Justice rejected the request made by Vinci for compensation of nearly 1.6 billion euros to the State for the abandonment of the airport project at Notre-Dame-des-Landes (Loire-Atlantique), according to a decision published on Wednesday April 10 and consulted by Agence France-Presse. At the same time, the Nantes administrative court opened the door to possible “compensation covering the expenses” of the building and public works group.

“The termination of the [airport] concession is justified by reasons of general interest,” the court said in a press release accompanying the decision. However, “this termination for these reasons gives rise to compensation covering the expenses incurred by the concessionaire and its loss of profit”.

“The amount of this compensation will be set later: the court will have to take into account the gains provided to the company Aéroport du Grand Ouest [AGO] or to its shareholder companies by their possible designation as new concessionaires of the current Nantes-Atlantique airport », for which a new call for tenders was launched in December for its redevelopment. This redevelopment initially aimed to calibrate the equipment to accommodate 10.7 million passengers per year by 2040. The cost of the operation was estimated at 500 million euros in 2019.

Land puzzle

85% owned by Vinci, the AGO company claimed nearly 1.6 billion euros, estimating that the abandonment, in January 2018, by the government of the time of an agreement concluded by AGO and the State for the concession of airports – including that of Notre-Dame-des-Landes – was “irregular”.

In 2019, Elisabeth Borne, then minister responsible for transport, announced that the State was negotiating compensation with Vinci linked to the abandonment of the project, which Vinci had formally denied.

Born in the 1960s and relaunched in 2000, the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport project has since become an emblem of environmental struggles in France, including, in 2009, the occupation of the site by environmental activists. Its abandonment had led to violent evictions and left room for a land headache to redistribute land in the deferred development zone (ZAD).

The Vinci group manages twelve airports in France, including Lyon-Saint-Exupéry, Rennes-Bretagne, Toulon-Hyères and Nantes-Atlantique, and seventy around the world.