Utøya memorial stirs more conflict

Bookmark and Share

Construction of a memorial to victims of a right-wing extremist’s massacre on the island of Utøya continues to stir up more conflict with neighbours, who just lost another legal effort to halt the project. It’s reportedly also costing much more than an alternative proposal.

Construction has resumed on the new memorial to victims of the Utøya massacre on July 22, 2011. ILLUSTRATION: Statsbygg

Residents of the area just across from the island have been protesting construction  of a memorial in their area since shortly after the tragedy on July 22, 2011. They fear it will attract a constant stream of tourists and traffic to their community, and serve as a constant reminder of how 69 young Labour Party members were shot and killed and scores of others badly wounded. Several of the neighbour joined efforts to try to save them.

They were back in court last fall, claiming that construction of the memorial that finally was underway would cause them mental distress. They lost the lawsuit earlier this month and construction resumed.

The court ruled that consideration for establishing a memorial at Utøykaia, the pier from which the boat to the island leaves, weighed more heavily than the negative effects for those suing. They avoided having to pay court costs but that was little comfort.

Less costly alternative
While they now consider yet another appeal, documents obtained by state broadcaster NRK show that an alternative site for the memorial that would have been acceptable for the residents also would have been much less expensive for the state. The current project is costing an estimated NOK 500 million, most of which is going towards building a new road down to the pier.

Artist Thomas Klevjer notes that the alternative site higher up the hill, not far from the E16 highway and with a clear view towards the island was supported by the neighbours. It involved construction of an artistic, ramp-like viewing platform near the highway that would only have required new exits from the existing highway. Anders Hagerup, a section chief for state highway department Statens vegvesen, told NRK that would have cost around NOK 100 million.

Nikolai Astrup, the government minister now in charge of the project, claimed budgets have been evaluated, the Parliament has approved construction of the memorial at the pier and it’s too late now to consider other alternatives. Astrup said they likely would have sparked some conflicts too, and now it’s mostly important that the memorial is finished in time for the 10-year anniversary of the tragedy.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund