French court rules against environmental challenges by opponents of new Nantes airport

On 17th July the Administrative Tribunal of Nantes rejected all appeals by opponents of the new airport to be built at Notre Dame des Landes.  The legal challenge was on two areas of environmental law, on destruction of wetlands and movement of protected species.  It ruled that the project  does not pose environmental concerns.  This was one of the last legal confrontations between opponents and supporters of the transfer of Nantes-Atlantique airport to the village of Notre-Dame-des-Landes (building a new airport there instead, to be called L’aeroport du Grand Ouest).  This battle has been going on since the plan was first proposed in 1967.  Those wanting the new airport hope work could start very soon, but Europe Ecologie-Les Verts believe appeals are not yet completed and work on the airport cannot resume. The “zadistes” (ZAD – Zone À Défendre) have been occupying the site for 5 years, and farmers hostile to the project do not intend to give up. Opponents of the airport  ACIPA and CEDPA) also intend to appeal and challenge with a prefectural order for the protection of the water vole. There are also problems of crested or marbled newts, great horned beetles and the floating plantain, an endangered water plant. In addition the CGT trade union is opposed to the new airport believing that modifying the old airport is a better option.



Notre-Dame-des-Landes : la justice rejette tous les recours contre l’aéroport

Notre-Dame-des-Landes: justice dismissed all actions against the airport

17.7.2015 (Le Monde, France)

Poor translation into English from the original French:

It was one of the last legal confrontations between opponents and supporters of the transfer of Nantes-Atlantique airport to the village of Notre-Dame-des-Landes (building a new airport there instead, to be called L’aeroport du Grand Ouest).

On Friday, July 17, the Administrative Tribunal of Nantes rejected all appeals by opponents of the new airport to cancel two environmental laws enacted by the Loire-Atlantique Prefect allowing the developer (Vinci Airports) to destroy wetlands and move protected species, prior to the work. The court therefore dismissed the appeals filed “By fourteen judgments against the decisions taken by the prefect of Loire-Atlantique in the context of achieving the Grand Ouest Airport project at Notre Dame des-Landes, declared of public utility by decree of 9 February 2008.”

Magistrates transfer thereby the very old case dossier – the site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes was chosen in 1967 – to politicians. The government has often stated that the runway would begin as early as the ultimate judgement. The Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, has therefore immediately welcomed the decision of the court, “which should lead to the resumption of work” .

Europe Ecology-The Greens believe that a call by opponents of the project is “legitimate and necessary” , appeals are not yet completed and “the work cannot resume.” The party believes that “Any contrary decision of the executive would be a provocation.”

It is still an issue that remains at high risk: the “zadistes” have been occupying the site for five years, and farmers hostile to the project do not intend to give up.


Read the report: Notre-Dame-des-Landes: for opponents, the airport project is contrary to the objectives of COP21

The Water Vole is invited into the debate

Opponents of the airport – the intermunicipal citizen Association of populations affected by the airport project (ACIPA), the Collective of elected representatives doubting the appropriateness of the airport (CEDPA), etc. – also intend to challenge a prefectural order that is in preparation for a protected species, the water vole. Forgotten in the previous text, the little rodent which appreciates the wetland area of Nantes, has invited itself into the debate.

In early April, the National Nature Conservation Council (CNPN), an advisory body of the Ministry of Ecology has issued an unfavorable opinion (and Advisory) on the request for exemption to the prohibition of destruction of this protected species. “This adverse opinion by CNPN reinforces the views of naturalists, refers to the weak record of the airport project on the environment and weakens the position of the State and of Vinci” , noted François Beaulieu, a member of the group of naturalists fighting the airport project.

On the side of the prefecture, it is argued that the draft decree on the water vole is ready. “This problem must be ruled on before any work can commence; it takes about a month of public consultation, considers Stéphan Ribou, the sub-prefect in charge of the case of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. Apart from this particular point, if all is validated by the court on Friday, the project restarts.”

Besides the problem voles, crested or marbled newts, great horned beetles or even flûteaux nageants (the floating plantain, an endangered water plant ), and of moving them, which can only be done at certain times of year, opponents of the arguments have rested ultimately on economically and social arguments.

Reinforcement of the CGT

Vue aérienne du site où doit être construit l’aéroport international de Notre-Dame-des-Landes, prise le 11 mai 2013.

Aerial view of the site is to be built where the international airport of Notre-Dame-des-Landes, taken on 11 May 2013. JEAN-SEBASTIEN EVRARD / AFP

The transfer of Nantes-Atlantique Airport in the town of Bouguenais, 10 km south-west of Nantes, to Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 20 km north of the town, is not necessary – according to them. In their demonstration of the viability of the current airport, they just received a weighty and rather unexpected reinforcement: the CGT Loire-Atlantique. [The CGT is the General Confederation of Labour (French: Confédération générale du travail, CGT) a major trade union].

