As the VwGH states in its decision of December 16, the Federal Administrative Court (BVwG) has approved numerous shortcomings and violations of the procedural regulations in the EIA approval. The decision was therefore revoked “because of the prevailing illegality of its content”.
Piesendorf is to be connected to the ski area
As the Nature Conservation Association, the Alpine Association and the citizens’ initiative “Rettet den Hochsonnberg” announced in a joint broadcast on Wednesday, the BVwG not only obviously applied incorrect legal provisions, but also interpreted the content of the European legal basis for EIA and species protection in a completely misleading manner. The alternative test was far too narrow and limited. “In addition, the Administrative Court did not recognize the public interest in the project,” said Hannes Augustin from the Salzburg Nature Conservation Association to APA. “This coincides with the central justification for the necessity of the project, there is only a business interest.”
The project envisages connecting the municipality of Piesendorf in the Salzach Valley to the Schmittenhöhe ski area near Zell am See. For this purpose, three chairlifts, a 10-person monocable gondola lift, four slopes with a total area of 23 hectares, a ski path and a snow-making system including a storage pond are to be built. A ski center with bistro, ski school and sports shop is to be built at the valley station – and parking spaces for 700 cars and around 20 buses will be created.
Initiators still want to implement the project
The initiators, however, do not want to be deterred by the VwGH’s current saying and only speak of a delay. “The Hochsonnberg project is very important for the region and has many advantages. Even if we cannot start with the project, we still hope that it will be implemented soon,” said Erich Egger, the board of Schmittenhöhebahn AG. From a tourist point of view, the project is indispensable if the Zell am See-Kaprun region wants to maintain its position as a highly attractive winter sports destination. In addition, additional piste areas would be created at altitude, which are becoming increasingly important due to their guaranteed snow.
But that is exactly what the project opponents doubt: “The slopes face south, there is no snow in most of the winter. One would have to artificially snow, which is not always possible at higher temperatures,” said Augustin. In times of climate change, the project is simply no longer up to date.
Approval from 2011
The project was originally approved by the state government in 2011. After several appeals and proceedings, the appeals were dismissed in April 2018 by the Federal Administrative Court in second instance. The opponents lodged an extraordinary revision; at that time the VwGH rejected the application for suspensive effect. The mountain railways have so far only started with preparatory work.