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In fresh blow to Nobels, Swedish court blocks plans for new centre

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – A Swedish court on Tuesday blocked the building of a new Nobel centre which is meant to showcase one of the world’s most famed prizes, but whose plans have sparked royal indignation, political spats and the ire of a local business tycoon.

The Nobel Center, which was to be constructed in Stockholm’s picturesque old harbour, was expected to become the new location for the annual ceremonies at which the prestigious awards are made for science and the arts.

But Sweden’s Land and Environmental Court ruled on Tuesday that it would not allow building to go ahead, saying in a statement that the plans would damage a cultural heritage site, inconvenience neighbouring property and did not address traffic issues.

The verdict comes at a tumultuous time for the Nobel prize after the Swedish Academy decided against awarding the literature prize this year after a sexual misconduct scandal that caused turmoil in its ranks.

The centre, which would have been financially backed by Swedish icons like the main owner of retail giant Hennes & Mauritz as well as the Wallenberg family, was intended to host exhibitions and seminars about the Nobels and most probably be the venue for the prize ceremonies.

The Nobel ceremonies are currently held at the Stockholm concert hall.

It was to be built in an area that features some of Stockholm’s most emblematic and historic buildings, such as the National Museum, in an upscale district of harbour-side restaurants and bars and bobbing yachts.

“We are disappointed about this verdict … We believe it will be a fantastic new place and meeting point in Stockholm, so we don’t see this as the end,” Ylva Lageson, CEO of Nobelhuset AB, which was tasked to construct, own and manage the centre told Reuters.

The Stockholm City Council had approved the plans after they were revised to reduce the size of the planned building.

Businessman Fredrik Lundberg, often referred to as Sweden’s Warren Buffett, had objected to the scale of the building, citing concerns about the sea view from his nearby offices and the value of their century-old properties.

In the past, others opposing its construction have included the National Museum, who would have been a neighbour, and King Carl XVI Gustaf, who presents the Nobel prizes and who has also voiced criticism of the plans.

Jan Valeskog, Stockholm city councillor in charge of construction in the capital, said in a statement that the city would appeal against the ruling.

“The Nobel Center is an important project that has great cultural and economic importance for the entire Stockholm region,” he said.

The city council has until June 12 to make its appeal.

(Reporting by Esha Vaish; editing by Niklas Pollard and Richard Balmforth)

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