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Protesters attack Center Parcs plan

Campaigners occupy house near site that would house tropical dome at 29C with 5,600 visitors – and 700 jobs

JUST weeks after green protesters halted a dam plan at Sivens in Gard nearly 1,000 environmental campaigners have started a move to kill off plans for a giant Center Parcs holiday village in Rhône-Alpes – in part because of its need for water.

They say that the project at Roybon, Isère, will destroy parts of the wetlands in Avenières forest on the Chambaran massif and be an environmental disaster with a daily water demand of nearly 1,200m3 in a zone that already suffers from drought. They have launched legal challenges.

The project, led by holiday group Pierre et Vacances, would see the building of 980 holiday cottages over 202 hectares with an Aquamundo transparent tropical dome that would house a swimming pool and leisure centre heated to a constant 29C. The site could host 5,600 visitors at a time and, with nearly 700 jobs, be a major economic boost for the area.

Groups of opponents marched on the forest at the weekend and have taken over an old forestry lodge to be their base for operations to halt the project – and say forest clearing machinery has been moved away from the site.

They called on Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal to call in the project for “urgent arbitration” and have already received support from Rhône-Alpes regional council socialist president Jean-Jack Queyranne, who called on work to be suspended.

Pierre et Vacances say the site would mean levelling 76 hectares of forest – just 0.4% of the forest area – but green campaigners and the public inquiry into the project say this is an underestimate and it would be nearer 120ha of wetland that would be affected. Campaigners also say the majority of the jobs on the site would be cleaners, working just a few hours per day.

Isère council backs the plan and president Alain Cottarlorda denounced “active minorities, who try to oppose this project by force, intimidation and manipulation”. He said the holiday park would be greener than the present situation as it would have an average 90% occupancy and take the place of nine holiday homes and three gites and holiday homes were just 10% occupied and gites 30%.

He added that it would mean 1,500 jobs in the two years of construction, with 50% of locals; 700 people on CDI contracts once the site was running and 140 indirect jobs in local businesses supplying goods and services.

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