“Everything but Amazon”, towards a new building permit for the Fontaine industrial zone

One year after the opening of the Amazon distribution platform in Fontaine near Belfort, the developer of the Vailog France site should file a second building permit for a logistics platform of more than 76,000 m2. In March 2022, a first building permit was canceled by the Besançon administrative court.

The 2020 building permit application is still posted on the Fontaine site, but Vailog France’s new project should be quite different. On March 31, 2022, the administrative court of Besançon canceled this first building permit filed by the company Vailog France. The aim was to build a logistics platform of more than 76,000 m2 which would accommodate the storage activities of the e-commerce giant Amazon. This cancellation had been requested by the associations “Les Amis de la Terre France” and “France Nature Environnement 25/90”.

Vailog France had six months to appeal this decision. Instead of following this usual procedure when challenging a court decision, another way out was found. This is a legal agreement signed between the parties on May 31, 2022.

An agreement rather than an appeal procedure

“Everything but Amazon”. This is a bit of an expression that could sum up this agreement between Vailog France and the two associations “Les Amis de la Terre France” and “France Nature Environnement 25/90”. Associative activists have above all fought the principles of e-commerce.

Almost a year ago, in November 2021, Amazon started its activity in a 10,000 m2 hangar on the Fontaine site, near Belfort. Four months later, the American group employed 80 people and Amazon had exceptionally opened the doors of its Fontaine site to journalists. At that time, there was already talk of developing its activity in this sector. We were talking about a logistics platform of more than 70,000m2. Its building permit was indeed challenged in court by France Nature Environnement 25-90 and Les Amis de la Terre. Amazon is singled out by these two associations, accused of killing small businesses or not paying enough taxes in France

In a period marked by climate and energy crises, supply difficulties and soaring prices, reducing and relocating production is a necessity to get out of our vulnerability and mitigate the impacts already visible in all sectors of activity.

Friends of the Earth France

In a previous press release, “Friends of the Earth France” estimated that this project would “contribute to the explosion of the carbon footprint induced by the import of 1.3 billion additional products per year, as well as to the acceleration of the destruction of jobs in progress in the non-food trade. This project is also a disaster for land take”.

Vailog France, which we did not contact, preferred to seek an agreement with the associations rather than appeal. According to the associations, the real estate developer specializing in large buildings should file a new building permit which would not allow the hosting of e-commerce activities. “Amazon gave up” summarizes Etienne Coubard, in charge of mobilization for “Friends of the Earth”.

This new building permit would concern the construction of several buildings of less than 12,000 m2 and a height of 13 meters which could accommodate traditional logistics activities. Unlike the first draft, there would be no need to ask the State for exemptions.

We prefer local companies to distribute local products rather than bringing products from China and then distributing them.

Gérard Groubatch, France Nature Environment 25/90

As for the consequences on the wetlands of the sector, a former NATO military base, compensation measures are planned. But it is the economic issue that seems to predominate in this case. On the one hand, Vailog France could therefore build in the Fontaine area provided that it is not a single vast building of 76,000 m2 intended for e-commerce. On the other hand, the associations undertake not to attack this new building permit if it respects the agreement signed in May 2022. If one of the two parties does not respect its commitments, it is liable to pay penalties.

Contacted, the e-commerce giant reacted to this impossibility for him to set up a storage site next to his distribution platform.

Amazon operates a network of more than 30 logistics sites in France. We also regularly study opportunities to invest locally, recruit talent into our teams, and improve the experience of our customers. However, the development of a logistics project is a long-term investment, and we do not speculate on possible future projects. »

One question remains. Will there be enough local companies to occupy the new buildings that the international group Vailog is preparing to build?

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