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France's Valls announces return to work on Nantes airport

Demonstrations against the construction of the airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes in front of the administrative court of Nantes on 18 June 2015.
Demonstrations against the construction of the airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes in front of the administrative court of Nantes on 18 June 2015. AFP

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls has announced that construction will resume at the highly controversial airport Notre-Dame-des-Landes near the northwestern city of Nantes. The 580-million-euro project has divided government officials, citizens and activists in a series of clashes, triggering a halt to construction at the end of 2012.

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A French tribunal rejected appeals against the environmental components of the project on Friday, ruling that it does not pose environmental concerns.

Moreover, the government highlights the construction of the airport would benefit the public by improving road access in the area.

Though Jean-Marc Ayrault, ex-prime minister and ex-mayor of Nantes, is on the frontline of defence alongside the government and local officials, it has posed issues for the Socialist-Green alliance.

The project has divided government officials such as The Ecology Party EELV’s national secretary, Emmanuellle Cosse, and Ecology Minister Ségolène Royal, who have voiced their opposition to the project.

Cosse tweeted Friday that the rush to relaunch the works straight away once again reveals the government's motivation to force the project forward.

Activist groups, notably the ACIPA, and the loose-knit anarchist collective known as the Zadistes, claim it is an unjustified cause as it will be detrimental to the environment and wasteful use of government funds.

The crux of the issue arose during violent clashes between protestors and the police in February 2014.

The black-clad zadiste rioters smashed shop windows with stones, bottles and flares as police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

The project was approved in 2008, with an initial budget of 580 million euros and the end of construction is pushed back to 2019 at the earliest.

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