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Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project is wasting money - Royal

Minister for the Environment Ségolène Royal REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

The French Minister for the Environment, Ségolène Royal, has said that the current project to build an airport in Notre-Dame-des-Landes in the north of France should be abandoned.

In an interview published this morning, Sunday, the weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche, she said that it would be better to stop spending money on a project that is unsuited for its stated purpose.

She added that abandoning the project would enable protesters, who currently occupying the site, the leave the area peacefully.
“Are there no other, more urgent projects for the country?” she asked in the interview.

“I fully understand the exasperation created by the illegal occupation of the site,” she added, “ but I believe the role of the state in this is to act as mediator and to help each side to pull back from their [entrenched] position.”

She also pointed out that while local officials don’t want to lose face over the project, if they stopped spending money on it, both sides could reach an acceptable outcome.

Royale’s position is almost diametrically opposed to that of the prime minister, Manuel Valls, who earlier this week said that the site would be cleared of protesters this autumn, even though to clear it may result in violence.

Meanwhile, in the book published earlier this week based on 100 hours of interviews with Francois Hollande by two journalists from Le Monde newspaper, the president said that he did not believe the airport would ever see the light of day.

The project to build the airport at the Notre-Dame-des-Landes site was first mooted in the 1960s.

The 580 million euro project was approved in 2008 and intended to replace Nantes Atlantique airport, which its operators say cannot be expanded to increase its current capacity of three million passengers a year.

However, opponents to the new airport say the existing airport can increase its capacity.