Tycoon's builders knock down French chateau 'by mistake'

Builders working for a Russian tycoon have demolished his 18th century chateau in southwestern France, apparently by mistake, sparking uproar among local residents.

Local officials said the picturesque Chateau de Bellevue in the southwestern French town of Yvrac was torn down over two days on November 26 and 27 by Polish builders working for its owner Dmitry Stroskin.

Stroskin bought the chateau in 2010 planning to turn it into a holiday home and presented the municipality with "a lovely renovation plan" to restore it, local official Lise Mattiazzo said.

Stroskin obtained permission for the renovation of the building's exterior and pool, and the construction of a pool house.

But instead workers from a Polish firm hired to do the renovation razed the building, Mattiazzo said, with Stroskin insisting it had been a mistake and that he had only wanted a separate smaller building knocked down.

Interviewed by local newspaper Sud Ouest, Stroskin said he was "in shock" from the incident and insisted he never had any intention of having the building razed. He said he would rebuild an identical chateau in its place.

But local residents have alleged the building was knocked down on purpose, noting that Stroskin had raised concerns about the depth of the chateau's foundations.

Local authorities have sent prosecutors a complaint for building code violations, in relation to both the demolition and the start of reconstruction, which has begun with the same firm that knocked the chateau down.