Case: St. Anthony Cathedral
Residents of Lviv versus Lviv City Council, company “Astra”
Region: Region of Lviv, Lviv
Essence of case: Protection of the right to safe and healthy environment
Parties: 250 residents of Lviv – plaintiffs; Lviv City Council, company “Astra” – defendants
Essence of problem: Judicial proceeding on annulment of the City Council decision and act on the right of permanent use of land
In June 1996 residents of one of the regions of Lviv unexpectedly found out that the construction was being planned in a public garden which had been a place of rest for the residents of the block and a playground for children. According to the decision of Lviv city Council of September 28, 1995, this plot of land was given to the company “Astra” for construction of three blocks of flats. The public garden had created a kind of “microclimate”: it was protecting the block from dust and exhaust, decreasing noise from a highway that goes along Lychakivska and adjoining streets. Moreover, the public garden, as well as the surrounding houses and religious temples, has historical and cultural value. It is a part of the former Post-Franciscans complex with St. Anthony’s Cathedral in Lychakivskyi suburb and it is a monument of architecture and city-building as a remainder of the ancient Lviv planning and building. (The public garden – former monastic garden of the XVII – XVIII centuries – was even mentioned in the oldest topographic plan of Lviv done by Jean Desfil in 1866. This place was used for burying monks).
The citizens, offended with the actions of the city Council (which, actually, deprived them of their green territory) and with impudent behavior of “Astra” representatives (who made it clear that nobody could lay down the law for them), started addressing various state bodies asking to examine the situation. But the officials disregarded their requests. Finally, in July 1996, they came to us, to Ecopravo – Lviv, for protection of their rights for safe and healthy environment, appropriate life and recreation conditions. The suit was signed by more than 250 citizens (the residents of the region and the religious community of the cathedral).
Each case starts with information gathering. So we sent numerous inquiries, received additional evidences on the case. It came out that the planned construction was violating the norms of the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of City-Building” and some principles of state construction norms. In particular, according to the Law of Ukraine “On Principles of City-Building”, while performing city-building activities one should guarantee the citizens` participation in the discussion of the city-building documents, projects of specific objects and introduction of corresponding suggestions to the state bodies. But the citizens learned about the Resolution of the City Council only in a year, i.e. their participation in the discussion of the construction project had not been guaranteed. Besides, the project of allotting the plot of land was not coordinated with the sanitary-epidemiological station and with the municipal ecological inspection. And finally, the Resolution of the City Council had violated the principles stated in the Law of Ukraine “On Local Councils of Members of Parliament and on Local and Regional self-government”, in particular, concerning the local and regional self-government on the basis of protection of rights, freedom and legal interests of the citizens, publicity and importance of public opinion.
In August 1996, we forwarded a petition to the regional court asking to recognize the Resolution of the session of the City Council of members of parliament as illegal, and to nullify the Statement which has given the firm “Astra” the right to constant use of the plot of land on the basis of the above-mentioned Resolution. After three exhausting court sessions, where almost all of 250 citizens were present (among them – a lot of senior citizens), at the end of the year the regional court left the petition without satisfaction on the formal grounds. It took almost one more year, and during that time the case was being passed from one court to another: judges and active citizens were pressed and threatened; the case was presented in a wrong and inadequate way in mass media.
Finally, after approximately 1.5 years of our struggle, the Frankivskyi regional court of Lviv considered the Resolution of the City Council on placing the plot of land at disposal of the firm “Astra” illegal. Having considered the case in accordance with the appeal of “Astra” LTD, the Lviv Oblast Appeal Court has left the decision of the Frankivskyi regional court unchanged.