Voters reject Weber’s Lavaux protection plan

Voters reject Weber’s Lavaux protection plan
Photo: Caroline Bishop/The Local
Voters in the canton of Vaud on Sunday said no to a bid by environmental crusader Franz Weber to further protect the historic Lavaux vineyard region, east of Lausanne.

Around two-thirds of citizens casting ballots in the referendum favored a more moderate counter-project from the government that also aims to guard against harmful development in the region, designated a Unesco heritage site.

The cantonal government argued that Weber went too far with his proposal, which would have protected traditional buildings while severely limiting construction in residential zones.

The canton said Weber’s proposal would have made it virtually impossible to erect new buildings for economic activity, including wineries and hotels, as well as public facilities such as seniors’ homes, schools, daycare centres and cultural spaces.

Weber, 86, a former journalist who studied at the Sorbonne University in Paris, successfully pushed earlier initiatives in 1977 and 2005 to protect the region, known for its quaint villages and steep terraced vineyard slopes overlooking Lake Geneva.

In his latest “Save Lavaux” campaign, backed by environmental groups Pro Natura and WWF, he said more restrictions were needed to prevent real estate speculation from ruining Lavaux.

But opponents, including wine growers, all the major political parties and the municipalities in the region of 14,000 people, agreed with the government that this time Weber was going too far.

“Supporters of ‘Save Lavaux’ failed to be convincing on the fact that celebrated wine region, of which the vineyards are already untouchable, needed an extra layer of protection,” Le Temps newspaper said.

Weber acknowledged the result, noting that the government’s counter-proposal was a determining factor, the newspaper reported.

“Many people were tempted by the middle of the road (approach),” he said.

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