Norway’s highest court ruled Friday that the US Embassy in Oslo can move to a disputed new site at Huseby, northwest of downtown. Neighbors, environmentalists and outdoors enthusiasts lost a five-year battle to retain the site as open space.
“I’m sad,” said Margrethe Geelmuyden, who led the fight to block the embassy’s move.“I respect the verdict, but see that our legal rights aren’t as strong as I’d thought.”
The high court (Høyesterett) allowed a city rezoning decision to stand, even though city officials had committed errors in the process. Those errors had given Geelmuyden’s group hope that the rezoning decision would be struck down, even though they already had lost at the local and appeals levels.
Instead the embassy now has a green light to start construction on a new complex that will replace its 50-year-old building on the fringe of Oslo’s downtown. The embassy is considered a terrorist target and its current location has created controversy for years.
The existing chancellery already had won permission to build a high fence around the property and eliminate a lane of traffic on the busy street where it’s located. Embassy officials had threatened to demand further security measures if the court ruled against the move.
The new embassy site will cover a large expanse of currently undeveloped land adjacent to the headquarters for the Royal Norwegian Guards. Embassy officials have long promised that they will try to be good neighbors.