CALLS by the government for a six-month “peace” in the violent confrontations over the planned new airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes in Loire-Atlantique have gone unheeded after a weekend of protests.
Last night more than 40 tractors were chained together to protect a group of huts built by anti-airport demonstrators as they got ready to face new police efforts to clear the site.
Campaigners are trying to halt the building of the new Aéroport du Grand Ouest, about 30km north-west of Nantes. It is planned to replace Nantes Atlantique Airport - which is near capacity and too near the city for expansion - and give the north-west its own transatlantic gateway.
They have rebuilt huts destroyed by earlier police action and supporters started arriving early today to prepare for a fourth day of direct efforts to dislodge them.
Prime Minister Jean Marc Ayrault, the former mayor of Nantes and a strong supporter of the scheme, has called for a six-month break where protests and work clearing the site would be suspended while talks went on to find common ground.
However, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said there “was no way to overturn the airport project”.
Ayrault is likely to get his answer this morning when Acipa, the main organising group of the protest, and other groups combine for a press conference. They say “there can be no talks without police being withdrawn”.
The government strongly backs the €580 million airport plan which will create jobs in construction and a new international link, with a capacity of four million passengers and the ability to extend this to nine million. It would also have direct rail and motorway links.
Opponents, who include the Green Party - which has two members in the government - say the vast increase in passengers is due to low-cost carriers attracted only by local authority subsidies. They also denounce the loss of 1,650 hectares of historic bocage woodland. Nine days ago around 20,000 gathered at the site to demonstrate.