Work on the new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes might start by early next year
In 2008 plans to build a new airport for Nantes, 20 miles north of the city at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, were approved. The plan is to move the airport from its current site to the south of the city, Nantes Atlantique Airport, and build over farmland and wetlands, that are rich in wildlife and have good agriculture. The new “Aéroport du Grand Ouest” is intended to be a “gateway to western France” with up to 9 million passengers per year by 2050. For that tiny number, it wants two runways. It has been bitterly opposed for years, and while it was originally to open in 2014, work may now eventually start soon. Opponents have done everything they could to stop it, including huge occupations of parts of the site, scuffles with the authorities that sometimes turned unpleasant, a hunger strike, and recourse to legal challenges on European law. Finally it seems all legal avenues have been exhausted. The Prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic announced in effect that work on the airport will start, and a call for tenders has been launched. Compensation will have to be paid to those having their land expropriated, and environmental mitigation will have to be done – including protection of water voles. There are still people (zadistes) occupying shacks on part of the site, and they would have to be removed. Opponents do not believe any work can start yet. They say the airport is not needed, it is not consistent with climate targets, and the damage to farmland and habitats cannot be justified.
For more news about the battle against the airport, over many years, see
Airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes: The State undertakes resumption
The prefecture has launched calls for tenders prior to the work on the site of Notre-Dame-des-Landes …
After months of stagnation, the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project moves forward. This Friday night, the State, through the Prefecture of the Loire-Atlantic, announced in effect that it “committed the resumption of work.” The call for tenders has been launched, for procedures for enterprises.
“The State asked the project owners of the future airport and its road access to implement the steps that will start work. This is reflected in particular by the settlement of compensation for expropriation, the resumption of relations with businesses and the launch of specialized markets. Meanwhile, the State continues the conduct of the administrative procedures, including those relating to the water voles and Environmental Assessment of the project, in strict compliance with national and Community law, ” the prefecture announced in a statement.
What about the Zad? [Zone a défendre]
On July 17, 2015, the Administrative Court of Nantes dismissed the actions committed by opponents of the transfer of the Nantes Atlantique airport to the site of Notre Dame des Landes. The prefect explained that the “prime minister has confirmed the operational continuation of this transfer project. ”
No calendar dates have, for now, been revealed. The prefecture has also been careful not to rule on the possible eventual deportation of the Zad occupiers of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. (see article copied below).
The Aéroport du Grand Ouest Project is a planned new airport, to be situated 30 km (20 mi) to the north-west of the French city of Nantes in the commune of Notre-Dame-des-Landes. It is intended that the new airport will replace Nantes Atlantique Airport as the airport for Nantes, but also serve as an international gateway for western France.
The €580 million project was approved in February 2008, with construction expected to start in 2014 and an opening date in 2017. Initially the airport will have a capacity of four million passengers a year, increasing to nine million by 2050. This compares with the current capacity at Nantes Atlantique of three million passengers a year, a capacity that it is claimed cannot be increased because of the proximity of the airport to the city centre (a distance of only 8 km (5 mi)). Opponents claim that Nantes Atlantique can increase its capacity to 4 millions passengers a year.
The airport has been met with strong opposition, notably led by The Greens, Ségolène Royal and Arnaud Montebourg, even though the French Socialist Partysupports it. Also various groups have set up numerous protest camps and squats around the area that will be build upon known as the “ZAD” (acronym of “Zone à défendre“) which means zone to be defended in English, ZAD is inspired by the French sentence “Zone d’aménagement différé“.
Local group ACIPA say work cannot start yet on the airport.
