François Hollande announces there will be a local referendum on the contentious new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes

In late January, the court in Nantes ruled that the remaining people living in the “ZAD”, where the planned airport would be at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, should start to be removed after 25th March. However, now President Hollande – realising that this has become an issue of huge national significance and hours after three Green lawmakers joined his cabinet as part of a government reshuffle – has said there will be a local referendum to decide if the new airport should happen. Hollande hopes to put an end to the matter, which has dragged on for years, with elections in France in 2017. The referendum may not be popular with proponents of the airport, though some consider there is a majority in support locally. It is also a concern for opponents, who ask: who will be polled – from how far around Nantes? People from Rennes and Brittany? What will the questions be?  Will the alternatives be given? However,  François Hollande has said the schedule is settled: “Work must begin in October. If the answer is yes in the referendum, everyone will have to accept the airport. If its “No” we all know that it is a project that has been spearheaded by the government, the government will have to assume the consequences.”  The evictions cannot proceed, now there is to be a referendum. The 11 families, including 4 farms, are given a breathing space.

Hollande announces referendum on divisive airport project

12.2.2016  (France 24)

by Joseph BAMAT

President François Hollande on Thursday said that a local referendum would decide the fate of a controversial airport project in Western France, hours after three Green lawmakers joined his cabinet as part of a government reshuffle.

Hollande said that after long public debate and a string of legal battles over the construction of a regional airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes, local residents would have the final say during a referendum that would be organised by October.  “If it’s yes, and the residents want the airport, then everyone will have to accept that decision,” Hollande declared during a primetime television interview with France 2 and TF1.
“If it’s no – we all know that it is a project that has been spearheaded by the government, the government will have to assume the consequences.”
Environmental and farming groups in the town 20kms north of the city of Nantes have fervently opposed the new airport development, while other residents and business groups have welcomed the project, which was approved in 2008 at a cost of approximately 500 million euros.
Hollande rejected the suggestion that the referendum had been part of a deal with Green Party chief Emmanuelle Cosse, who joined his cabinet as housing minister on Thursday and who could help endear the president to environmentalists ahead of his likely bid for re-election in 2017.
“There was no haggling. I do not negotiate, I do not barter this or that government appointment, or this or that resignation,” he insisted.
The announcement of the referendum was part of a wide-ranging interview in which Hollande called on Russia to halt military action that supports Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The French president repeated a previous promise that he would not run for a second  term if unemployment continued to rise.


YES OR NO ? Notre-Dame-des-Landes: a referendum to decide

By Sylvain Mouillard
February 11, 2016

François Hollande announced on Thursday holding a local consultation on the proposed airport near Nantes. He hopes to end the explosive controversy.

Fifty years after its birth, could this see the end of the proposed runway at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique)?  Francois Hollande, whose five-year term was poisoned by tensions around this equipment, announced on Thursday evening that a local referendum would be held on this difficult question: should we or should we not build a new terminal in place of that of Nantes- Atlantic ?

Exit door

The president has denied any “bargaining” with Emmanuelle Cosse, former head of Europe Ecology-Greens (EE-LV) and a new entrant into government. But “you have to know what the population wants,” insisted the head of state, anxious to find a way out. Originally supposed to open in 2017, the project has been at a standstill since November 2012 and the failed attempt to evacuate the “zone to defend” (ZAD) located on the site. Since then, these opponents dubbed “zadistes” settled on these 1600 hectares in the Nantes countryside, trying to build another society, environmentally responsible and self-sufficient. Their relations with the police and the government are strained. Local majorities, to the right to the PS,[ Partie Socialiste]  are unanimously in favour of the project. Jean-Marc Ayrault, former mayor of Nantes back in the Valls government, is one of the project’s fiercest supporters.

But they face year after year, growing opposition. Many elected representatives of Europe Ecology-the Greens and the Left Front have joined the zadistes and their peasant allies.

