No building permit for Plečnik stadium, developer will press charges

Ljubljana – The Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry rejected at the end of March the BŠP company’s request for a building permit to overhaul a rundown Ljubljana stadium designed by acclaimed architect Jože Plečnik. BŠP boss Joc Pečečnik says he will not give up on the project he launched in 2007 and will press charges.

The Bežigrad stadium is protected as cultural heritage of national importance. Its construction started in the early 1920s, but was completed only in the late 1930s.

It was used for sport events and concerts until 2007, while efforts to renovate it since have turned into a saga.

To save it from ruin, Ljubljana joined forces in November 2007 with businessman Pečečnik and the Slovenian Olympic Committee (OKS) to turn it into a sport park.

Following years of slow progress and setbacks, the Culture Ministry said in February the plans do not entail renovation and conservation of all elements of the stadium.

It also found problematic constructing a new multi-storey building housing a hotel, a sports clinic and department stores in the proximity of the monument.

As a result, the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage gave the plans a negative opinion, which was a basis for the latest decision on the building permit.

“We won’t renounce the project in which we’ve put 14 years of effort, desires and money for the stadium to get finally renovated,” Pečečnik told the press on Wednesday.

“To preserve its cultural heritage, we wanted to combine the old and the new in a symbiotic way as the only option to renovate Plečnik’s stadium.

“The state gave up on this and many other cultural monuments a long time ago, leaving them to decay,” he said at the news conference, held at the seat of BŠP.

Next week he intends to file criminal and damages suits, and an appeal at the Administrative Court over the alleged interference in the building permit procedure.

He highlighted a criminal complaint to be filed against Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti and Jelka Pirkovič, acting head of the directorate for cultural heritage.

While not saying Simoniti was personally involved in his ministry’s decisions, Pečečnik said it was obvious the minister was in control there.

Since it has been led by Simoniti, the ministry has threatened employees at Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage so that they took decisions detrimental to the stadium project out of fear of losing their jobs, said Pečečnik.

“We live in a very strange state where the Culture Ministry showed it is above the law and experts,” said Pečečnik, adding he would fight against this with all means.

“We very much appreciate Plečnik and his heritage, and it isn’t true we’ll demolish everything and only 5% of his work will be left. Every single brick will stay in the park.”

The Culture Ministry told the STA it was not familiar with the criminal complaint, and would comment on it once its teams examined the documents.

Both Pečečnik and OKS head Bogdan Gabrovec said that Prime Minister Janaz Janša and parliamentary parties had supported the BŠP project.

“I’m convinced Janša still supports it since BŠP is still on the priority list of important construction projects for post-pandemic recovery,” said Pečečnik.

BŠP is owned by Pečečnik’s company Elektronček (59%), as well as by the municipality of Ljubljana (28%) and the OKS (13%) as land owners. Over EUR 12.4 million has already been invested in the project.

Pečečnik is willing to transfer the project onto the state if it refunds the funds invested so far, yet under the condition that it is not given on to another investor.