The French government is scrapping controversial plans to build a new airport to serve Nantes in western France, after strong (and occasionally violent) opposition from local activists and environmentalists.
The government began to consider a new airport for Brittany in the 1970s, with the potential to host trans-Atlantic Concorde flights – but the announcement by Prime Minister Édouard Philippe on 17 January appears to have killed the Grand Ouest Airport project.
In 2000, the government announced plans to build a greenfield replacement for Nantes Atlantique Airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, 20 km north of the city and 35 km south of Rennes.
Formal approval followed in 2008. A 55-year management and development concession was awarded to the VINCI Airports-led Aéroports du Grand Ouest consortium, which also includes the Nantes Chamber of Commerce and Industry and industrial development group ETPO-CIFE.
Having pulled the plug on Notre-Dame-des-Landes, the government must now consider paying compensation to VINCI Airports. This could reach EUR350 million (USD428 million).
The original plans, for two runways and a terminal on 1,450 ha of farmland at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, were scaled down to a single runway and 900 ha. The terminal would have had capacity for up to nine million passengers per year. Surface access to Notre-Dame-des-Landes would have included a dual-carriageway road and a rail link.
Preliminary work on the site began in 2012 but barely any progress has been made because of the strength of opposition – local residents, farmers, and environmentalists confronted police on a regular basis, and protests sometimes turned violent.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options at ihs.com/contact