Planned airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes deemed one of Europe’s “Grands Projets Inutiles et Imposés”
While the authorities in Loire Atlantique are hoping to start work on the new Nantes airport, to be built over good farmland and wetland at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, (NDDL)opponents say this is premature. While the French Prime Minister, Manual Valls, is keen for work to get started, the main opposition group to the airport plan – ACIPA – say President François Hollande has recently confirmed that the legal challenges should be allowed to run their course. There are still some procedures to go through. Opponents produced a huge beach art protest – writing in the sand: ” Pour le climat, pas d’aeroport a Notre-Dame-des-Landes.” ACIPA points out that when the airport and its backers say they will be “resuming” work on the site, they never in fact started. ACIPA also points out that the tendering for work contract is also a PR thing, as various administrative permits must first be obtained. The new NDDL airport is being considered as one of a class of Grands Projets Inutiles et Imposés – big unnecessary imposed projects – along with HS2 in the UK, a new high-speed Lyon-Turin line, gold mining using cyanide in Romania, and a high speed rail line in the Basque Country. A people’s tribunal in Turin will look at all these cases to reach a joint decision that will have ethical, moral, political value, in the broadest sense.
Notre-Dame-des-Landes: towards a resumption in 2016
Nearly three years after the complete stoppage of work to build an airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes near Nantes, due to legal and opposition guerrillas in the field of opponents, the state officially announced yesterday a recovery in 2016.
By Willy Colin(France 3 TV)
The project proponents are hoping for the first aircraft movements in 2017.
The announcement of the prefecture of Loire-Atlantique, following the statements to this effect by Manuel Valls, was preceded on Monday by launching a tender for “clearing works, restoration of fences and access road serving “l’aéroport du grand ouest à Nantes “, maturing on November 23th, 2015 for work” in 2016 “.
A speed that contrasts with the many delays that have gradually delayed by three years the airport that was meant to be a public utility in 2008 and originally scheduled to open in 2017. It is 10 km north of Nantes, to replace the existing Nantes Atlantique Airport located south of the city.
Intervention in October 2012
The first major intervention of the forces of law and order was launched in October 2012 with more than a thousand gendarmes.
One after the other farms or squatter huts were evicted and demolished, but by November 24, 2012, the government headed by former Socialist mayor of Nantes Jean-Marc Ayrault had suspended all operations.
There was then a “commission dialogue” but also (qu’aboutissent) delays caused by the many legal appeals, filed by opponents systematically at all stages of the project. While proponents of the airport, foremost among which local authorities of Loire-Atlantique and Nantes, waited impatiently for resumption of the plan, the wooded wetland (zone humide bocagère) some of 1,600 hectares dedicated to the project only saw the construction of several dozen new cabins by anticapitalist opponents..
There are between 100 and 300 opponents installed on site, joined at each attempt at Intervention by an opposition of “institutional” farmers around the country through the peasant farmer Confederation, elected representatives and ecologists.
Some 200 anti “NDDL” committees spread throughout France in 2012.
The “Holding Zones” demarcated in the 70s for this project that has seen a twenty-year break before being revived in the early 2000s has become a “zone to defend” (“Zone à défendre” ZAD) populated by”zadistes” who gave their nickname to other anti-capitalist opposition in France, including Sivens (Tarn) against a proposed dam where Rémi Fraisse, an opponent died in October 2014.
A powerful demonstration
The last big show of force, an anti-Airport protest in February 2014 demonstration in Nantes gathered 20,000 to 60,000 people, according to police and protesters.
Several hundred radicals using “black blocks” methods, had done significant damage in Nantes city centre. The government had thenreaffirmed the need to wait for “the end of the appeal.”
Last July, the Nantes Administrative Court dismissed all appeals against the prefectural orders that authorized the launch of the future airport work by the contractor Aéroports du Grand Ouest (AGO), a subsidiary of Vinci.
The opponents appealed, but it is not (?) able to hold up the work, and on 20 October the Prime Minister Manuel Valls announced the government’s intention to “pursue the project.”
“This is great news for all Great West”, was immediately welcomed the direction of the IAB Loire Valley, as the candidate Republicans regional Bruno Retailleau.
“What makes me really angry is the government’s strategy that does not address the substantive arguments, they oppose an opaque silence and, worse, the practice of withholding information and even lying, ” said Françoise Verchère, one of the insurgents who chairs the CEDPA, one of the main opponents associations. “A state that does this is not respected. The rule of law no longer exists in our country.”
