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Tartu wants planning procedure for billion-euro pulp mill terminated

Render of the planned pulp mill.
Render of the planned pulp mill. Source: (ERR)

The city submitted a request to the government on Monday to terminate the procedure for a national designated spatial plan for the much-criticized Est-For pulp mill. The investment company wants to built the plant somewhere along the Emajõgi river, which according to the Tartu city council would seriously affect the city's economy and quality of life.

The city argument is that the procedure wasn't carried out with the required legal clarity. In a press release on Monday, Mayor Urmas Klaas (Reform) said that there had been plenty of contradicting statements from different members of the government.

"Some want to move forward with the spatial plan, while some members of the government don't consider it the right thing to do. Since the procedure of the national designated spatial plan was initiated by the government as a collective authority, we expect a clear answer to our request from that collective authority," the mayor said.

The city also argues that the planning procedure for the pulp mill was initiated without there being "significant national interest," which is one of the requirements of the Planning Act. In addition, planning to build the plant in Tartu County runs counter to the development plans of both the county and the city, which clearly call for the preservation and the improvement of the environment, and the development of business in the area in a fashion that avoids further damage to the environment.

Referring to available environmental information, the city said that it is evident that given the condition of Emajõgi and also Lake Peipus, the county isn't a suitable location for the pulp mill.

The city also pointed out that there hasn't been an examination of different potential locations, but that the government basically went with the investors' suggestion for the future location of the pulp mill. This meant that the decision was made based on the economic interests of the investor, and not that of the state or the local counties and municipalities.

The city council came to its decision to request the termination of the plan in a seven-hour marathon meeting on March 7. The meeting followed a petition by residents.

According to Estonian law, the local authorities have no say in national planning decisions, which makes Tartu's efforts legally difficult. Mayor Urmas Klaas has also been accused of using residents' resistance against the project in the campaign for the parliamentary elections next March.

Editor: Dario Cavegn

Source: BNS, ERR

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