Union activists have put out a leaflet and a brochure explaining the choice, at the national gathering of opponents in Vigneux-de-Bretagne, over the weekend of July 11th and 12th. For four years, the CGT has studied all facets of the airport issue. The union sums the situation up saying: “The maintenance of the airport on the current site, with all the necessary improvements (…), has more advantages than the construction of a new airport at Notre -Dame-des-Landes.”

This rally, which has hardly enchanted the local Communist Party, which supports the new airport project, echoes the intense work done by the opponents. The Citizen Workshop, which has brought together over seven months individuals, expert or not, has published two books, “Economy and jobs” and “Finance”, the findings, they say, without appeal. “We scoured every detail of the financial model presented by Vinci and we show that, keeping to the old airport, and modifying it, everybody wins: the state, Vinci, communities, and therefore citizens,” explains Jean-Marie Ravier, an entrepreneur committedly against the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport plan.

“Maintaining Nantes-Atlantique is not an option we are considering,” retorted Eric Delobel, deputy general manager of the future airport of du Grand Ouest at NDDL.”Our mission as the company holding the concession is to work to achieve the transfer of this airport.”
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The original article in French is at:

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The main protest group said:

Recourse to Law on water and protected species: opponents appeal the decisions of the Administrative Tribunal


It is with disappointment that the ACIPA and CEDPA  are aware of the decisions of the Administrative Tribunal to dismiss all legal remedies in the water, protected species and DUP viaire program.

It is paradoxical that these decisions are opposite to those made ​​yesterday by the Grenoble Administrative Court for Roybon, while water law issues are similar and that the compensation is not defined in Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

In decisions of the Administrative Tribunal of Nantes, expert opinions are removed, alternatives are not seriously investigated, and the effectiveness of compensatory measures are ignored.

These elements justify that we appeal in the coming weeks.

In any case, the work cannot start.  Many permits are still required (clearing, water vole, building permits …) we recall Francois Hollande commitments not to expel the inhabitants and the farmers and not to start the work (whether on the road or the bar on the platform): ”  As long as the remedies are not exhausted, the project can be launched é “.

For the record, the planned extension of the Nantes-Saint-Nazaire port, east of Donges, was abandoned in 2009 following the cancellation of the judgement Appeal Administrative Court.

After the massive citizen mobilization of 11 and 12 July, the citizen fight, political and legal continue.

We call on the committees of support [there are committees in numerous places across France, opposing the airport plans] and all opponents of the project to the utmost vigilance.

We will not allow the destruction of Notre Dame des Landes, or the expulsion of its inhabitants!



France’s Valls announces return to work on Nantes airport

Demonstrations against the construction of the airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes in front of the administrative court of Nantes on 18 June 2015.

Demonstrations against the construction of the airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes in front of the administrative court of Nantes on 18 June 2015.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that construction will resume at the highly controversial airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes near the northwestern city of Nantes.

The €580-million project has divided government officials, citizens and activists in a series of clashes, triggering a halt to construction at the end of 2012.

A French tribunal rejected appeals against the environmental components of the project on Friday, ruling that it does not pose environmental concerns.

Moreover, the government highlights the construction of the airport would benefit the public by improving road access in the area.

Though Jean-Marc Ayrault, ex-prime minister and ex-mayor of Nantes, is on the frontline of defence alongside the government and local officials, it has posed issues for the Socialist-Green alliance.

The project has divided government officials such as The Ecology Party EELV’s national secretary, Emmanuellle Cosse, and Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal, who have voiced their opposition to the project.

Cosse tweeted on Friday that the rush to relaunch the works straight away once again reveals the government’s motivation to force the project forward.

Activist groups, notably the ACIPA, and the loose-knit anarchist collective known as the Zadistes, claim it is an unjustified cause as it will be detrimental to the environment and wasteful use of government funds.

The crux of the issue arose during violent clashes between protestors and the police in February 2014.

The black-clad zadiste rioters smashed shop windows with stones, bottles and flares as police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The project was approved in 2008, with an initial budget of 580 million euros and the end of construction is pushed back to 2019 at the earliest.




See also:

Many thousands of determined opponents of new Nantes airport gather before final court decision

Over the weekend of 11th and 12th July there was a massive gathering at Notre Dame des Landes, in western France, to show the strong opposition to the building of a new runway there, to replace the current Nantes airport. This “mobilisation” is the 15th that the organisers, ACIPA, have put on over the years. It was estimated that perhaps 15,000 people attended over the two days. People at Nantes are very aware of the carbon and climate implications of a new airport, as well as serious local environmental destruction. They also link the Nantes campaign with other huge infrastructure projects across Europe, that would be damaging in terms of carbon emissions – such as a new runway in the UK. There is a desire to link up campaigns against such developments. The gathering combined a lot of workshops and education sessions with fun, with music, dancing and food -but with a very serious message. On Friday 17th July the Nantes Administrative Court will rule on the last 17 appeals by opponents of the airport project, on several environmental issues in contention with EU law, such as on water law and destruction of protected species. It is thought the court will rule against the opponents,but they will appeal. These legal issues are all that is holding up building of the airport.

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