This citizen movement, which clings to the President Hollande’s commitment not to start work on the new airport until the courts have ruled on all the legal appeals, has demonstrated its ability to mobilize. In February 2014, it gathered in Nantes between 20,000 and 40,000 people opposed to the project. Just a few weeks ago due to rumours about work starting and deportation procedures, they organized several blockages of the Nantes ring road, the périphérique. This was an unacceptable strategy in the eyes of Bruno Retailleau, the new president (LR) of the Pays de la Loire, who repeatedly denounced the “violence” and “abuses” of zadistes. The elected representative, far from seeing in the news of Hollande’ referendum an alternative, asks: “Where are we going if all local projects are subject to a referendum?”

Sensitive issue

In the opposite camp, the reaction is more or less the same. “This issue is too explosive and advanced. Consultation must take place calmly, ” says Julien Durand, from ACIPA, one of the main opponents’ associations. The wording of the question is also sensitive.

Geneviève Lebouteux, former elected EE-LV, would, at least, that the alternatives are mentioned.

Finally, who could vote? The project, officially dubbed “Grand Ouest Airport”, concerns beyond the city of Nantes. Rennes is only 100 km away, and Brittany which is co-financing the project (€ 560 million officially, but even more according to its critics) with the Pays de la Loire. This equation remains to be decided.

However, the schedule was settled by Francois Hollande. “Work is to begin in October. If the answer is yes in the referendum, everyone will have to accept the airport. If not, the state will draw the consequences. ”

By Sylvain Mouillard


The original French:

OU NON ?   Notre-Dame-des-Landes : un référendum pour tranche

Par Sylvain Mouillard   (Libération)    11 février 2016

NDDL. A breeder has reservations about the Holland referendum


 Marcel is Thébault dairy farmer on Zad.  He exchanges this Friday with François Hollande on a local referendum on the proposed airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes.

[Imperfect translation in to English below. Original French ]

Marcel Thebault is a dairy farmer on the ZAD, who will be expelled from the area where a new airport would be built at Notre-Dame-des-Landes exchanged views on Friday with François Hollande on the local referendum.

“I expressed to the President that we had reservations with respect to the referendum process”, said Marcel Thébault, coming out of a meeting with François Hollande at the Élysée, where he accompanied the spokesman of the peasant farmer Confederation Laurent Pinaltel.

Mr. Thébault has however insisted that he was  “no spokesman”.

Mr Hollande said on Thursday that there would be a referendum to decide the future of the site planned for the new airport , occupied since 2009 by anti-capitalist activists who take turns on this holding zone (ZAD), renamed the “area to defend “ .


For Mr. Thebault, “it is necessary that the matter be extremely clearly well put” to carry out the referendum.  Moreover, “it is hard to imagine a consultation with elected representatives whom we believe have lied to us about the background of the subject, that is to say, the saturation (the current airport, Ed) Nantes Atlantique “ . [Meaning whether it is at full capacity].

The dairy farmer, who was expelled from its land and must leave home in two months, assured that “for the President, ie, (was) a proposal to get out of the crisis.  For us it to take it up or not” he said during the interview.

Time limit organization

Regarding the organization of this consultation, “there is no emergency the president said, so it could happen in June or September, which leaves us a little bit of organizing time, and perimeter the department would  “ added Mr. Thébault.

“I understand, even if it is not written down, this removes some of the pressure in terms of expulsion of people who are threatened,” said Mr. Thébault.

“The president has assured us that the work done by the Ministry of Ecology, who have started a reflection on the merits, will continue, and will be concluded before the date of the referendum, normally.

For us, it is good news “ because ” the positions of Ms. (Segolene) Royal seem to us to be progress”, continued the farmer.

“We are ready to respect the re result (of this study, Ed) whatever it is, even if that result asked to leave” , he added.

Original in French at

The Parisien  said  11.2.2016


The local referendum allows voters under certain conditions, to decide with their vote to implement or not a project for a local matter (eg installation of wind turbines, creating a municipal police, the choice of the name of the inhabitants). Articles LO1112-1 s. General Code of Territorial frame the local referendum.

Who organizes it? The local executive alone is competent to propose to the deliberative assembly, the organization of a referendum on an act of concern.

Who is, open it? the referendum is open to all local authorities since the constitutional revision of 28 March 2003 (art. 72-1 para. 2 of the Constitution).

Who can vote? Only the voters, not the citizenry, can vote. European voters can participate in referendums organized by their municipality.

