Protesters halt €580m Nantes airport project

The French government has abandoned plans to expand an airport near Nantes, a scheme that has been under discussion for 50 years but had been stalled by entrenched ecological protests.

The announcement by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last week puts an end to a project that had passed through planning, survived more than 170 legal challenges, and was supported by local businesses.

Protesters known as "Zadistes", who had established camps in the area, will be asked to go home.

Environment minister Nicolas Hulot said the decision was "the least bad" solution, and that he was just happy that the argument was over and everyone could "move on", reports magazine Parisien.

Vinci, the contractor that was to have built the €580m scheme, may be in line for a compensation payment of €350m. Its chief executive Xavier Huillard said the government had assured him that it would not use contract clauses to avoid reimbursement.

The decision was deplored by Philippe Grosvalet, the president of the Loire-Atlantique region.

"This decision tramples all public procedures in our country and the 179 court decisions that have been taken," he said. "It also tramples local communities, all local communities. It is a questioning of the very spirit of decentralisation."

The plan had been to expand the existing Nantes-Atlantique airport and refurbish Rennes Saint-Jacques in Normandy to accommodate increasing demand for travel to the region.

The area around the airport was known as the ZAD, standing for special management zone according to the government, or forbidden zone (zone á defender) according to the protesters, who called themselves "Zadistes", and who established long-term camps in the area.

According to Philippe Grosvalet, the protesters will now be evacuated from the site and the land will be returned to agriculture by the end of March.

Image: The existing Nantes-Atlantique airport (

Further reading:

Story for GCR? Get in touch via email: [email protected]

Latest articles in News