limits for air pollution and noise level are frequently exceeded in the area. „The Capital City states that after putting the proposed premises into operation, exceeding of the air quality limits will apply also to the inhabitants of the neighbouring residential area.“ The Public Health Station of the Capital City of Prague confirms this conclusion and states: „ From calculation of noise caused by the traffic on public roads, it follows that limits of noise caused by the traffic, exceeded already now, will be further aggravated (after implementation of the completion of development of the pentagon, the traffic burden in the Milevská street will be increased by more than a double of the original state).“
Vegetation coefficients are not met
The project of the skyscraper Epoque hotel is contrary to the binding part of the structure plan concerning compliance with the proportion of built-up areas and vegetation. As states the Capital City of Prague, „in order to bring the intention in compliance with the structure plan, it would be necessary, according to a check calculation, ... to increase the area of vegetation on the terrain by, at least, 835 m2.“ According to the law, such project should not be approved at all, because it contributes to worsening of the city environment.
The skyscraper impairs the Prague panorama
The Scientific Council of the National Conservation Institute designated the project as „incompatible from the point of view of impact on Prague characteristic landscape values.“ According to it, the project „enlarges and fixates the fundamentally negative impact of the construction of high-rise buildings implemented during the socialistic era on the city landscape values, instead of eliminating or at least mitigating it through focused effort.“ The Main Conservator of the National Conservation Institute requested regular assessment of the project in the process of environmental impact assessment and assessment of value of the city historic centre. This was refused by the Prague Metropolitan Authority.
The inhabitants do not want the skyscrapers
From evaluation of two opinion polls organised in the Pankrác area in the previous years, it followed that a crushing majority of inhabitants is against construction of the skyscrapers. The public regards further luxurious office complexes as superfluous and unbeneficial. Instead of them, the inhabitants would embrace construction of further houses, creation of a central square, and, especially, creation of cultural and sport area for thousands of inhabitants of the Pankrác housing estates. In the opinion poll, the inhabitants further mentioned as desirable, for example, a library, health centre, and further vegetation.