ZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Aeroport du Grand Ouest, France

A Zone to Defend, the controversial airport project in Western France has become a national symbol of resistance and alternative proposals. Hollande announced a referendum for future planning of the area

The Aéroport du Grand Ouest Project is a planned new airport, to be situated in the NW of the city of Nantes. It is intended to replace the currently operating Nantes Atlantique Airport and also serving as an international gateway for western France. The project is backed by the French state (it has been indeed declared of "public interest" in 2008) and dates back to the early '60. Once the plans got knew to the local inhabitants, opposition started in the '70. Thanks to the oil crisis and the strong opposition, the project was suspended. However, in 2000 the project was recovered under the Lionel Jospin government, declared as of "public Interest" in 2008 and Public-Private Partnerships have been encouraged. Along with the airport, many more infrastructures are planned to be built there, such as high speed train lines to connect Nantes with major French cities. The opposition is mainly formed by farmers, locals and environmental activists; they strongly opposed the idea that such large infrastructures need to be build for the sake of the national economy and that public money are spent for such purposes. According to the Syndacate Mixte accounting the project, the cost of the project will be distrubuted as follows: 315 M€ (56,6%) by Vinci (the contracted company); 241 M€ (43,3%) by public funds; 125,5 M by the State; 115,5 M€ by the "collectivités territotiales". They also denounce negative impact on climate change, as well as the fact that it will affect unspoilt areas of France (forests and plains of Rohanne and Fosses Noires and the bocage de Notre-Dame-des-Landes), as well as what is now a quiet farming district. The lac de Grand-Lieu, belonging to the Natura 2000 network, will likely be heavily affected as well. Main action against the project consisted in transforming the so called Zone d'ámenagement Differé into the Zone á Défendre ("Zone to be defended"); activists and families squatted farms and fields and set up alternative activities, built straw-bale houses, upcycled sheds, theatres and bars cobbled from industrial pallets, hobbit like round houses and so on. They promote tallers and conferences, and advocate for a different use of the territories, not only questioning the need for new large infrastructures but also refusing the idea of an economy based on them. After relevant protests, mobilization and squatting -including a five month sentence of an activist- on April 2013 an indefinite postponement of the project was announced by the authorities. Yet demonstrations and action against the project continue. The mobilizers (or "zadistes")have been active actors in the formation of the European network of Unnecessary Imposed Megaprojects and hosted its second international meeting, the 2ème Forum Thématique Européen contre les Grands Projets Inutiles Imposés.
Basic Data
NameZAD at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Aeroport du Grand Ouest, France
ProvincePays de la Loire - Brittany
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Ports and airport projects
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific CommoditiesLand
Tourism services
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsCapacity will be up to 5 million passengers per year.
Project Area (in hectares)1650
Level of Investment (in USD)722620000
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesVinci Group (Vinci) from France
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)MEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
International ejos
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Street protest/marches
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Establishment of a postcapitalist protest camp
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesIt has been suggested by ACIPA to refurbish and enlarge the exisiting airport Nantes-Atlantique instead of building a new one. This assertion is supported by the the report issued in 2011 by the consultancy CE Delft.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.It is a success to a certain point because the project has not been cancelled.

However, huge mobilization, protests, squatting and legal action have delayed expropiations as well as led to an indefinite postponement of the project.
Sources and Materials

Bill on on airport noise environment (Rapport 204, 1998-99)

Decree of concession of the airport facilities of the Grand Ouest region: Décret n° 2010-1699 du 29 décembre 2010 approuvant la convention passée entre l'Etat et la société concessionnaire aéroports du Grand Ouest pour la concession des aérodromes de Notre-Dame-des-Landes, Nantes-Atlantique et Saint-Nazaire - Montoir et le cahier des charges annexée cette convention.


Brinke, L. & Faber, J.
Review of the Social Cost-Benefit Analysis of Grand Ouest Airport
Comparison with Improvements of Nantes Atlantique. Delft, CE Delft, 2011.

Defending the zad: A new little book about the struggle against an airport and its world.
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Compilation of news: Nantes Airport News
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List of relevant documents (in French)
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BBC News article
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The Guardian article
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(1) Syndacat Mixte d'études
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France 24, 2016-02-12 - Hollande announces referendum on divisive airport project
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Le | 11.02.2016 - Notre-Dame-des-Landes : quel périmètre pour le référendum local sur le projet d’aéroport ?
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Media Links

Documentary: Notre Dame des Luttes
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Photographic movie: Occupy this land!
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Demonstration on 22.02.2014 Nantes
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Other Documents

Preparations of the camp
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Meta Information
ContributorAlfred Burballa Noria
Last update16/02/2016