Settlement agreement spells end of Freiburg’s stadium restrictions

German Bundesliga football club SC Freiburg has hailed a resolution in a long-standing legal dispute which has meant gameday operations have been substantially restricted at its new Europa-Park Stadion.

Freiburg played its first game in the 34,700-seat stadium, a test match against 2. Bundesliga outfit St. Pauli, back on October 7, but since that point it has been unable to stage evening games, or matches on Sunday afternoons, with only national and international cup competitions being the exception.

This has stemmed from a long-running dispute connected to noise pollution, which has today (Wednesday) been ended by way of a settlement. The legal dispute was between six plaintiffs from the Mooswald district of Freiburg im Breisgau and Stadion Freiburg Objektträger, the joint stadium company operated by the club and the City of Freiburg.

Today’s announcement ends disagreements that began with a referendum of the stadium project back in 2015, and comes after Mayor Martin Horn recently approached the plaintiffs and offered talks for an out-of-court settlement.

Horn said: “We have mutually found a common and good way into the future. Both sides can live well with the fair agreement. I would like to thank everyone involved, especially the plaintiffs. I am pleased that a long-standing conflict is now being resolved in this way.”

In November 2018, the six residents from the Mooswald district filed a complaint with the Administrative Court of Freiburg against the building permit for the stadium granted by the Regional Council of Freiburg (RP).

They claimed their rights as neighbours would be violated by the new stadium, in particular due to the expected noise from sporting events. The Administrative Court partially agreed with the residents in the urgent proceedings against the building permit, which were carried out before the stadium was completed, with regard to the approved scope of use.

Now that the stadium has been completed and games have commenced, those involved have agreed on a settlement. Included in the settlement is a commitment from the City not to build on the approximately 10 hectare forest area between Paduaallee/Granadaallee and Im Rehwinkel, and Obere Lachen and the railway line, over the next 30 years.

Instead, they have committed to lobby the higher nature conservation authority in the RP to integrate this forest area into the existing one including a bird sanctuary. Furthermore, the City of Freiburg is providing a budget of €100,000 (£84,322/$114,316) for the renovation and modernisation of playgrounds and meeting places in the Mooswald district.

In addition, further restrictions on use were guaranteed for a period of 10 years. In particular, the Europa-Park Stadion cannot be converted for use as a multi-functional venue, while no large concerts or open-air cinema events with more than 5,000 spectators may be held in the parking lots and open spaces in the vicinity of the stadium.

Methods to ease traffic congestion on matchdays were also discussed. The settlement has yet to be approved by the City Council, but due to preliminary political agreements broad approval is expected.

Horn said: “There are neither winners nor losers here – both sides have approached each other. We know about the special situation of the residents of the Mooswald and have found reasonable solutions for it.”

Oliver Leki, SC Freiburg board member, added: “I am delighted with the settlement that we have found, which gives us important planning security.

“Good neighbourly relations in the entire district are very important to us. Our thanks go to the mediating initiative of the Lord Mayor and to everyone involved who contributed to this result.”

Image: Thorbjörn Jörger/CC BY-SA 3.0 DE/Edited for size