Amazon’s warehouse plans keep being ruined by French campaigners


Stop Amazon Briec’s activists display a banner that reads, ‘Macron had given your region to Amazon’, at La Pointe du Raz in Plogoff, western France on March 24, 2022, to protest against the Amazon warehouse that is planning to open soon in Briec. During the past six months, four large logistics hubs in France have been either blocked by tribunals or abandoned due to local opposition on ecological, economical or political grounds. — AFP

Campaigners are successfully winning support in French courts to block Amazon.com Inc’s plans to construct distribution facilities in the country.

During the past six months, four large logistics hubs in France have been either blocked by tribunals or abandoned due to local opposition on ecological, economical or political grounds.

The most recent setback came on Thursday when the court of Besancon, in the East of France, revoked permission granted to constructor Vailog for a site near the city of Belfort. It followed opposition from groups including Friends of the Earth and the France Nature Environment.

The 76,200-square-meter project “does not include compensatory measures to offset the destruction of wetlands”, the court wrote in its judgment.

A spokesperson for Vailog said it was too early to say if it would abandon the project. Amazon said in a statement that development of a logistics site was “a long term investment and we don’t speculate on future plans”.

Other sites blocked include:

– A 160,000-square-meters (1.7 million square feet) warehouse located on a former oil refinery near Rouen in Normandy, abandoned by property developer Gazeley, which retracted the project because of “too much opposition”, from groups such as Friends of the Earth, the mayor said.

– A 185,000-square-meter facility build was cancelled in October following protests from campaign groups. Officials from the Nantes region blamed the "accumulation of technical and legal constraints” for the decision.

– A 38,000-square-meter delivery hub in the South of France was blocked in September after developer Argan decided not to appeal the cancellation of its environmental permit requested by local opposition groups.

Still, the setbacks are unlikely to damage Amazon’s broader expansion in France. The company has eight major warehouses in the country and is developing two large automated ones near Paris and Metz.

These are expected to grow in capacity and let Amazon function without opening any large additional fulfillment centers in France before 2024, according to a person familiar with the discussions, who didn’t want to be quoted regarding private matters.

The cancellation of building work will have negligible financial repercussions for Amazon, which rents sites from property developers rather than builds to own them outright. More significant is the accumulation of regional opposition, which specifically targets the ecommerce giant.

Campaigners, such as Stop Amazon, Friends of The Earth, and Attac, see it as a symbol of globalisation that harms the environment and local economy.

“We have won,” Bastien Feudot, a left-wing Belfort city council official, said in an interview. “Our fight is not easy, because people’s first reflex is to think of jobs. But letting ecommerce develop is really letting the wolf in with the sheep.”

Amazon’s challenge in France is echoed in nearby countries. Meta Platforms Inc said in March it had paused plans to build a large data centre in the Netherlands after the tech giant faced opposition over the amount of renewable energy hyperscale data centres consume. – Bloomberg

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