Denouncing “the will of the government to push through” and “hypocrisy” at a time when it is ready to receive the COP21, [the Paris climate talks] a representative of “zadistes” expressed to AFP their intention “to oppose any attempt to resume work.”
Notre-Dame-des-Landes: Will the state launch manoeuvers?
AIRPORT PROJECT While environmental cases brought by the anti-airport were rejected, two scenarios emerge now …
A Francois Hollande campaign poster hijacked by opponents to the airport – Fabrice ELSNER / 20 MINUTES
By Frederic Brenon
17.7.2015 (20 Minutes, France)
After the rejection this Friday of legal environmental action, in which the opponents of the airport of Notre-Dame-des-Landes founded many hopes, what will happen to the project on which work has been suspended for almost three years?
Two scenarios emerge.
1) Actions continue on appeal, the work does not resume
The first scenario is the status quo, that is to say the construction freeze in anticipation of the cessation of all legal actions brought by opponents. Enhanced assumption by the imminence of the World Climate Conference in Paris (Cop 21),where France wants to give an exemplary image and the regional elections, where the PS big risk. Anti-Airport have already announced Friday they would appeal the adverse ruling of the Administrative Court of Nantes. “We remember that the extension project of the port of Nantes-Saint-Nazare in Donges East had been appealed retoqué while environmental groups had lost at trial,” Positive Me Thomas Dubreuil, lawyer’s ACIPA and of CEDPA, the two main associations opposed to the project.
Brussels must in turn decide on the environmental soundness of the project, probably this summer. Opponents also promise to file a new appeal once the prefect of Loire-Atlantique take an order derogating for the destruction of the water voles, a species protected at European level. Similarly, the new building permit of the future terminal, whose planning had been suspended, will be “watched closely” warned the spokesperson of ACIPA . [ACIPA is the local protest group].
A new report on the works, however, would lengthen even more the already considerable delay of the process and expose the state to the anger of the Great West [the name of the new airport] and elected Vinci Project dealer [the airport project company] and influential economic player.
2) The State goes in strength and launches operations
The second scenario is that of a work starting in the coming weeks. It is a possible hypothesis legally since the appeal does not suspend starting work. This also gained weight politically with the statements of Manuel Valls on Friday saying that the decision of the Administrative Court of Nantes “should lead to resumption of work”. This is also what the supporters of the new airport are demanding loudly and strongly.
“The court’s decision reconfirms the validity of Grand Ouest Airport project, project of general interest. The rule of law must now be respected, “says Jean-Marc Ayrault, a former prime minister and former mayor of Nantes.” [He was a key supporter of the project in its earlier stages. It was even called an “Ayraultport”].
“The time for reflection and consultation is now over. Place now to Action “urges Jean-François Gendron, President of the CCI of Nantes-Saint-Nazaire.
Yes, but here, the political agreement reached between the PS [Partie Socialiste] and the Greens before the municipal elections in 2014 stipulated a freeze on work to exhaustion all legal remedies. Including grounds to appeal? “Of course,” says the deputy EELV François de Rugy. “Hollande himself recalled. ”
“The exhaustion of an appeal, from the point of view of the law, it is not only the first instance,” Mr. Thomas Dubreuil supports, categorically. ” The interpretation that Manuel Valls makes on this agreement is untenable. Starting work would be an outright violation. He would then take the consequences politically. ”
Another downside: the start of work on the airport site would also require to evacuate Zadistes occupying the land. “We are ready to deal with any eventuality. The movement’s resilience against the airport has been further strengthened since the eviction of the autumn of 2012,” they say. “There are extremists on both sides. Public authorities have an interest in playing appeasement “advises François de Rugy.
“The Zadistes must now be evacuated,” insists the ICC. “It would be unacceptable that the socialist government chooses, again, inaction and laxity” vilified Senator Bruno Retailleau (Republicans).