Around 25,000 attend a massive protest against the Pointless New Airport – Notre-Dame-des-Landes
At another of the massive protests organised by the campaigners against the new airport, there were some 25,000 people, from across France. They came again, in huge numbers, from the 200 or so support committees across France and Belgium, who work to block the new airport. John Stewart attended and his blog about the event explains just how pointless the plan is to move the airport to this new site, closing down the existing Nantes airport, which is not even full. The new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes has become the most controversial environmental project in France. It is causing the Government of Francois Hollande a major headache. The (non-binding) referendum held on 26th June voted by a small majority for the new airport, but much of the pro vote was from areas some distance to the north, perhaps hoping for jobs or easier trips to the airport on holidays. The new airport is not being built to cope with high demand, or to avoid flights over Nantes. The economic case is very weak. Opponents feel the new airport is largely an ego project for local politicians. Work has to start before February 2017, when the planning consent runs out. There are fears there will be violent scenes – perhaps this autumn – when the army is likely to be called in to evict those defending the ZAD area. And all for such a pointless, seriously environmentally harmful, project with little real justification.
Photos of the gathering below.
The Pointless New Airport – Notre-Dame-des-Landes
July 12, 2016 (Hacan blog by John Stewart)
Even if you are a big fan of aviation, you’d be hard-pushed to back the proposed new airport outside Nantes in west France.
The huge numbers (possibly as many as 25,000) that turned up last weekend (9th and 10th July) to two days of protest highlighted once again why the plan to build the airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes has become the most controversial environmental project in France.
It is causing the Government of Francois Hollande a major headache. There are over 200 groups across Belgium and France which back the opponents of the airport and which carry out demonstrations in their own areas in support of them. There were violent scenes a few years ago when the French Police tried to evict some of the thousands of young activists who are camped in Le Zad on the site of the proposed new airport.
Hollande tried to get round his problem by calling a (non-binding) regional referendum this summer. People were asked to decide whether they wanted to retain the existing one-runway airport close to the city or back the new two-runway airport over 17 kilometres outside Nantes. Hundreds of thousands of people voted. The vote went 55% to 45% in favour of the new airport.
But, far from settling the issue as Holland had hoped, the breakdown of the result has highlighted the pointlessness of the new airport. The city of Nantes split 50/50 but the communities in the city close to the existing airport plus those under its flight path voted to keep it. They wanted to keep the jobs it provides and signalled that the flights to the half-empty airport are not a problem. The vote in favour of the new airport was swung by communities 20 – 50 kilometres north of Nantes, some of whom felt the new airport might provide them with jobs and others who believed it would be easier for them to get to than the exiting airport on the other side of the city.
So this is a major new airport, ‘Nantes International’, being proposed on prime farmland not to relieve congestion at the existing airport, nor in response to demands for noise relief for those under existing flight paths, nor even because Nantes is in the middle of nowhere; it is just two hours by train to Paris. And not because a convincing economic case has been made for it.
The justification for the new airport seems to be that it will act as a catalyst for economic growth in the west of France. Plonked in the middle of nowhere, the idea is will serve the surrounding towns, Nantes, Angers and Rennes, each of them many kilometres from the airport. But there are real doubts whether there are sufficient people in these medium-sized towns to sustain such a project.
Almost certainly, any realistic assessment of the market would rule out the airport. And the links to these towns from the new airport are unplanned. There may or may not be a rail link to Nantes. Rennes and Angers would be served by coaches! The campaigners claim that the airport has more to do with the egos of the local politicians than the needs of the local area.
The Government needs to start building the airport by February 2017 or the planning permission it got five years ago falls. That means it would need to start evicting the environmental activists in Le Zad (the Zone a Defendre) and the local farmers in the autumn. It recognizes that, given the scale of the opposition across France and beyond, it will require the army rather than the police to do so. It may be a battle it cannot win.
You don’t need to be an anti-aviation activist to be against this new airport.
No works. No expulsions. It is always NO to the airport. (Don’t touch my tree)
No expulsions. No works. No airport.
One tiny part of the crowd.
Speakers. Gaspillage means Waste.
Inside the main tent, listening to speeches
Sowing the seeds of democracy.
Hundreds of lanterns against the NDDL airport, and in memory of Rémi Fraisse, who died recently while opposing the building of a dam at Sivens, in the Garonne. Link
The “Free Ride” stall at the gathering. Leo Murray set up the campaign, to show how in the UK 70% of the flights are taken by only 15% of people. More airport capacity is generally to serve these very frequent fliers. They can fly so much because flying is artificially cheap, paying no fuel duty and no VAT.
