A campaign to transform an abandoned former Rīga cycle track into a public park have been thwarted after Latvia’s intelliegence service announced it had hitherto secret plans would build a new headquarters on the site.
Rather than the tweeting of birds and the scrabbling of squirrels, it will be the whispering of secret agents and the restrained swish of classified files being passed from trenchcoat to briefcase that will be heard at the Brivibas iela site.
“According to a government decision in 2017, construction of the State Security Service (VDD) building at 207 Brivibas Street in Riga is planned to begin this year,” the State Security Department said.
For weeks now a signature drive has been under way from civic-minded activists campaigning for the seemingly abandoned site to be turned into a much-needed public park in the Teika district of Latvia which is currently short of such facilities. More than 15,000 people had signed the online petition in favor of creating a park and activists had even drawn up impressive-looking images of their dreamed-for park.
However, it seems all that effort was for nothing and the VDD had already had plans approved to develop the site – but being a secret service it had kept the plans secret.
“Until now, the VDD was not entitled to disclose information regarding the construction of the building in order not to violate the norms of the Law On State Secrets. In view of the public interest, it was decided to declassify some of the information on the planned VDD development project,” the spooks said.
Atbilstoši 2017. gadā pieņemtam valdības lēmumam Rīgā, Brīvības gatvē 207 ir plānota Valsts drošības dienesta ēkas būvniecība, kas tiks sākta jau šogad. Vairāk: https://t.co/meeCkn0kON pic.twitter.com/9PO55MXSQX
— Valsts drošības dienests (@Valsts_drosiba) January 22, 2020
“Currently, the VDD is located in a number of buildings and the premises at the disposal of the service are worn out. In view of technological developments and increasing security challenges, the current facilities of the VDD will, in the foreseeable future, become inadequate… For this reason, the service needs new, suitable facilities to respond to today’s security challenges,” the VDD said.
Construction of the new building is planned to start this year, it added. A new building was discussed as early as 2008 but put on hold in 2009.
“Over the years, the need for new and up-to-date premises for the service became increasingly urgent, until August 3, 2017, when the government decided to grant funding for the construction of the VDD building at 207 Brivibas gatve, Riga,” the VDD said.
Since then, “intensive work” has been carried out on the implementation of the VDD building project, despite the appearance of being derelict and in an extremely shabby state, it insisted.
“It should be noted that the design of a special service building in relation to the high security requirements is specific, complex and time consuming,” is added, in what sounded almost like an excuse.
“The public has been mislead by the spread of information that there could have been a park planned in the area. The area in question has never been designated as a green area or a park in urban development planning documents.”
It should be noted that according to the binding regulations of the Riga City Council on the use and building of the Riga Territory (No 34 of the Riga Territory Use and Building Regulations of December 20, 2005), only perimeter building is possible at a specific location. facades of adjacent buildings.
Regarding the possibility of rebuilding an unused, state-owned building in accordance with the needs of the special service and the protection of state secrets as well as NATO and EU classified information, this would be technically more complex and also expensive than rebuilding a new building. Therefore, the construction of a new building is the optimal solution, both financially and in terms of security.
Misleading information that the brownfield is “full of centuries-old trees” is also public. At present, most of the area is covered by thick overgrown thickets. The large oak tree as well as several other trees in the area will be preserved. Some of the trees would interfere with construction work, so they will need to be disposed of during construction. At the same time, compensatory measures have already been included in the construction project, namely, new trees will be planted around the building.