Eiffel Tower building plan abandoned over loss of 20 trees

Under the initial scheme, around 20 mature trees would have been cut down around the Eiffel Tower - SARAH MEYSSONNIER /Reuters
Under the initial scheme, around 20 mature trees would have been cut down around the Eiffel Tower - SARAH MEYSSONNIER /Reuters

Paris’ Socialist mayor has abandoned plans for new buildings around the foot of the Eiffel Tower after months of protests from environmentalists and a petition signed by nearly 150,000 people.

Under the initial scheme, around 20 mature trees would have been cut down, while four new buildings housing a cafe, shops, toilets and baggage drop-off were set to be built.

"I am announcing that we are completely cancelling any construction project at the foot of the tower but the re-landscaping is maintained," deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told the Journal du Dimanche.

A high-profile drive to save the trees, including protests and objections from local residents, had already prompted Mayor Anne Hidalgo to about-turn on cutting them down in May.

On Monday, Mr Grégoire confirmed that the four new buildings would also be scrapped.

However, a much larger project to re-organise the space around the tourist attraction will go ahead. That will see roads and public areas planted with grass and shrubs.

Artist impression shows the proposed redevelopment project between the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower in Paris - AFP
Artist impression shows the proposed redevelopment project between the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower in Paris - AFP

"We are not giving into pressure but we would like that the project is not overshadowed by controversy. Let's just say that we are removing some of the friction," said Mr Grégoire.

An area of 133 acres around the tower, currently crisscrossed by several roads, will be largely turned over to pedestrians and "low-impact transportation" such as bus and bike lanes.

Municipal authorities in the City of Lights are aiming to complete as much of the huge makeover as possible in time for the Paris Olympic Games in 2024.

Overall, seven million people visit the Eiffel Tower each year.

An estimated 150,000 people visit the tower site every day during the summer high season, including the 20,000 to 30,000 who climb the tower itself.

Campaigners were delighted that the plans for new buildings had been dropped and the trees saved.

"We're satisfied for now but we remain vigilant," said Thomas Brail from the National Surveillance Group for Trees, which took part in a coalition of groups opposed to the plans.