The AirportWatch Europe stall at the gathering. http://www.airportwatcheurope.com/
AirportWatch Europe is a network of aviation and airport activists from across Europe concerned about the expansion of aviation.
Joint statement by the Nantes anti-airport movement at Notre-Dame-des-Landes
This is the joint statement of the anti-airport movement on Sunday night following the results of the consultation. “As was shown the various components of the movement, the setting, the process and the content of this consultation were fundamentally biased . This was based on a series of government lies and was radically unfair. There was no question for us that this is just one step in the long struggle for a future without an airport at Notre Dame des Landes. This struggle continues tonight. We know that the attacks of the government and pro-airport side will be strengthened. On our side, we will not cease to live, grow and protect this farmland. It will continue to be defended with great energy because it carries the ineradicable hopes today against the destruction of the living and the commodification of the world. We call on all supporters and committees throughout France and beyond to mobilize and be vigilant in the weeks and months ahead. There will not be an airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. We call in this sense, and in the first instance, for a massive convergence at Notre-Dame-des-Landes for a summer anti-airport gathering, on 9th and 10th July.”
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Notre-Dame-des-Landes referendum: 55% majority in favour of new airport – ACIPA fights on
There was a referendum in the Loire-Atlantique département on 26th June, with the question whether people backed the moving of the current Nantes-Atlantique airport south of Nantes, to a site north of Nantes, at Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Finally the voting was 55% in favour of the move. The area to be destroyed for the new airport is good farm land and valuable wetland habitat, and there has been fierce, determined opposition to the project for years. The local opposition, focused through ACIPA, was deeply critical of the way the referendum was organised. They believe areas other than just those in Loire-Atlantique should have been consulted. Some of these areas would be opposed to the move, and some have to contribute public funds towards it. The government wanted the poll as early as possible, as there is a “declaration of public utility” lasting till October, so work has to start by then. The prime minister, Manual Valls, made a statement as soon as the referendum result was known, that “the government will implement the verdict.” Those backing the new airport want to clear the protesters living illegally on the ZAD, some of the land on which the airport would be built, moved away soon, so clearing work can start. ACIPA said this result was just one step in their long struggle against the airport, and their struggle now continues.
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English translations of some videos explaining arguments against a new Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport
The local opposition around Nantes, to the building a new airport north of Nantes, have produced a series of short videos, setting out some of the issues. There will be a referendum on 26th June, for people in the area, on whether the existing airport, Nantes-Atlantique, should be closed and a new airport constructed at Notre Dame des Landes (NDDL). The opponents of the NDDL airport say, among other things: – The number of flights at Nantes has hardly grown in 10 years. – It is possible to slightly grow the current Nantes-Atlantique airport (just south of Nantes) and slightly extend the runway by 60 metres. – It is possible to take measures to slightly reduce the noise at the Nantes-Atlantique airport. – The new NDDL airpot would cost the taxpayer about €280 million. – There would be no more destinations from the new NDDL airport than from the Nantes-Atlantique airport. Germany has 45 airports, and France has 156 airports. – The NDDL airport would mean the destruction of 700 hectares of wetland and about 900 hectares of farmland. – Many protected species would be lost. – About 200 agriculture-associated jobs would be lost, and most of the alleged new jobs would just move from the old airport. – The costs to passengers will be higher at the NDDL airport. And there is a lot more. With English translations here.
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Local referendum on whether to move Nantes-Atlantique airport to Notre-Dame-des-Landes – 26th June
On 26th June there will be a consultation/referendum on the issue of whether the existing airport, Nantes-Atlantique, just south of Nantes should be moved to a site north of the town at Notre-Dame-des- Landes (NDDL). The government announced this referendum back in March.The question that will be asked is: “Do you support the proposed transfer of Nantes-Atlantique airport to the municipality of Notre-Dame-des-Landes?” The referendum is open to voters of the municipalities of Loire-Atlantique. Opponents are running an active campaign, to provide information to every potential voter and attending public meetings, with their spirit of quiet determination. Opponents, including local campaign ACIPA, say nobody asked for this referendum, and it does not in any way legitimize the airport project at NDDL, which they consider to be illegal, ruinous and destructive. They say the conditions for real democratic debate are not met; the area chosen for the referendum excludes some important local communities; the question is biased; and there is no guarantee of fair treatment of the opposition. They are not impressed that the Prime Minister has announced the start of work in the autumn, despite the referendum. They say the airport cannot proceed until various legal matters have been sorted out. There will be another huge anti-NDDL gathering on 9th and 10th July. “On a tous une bonne raison de voter NON.” (We all have a reason to vote NO.)
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