Brétignolles-sur-Mer: Victory over port project


Surfrider Europe has been following this project for more than 10 years in the framework of the Coastal Defenders programme. 10 years of an arm wrestling match that finally saw came to an end on Thursday evening. The protection of the Vendée dune belt has prevailed over the destruction of a wetland motivated by economic reasons. It is therefore with great joy that we can today announce the definitive stop of the marina project. Congratulations to our volunteers from the Indre-et-Loire and Vendée chapters who have worked hard for years to prevent this project from seeing the light of day.  

The Community of Communes of Saint-Gilles-Croix-de-Vie votes to abandon the project 

The port project has been a subject of much debate since 2003, when the first informal consultation was presented to the inhabitants of Bretignolles-sur-Mer. But finally, on Thursday, 22nd July 2021, the 47 elected members of the Community of Municipalities voted for the definitive abandonment of the project. From now on, no further appeal will be possible. 

As a reminder:

In recent years, the project has come very close to fruition. In November 2018, the commission of enquiry gave a favourable opinion on the creation of the port, and the prefect of the Vendée signed the necessary authorisations for the start of work in the summer of 2019.  

Surfrider Europe, alongside allied associations, did not lose heart and on 6 October 2019, more than 2,500 people demonstrated their discontent as the first shovels began to destroy the dunes. This followed a legal appeal that had been lodged by the environmental associations (FNE, LPO, Surfrider Europe) against the prefect's environmental authorisation, but the authorities had nevertheless launched the work without waiting for the court's response, whose judgements are not yet known.  

Following this demonstration, a ZAD (Zone À Défendre) was created to prevent the work from continuing. This zone was evacuated in April 2020, due to the growing health crisis, and the infrastructures were burnt on site. Tensions between supporters and opponents were at their height. 

Creation of a mediation group to ease tensions and move forward calmly 

Following the election of François Blanchet as head of the Community of Communes of the Pays de Saint Gilles, a moratorium was announced as well as the creation of a mediation group. 

This working group is made up of associations, elected representatives, and representatives of civil society with people both in favour of and against the project. This group worked for 6 months to produce a synthesis allowing more transparency on the project and for each side to put forward its arguments.  

The CPNS (Comité pour la Protection de la Nature et des Sites) guided this mediation exercise towards technical subjects that had not been dealt with much, such as the digging of the basins and the channel and the conditions of access for boaters, in a factual manner by calling on experienced professionals.  

On 8 July the two co-chairs, Frédéric Fouquet (pro) and Vincent Pipaud (con) presented the mediation group's summary report to the Community Council in preparation for the vote on 22 July.  

The conclusions of the mediation group : 

- La Normandelière is considered an important area for biodiversity. Indeed, it gathers four environments in a limited space (Foreshore, Dune, Marsh, Bocage), and hosts various protected species.  

- There is a risk of contamination of groundwater with salt water. The costs of the project were largely underestimated by the former President (estimate of the project manager at +50% compared to the cost initially announced) and the profitability of the port was overestimated in terms of accumulation of favourable scenarios, over-capacity of the port, and minimisation of charges, to name a few. 

- The summary revealed on 8 July clearly shows that the project is not viable as presented today and that many factors, especially environmental ones, have not been taken into consideration or have been arbitrarily decided in favour of the project.  

Open letter from supporters 3 days before the vote: a last shot  

On Monday 19th July, in a last militant dash, the elected representatives and associations in favour of the port of Brétignolles-sur-Mer, tried via open letters to convince the still undecided elected representatives of the Community of Communes to vote in favour of the port, relying mainly on the argument that the majority of the inhabitants of the Pays de Saint Gilles-Croix-de-Vie and of Brétignolles-sur-Mer wish to see the port project succeed. This information is not at all true. 

This last attempt did not influence the outcome of the vote (33 against / 14 in favor). Reason prevailed and the elected representatives chose by a majority to abandon the marina project in Bretignolles-sur-Mer. Surfrider Europe is delighted with this decision which favours of the preservation of the coastline. 


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