Plans unveiled for a ‘new’ Utøya

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As Norway’s maximum prison term officially took effect for convicted terrorist Anders Behring Breivik just before the weekend, the leader of the Labour Party youth group that Breivik attacked was unveiling plans for how it planned to redevelop its island of Utøya. Breivik killed 69 persons on the island last year, and youth group AUF remains determined “to take it back” and bring new life to it.

The island known as "Utøya" will get a NOK 60 million facelift under AUF's redevelopment plans. PHOTO: AUF

The current plan is to turn Utøya into “Norway’s leading course- and camp ground for youth.” Architects have unveiled designs for a new central square featuring a clock tower and conference center with a new dining hall, kitchen and bazaar area, new piers, new overnight accommodation, an upgrade of current facilities, a new stage for concerts cultural events, new athletic fields and, not least, a monument to victims of last year’s attacks.

Eskil Pedersen, the leader of AUF (Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking), said the group wants to return to Utøya and once again arrange summer camps on the island.

“We think that’s the best way to honour the victims,” said Pedersen, who was on the island himself when Breivik started carrying out his massacre but fled on board the island’s only ferry.

A new central square with conference center is among the planned changes. PHOTO: AUF

Not everyone agrees, with some survivors claiming that the island should be left in peace and that it wouldn’t feel right to hold new summer camps on Utøya. Some families of victims feel the same, but support group leader Trond Henry Blattmann said his group has been “in dialogue” with AUF leaders. He told news bureau NTB that plans for a monument on the island “look very nice.” He was also relieved that no camp will be held on July 22 itself, the date of last year’s attacks, with that date reserved for memorials only.

Pedersen conceded that there’s been disagreement over plans for the island. “We know that some of the families and survivors don’t want us to use the island again,” he told newspaper Dagsavisen. “But we don’t want the island to simply become overgrown and abandoned.”

The redevelopment plans, which include tearing down the café building where 13 persons were gunned down, are expected to cost NOK 60 million. AUF already has received NOK 40 million in donations and hopes to raise the rest through donations as well.

“Utøya is the heart of the labour movement,” Pedersen said about the island that features prominently in a new documentary about political commitment among Norwegian youth. AUF leaders wrote on their website that they were “very grateful for all the donations that give us the possibility to revive Utøya as a place where youth can still meet for political discussions.”

Breivik, meanwhile, has officially started serving his maximum 21-year prison term in Norway that may be extended into a life sentence. Questions remained whether he’ll be allowed to continue using a computer in prison, where he’s being held in isolation. Police wanted to take it away but now corrections officials may let him keep it, since he’s expressed a desire to study political science. He earlier has said he wants to write three books. His computer, however, has not been hooked up to the Internet, to control his communications.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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