Who can object? The State representative may oppose any referendum project on a subject not within the jurisdiction of the host community.

When can it take place? the referendum can not be organized in the six months before the full or partial renewal of the deliberative assembly. It can be organized the same day as other local or national elections or statutory consultations.

Under what conditions? The organizing debate and referendum item can compromise the exercise of a public or personal freedom.

Who pays? the expenses related to the organization of the referendum are the responsibility of the host community.

What result? the project subject to local referendum is adopted if at least half of the registered voters took part in the poll and if it meets the majority of votes cast. If the latter condition is fulfilled, the referendum is a decision that the host local government must legally follow. Otherwise, the referendum was then that the scope of an advisory opinion.


Court in Nantes permits the evictions of 11 families, in 2 months, for proposed new airport

The High Court of Nantes decided on Monday 25th January, to permit the evictions of the long-term inhabitants and opponents of the airport project at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Loire-Atlantique. A period of two months was given to the eleven families occupying houses, including four farms. The time limit does not apply to farm buildings or livestock, as they farmers have made it clear it is not possible to move a farm in two months. The legal judgement said the “the legal conditions for the eviction applications were deemed met in all cases.” The lawyers for the project’s opponents had considered the expulsions were “not consistent with the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights”. The company trying to build the new airport, AGO, had hoped to negotiate with the land owners to find an amicable settlement, but eleven families refused. It had been feared that there would be punitive fines, each day, for the families if they did not move out, but the magistrate said this was not justified as it would be “disproportionate for families who have only modest means.” Opponents say this eviction decision will now force the government to act. The state will have to forcibly remove people, after 26th March, from an area wider than the ZAD (zone à défendre). The attempts at forced evictions in 2012 ended in violent scenes.

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A thousand opponents of new Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport protest outside evictions court hearing

Backers of proposed airport at Nantes want the eviction of farmers from the site. More than 1,000 protesters gathered outside the court in Nantes where the hearing – that could evict the last 11 families living on the proposed airport – was heard. Aéroport du Grand Ouest (AGO), a subsidiary of Vinci Airports, is requesting crippling fines of up to €1,000 per person per day against farmers who are refusing to move, as well as the seizure of farm properties and animals. Around 300 environmental protesters are currently camped out around the site in a long-standing protest that last weekend mobilised 20,000 people for “Operation Escargot”, an action blocking traffic on regional roads, including the Loire bridge. One Nantes resident facing expulsion, Sylvain Fresnau, a 54-year-old farmer with three children, said he did not believe that evictions would be possible due to the strength of local feeling. He said: “We don’t need another airport in Nantes. We already have 145 airports in this country”. Conservation lawyers say the new court action violates a commitment made by President François Hollande that there would be no more evictions until legal avenues had been fully exhausted. He has not kept his promise, and the case has become symbolic for French environmentalists. The judgement in the evictions case is not expected before 25 January.

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Estimated 20,000 protesters from across France demonstrate massive opposition to proposed Nantes airport

Organisers of the massive peaceful protest on the 9th January, against the proposed new Nantes airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes estimated there were 20,000 people at the demonstration. The aim was to show the massive opposition there is to the airport, and especially to the forced eviction of the 11 families and 4 farmers from land on the planned construction site. At the protest, traffic was halted on the Nantes ring road, using dozens of tractors and blocking access to the city’s airport, Nantes Atlantique. Protesters say that the €580 million project is not necessary,will be detrimental to the environment and is a wasteful use of government funds.The battle against this development has been going on for 15 years, and has become a focal issue across France, against unnecessary high carbon projects that damage the environment or uproot people. There are over 100 support committees in places across France. The airport would require the loss of valuable marshy habitat, home to important wildlife, and good agricultural land. Some agricultural organizations threatened to maintain an indefinite blockade of one of the main river crossings, the Chevire Bridge over the Loire. Clashes between protesters and the authorities in 2012 resulted in a temporary halt to construction. The last major protest resulted in clashes with police in February 2014. There was a legal hearing in Nantes about the evictions on Tuesday 13th January – with again a huge crowd outside – the outcome is expected to be known on 25th January.

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