Villagers have defeated plans by Elon Musk’s Starlink company to install a satellite base station with nine antennae 150 metres from a house.
People living in Saint-Senier-sur-Beuvron, near Mont-Saint-Michel, Normandy, discovered the plans by chance in December 2019, and were astounded to find that French telecoms regulator Arcep had approved the scheme without consultation.
Retired EELV regional councillor François Dufour led the opposition, as locals wanted information about electromagnetic radiation and possible damage caused to wetland sites by the concrete foundations for the 2.5metre-high and five-metre-wide domes before being happy with the project.
Starlink, owned by the world’s second- richest man, aims to provide broadband satellite for around €99 a month using a network of thousands of low-orbit satellites.
It needs a network of base stations and Saint-Senier was chosen because it lies close to a fibre optic ‘spine’ running down western France.
Another planned site, near Gravelines in Pas-de-Calais, has also been abandoned but a ground station has already been set up at Villenave-d’Ornon, Gironde.
In Saint-Senier, Mr Dufour said the cancellation was “a relief and I hope our opposition will encourage others to oppose projects imposed on them. Our family farm, where my children now work, is less than 2km from the site, and I only discovered the plans by chance.
“We had simple arguments: we are close to a Unesco site in Mont-Saint-Michel bay, next to a river, the Beuvron, which provides drinking water, and a house, with children living in it, is just 150m from the installation.” He said the French firm sub-contracted by Starlink for the project quickly started back-pedalling when asked basic questions.
“We asked what the impact on the environment would be, if any studies had been done on the safety of people and animals from the electro-magnetic radiation, and why no study of the local sub-soil had been done, and they were unable to answer.
“They were embarrassed but tried to put pressure on some local elected office-holders. The worst part was the total lack of transparency, which I do not understand.”
The Gironde station, sited on a telecoms relay office roof in Villenave, was set up without locals noticing. The mayor said it had proper authorisation, but he told France 3 he would have liked some financial compensation for the commune.
It gives satellite cover for almost all of France, while the rejected Gravelines site would also have covered most of the UK.