Poland’s mysterious modern castle could face demolition: reports

Photo: Twitter/PikuśPOL

According to a newspaper report, Poland’s Environment Minister is likely to order the demolition of a massive castle constructed near the village of Stobnica, western Poland, which has sparked huge controversy due to its possible environmental impact.

The monumental 15-storey structure is situated on a partially man-made island on Lake Stobnica in the Notecka Forest, amidst an area designated as a nature reserve under the EU’s Natura 2000 program. The mock medieval structure was originally rumored to be a hotel, but the developer later announced it would serve as a luxury residential complex with around 50 opulent apartments in total. Featuring a 48 m (157 ft) tower, the structure may have been intended to imitate the historical styles of the Middle Ages, yet reports suggest that it may in fact become history itself once the Environment Ministry completes its investigation.

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Under siege

The castle became the subject of intense public scrutiny after it was discovered earlier this year that the structure is being built in a nature reserve. Aerial photos showed the construction to be in the advanced stages, which some deemed rather curious given that Poland’s environmental groups usually waste no time to act whenever controversial development plans come to light, yet in the castle’s case no objections had been filed. After a brief period of wild speculations – some even stating that the castle belongs to the late billionaire Jan Kulczyk, who died in 2015 but whom some conspiracy theorists have since proclaimed to have somehow faked his own death – it was ultimately revealed that the faux-medieval fortress is being built by Poznań-based company DJT.

“I have ordered an urgent inspection of the process of giving building permission. The protection of Polish nature is an essential matter and all proceedings regarding such issues shall be led in a transparent manner, leaving no place for doubt,” the Environment Minister was quoted as saying back in July. According to a report by one of Poland’s dailies, it now appears that a demolition order is “the most likely scenario”, given that the castle’s construction may have violated various provisions on environmental protection.

Earlier enquiries revealed possible irregularities concerning the favorable decision on environmental impact assessment which allowed the project to go ahead. The co-author of the environmental report admitted to knowing the investor’s family on a personal level. He denied accusations that any conflict of interest existed and claimed to have refused to accept any payment for his work on the report, although he also admitted in an interview that his institute received regular shipments of animal feed from the investor’s father.

The report’s co-author came under intense scrutiny after it was found that he had earlier been one of the most vocal opponents of the government’s tree felling scheme intended to prevent the spread of bark beetle in one of Poland’s primeval forests.

It was also revealed that certain links had existed between the investor’s company and various environmentalist groups, which, some believed, may have explained how the massive project went unnoticed for so long. Reporters have found out that members of the management board of one of these groups, an NGO called Poland’s Fauna, included both the aforementioned academic who co-authored the report and the father of the investor.

Poland’s prosecution service and anti-corruption agency are looking into the matter as well, even though the investor continues to deny any suggestions of illegal conduct, including those concerning the alleged temporary draining of the lake in order to create an artificial islet on which the castle is believed to stand. According to newspaper reports, Poland’s Environment Ministry is expected to decide on the controversial castle’s fate sometime later this week.