Spared by ZAN, the future Thalès site in Maine-et-Loire is the subject of debate

Spared by ZAN, the future Thalès site in Maine-et-Loire is the subject of debate
Spared by ZAN, the future Thalès site in Maine-et-Loire is the subject of debate

After consulting the regions, the Minister of Ecological Transition and Territorial Cohesion, Christophe Béchu, unveiled, last April, a first list of “Pene”, projects of national or European scale which will be spared by the system of fight against land artificialization. Totaling nearly 11,900 hectares, it lists 167 projects, “ whose characteristics are well defined and whose timetable is relatively certain”. 55 industrial projects will thus be excluded from the application of the Zero Net Artificialization (ZAN) law.

Zero net artificialization (ZAN): new major French industrial projects will escape it

The Pays de la Loire region has 13 structuring projects, for a total surface area of ​​309 hectares.

“Originally, “the regional list contained 49 projects. The total surface area which was initially requested amounted to 904 hectares,” the regional council said. The gallery. According to him, “negotiations with the State are constructive and still ongoing”.

She specifies that she has referred the matter to the Regional Conciliation Commission which will be held on May 24.

A strategic grouping of skills

The region would have worked together to ensure that some of its projects, more or less strategic, appeared on this list. This is the case for the future Thales site in Cholet (Maine-et-Loire). “The regional list is a counter-proposal because the Thales project was not included in the State list. It was indeed the Region which brought it back because it met the criteria of the law”, she confirms. A project for which the institution confirms having awarded a grant of 5.5 million euros at the end of 2020.

Founded in 1936, the Thales establishment in Cholet is the group’s oldest site in France and the oldest French industrial site in the field of defense electronics. It covers 12 hectares and has 1,800 employees. “In five years, the workforce has increased by 45%”indicates the company to The gallery. Which adds that this center of excellence is recognized in France and internationally for its expertise in the field of military communications. “The site contributes to the largest software-defined radio communications program in Europe. In addition, Thales radio communication products are exported to more than 50 countries and the solutions developed and produced on site are in service in more than 40 countries for land, sea and air applications. »

It is in this commune of Maine-et-Loire that Thales began the gradual regrouping of its communications electronic warfare activities in 2016, formerly in Gennevilliers.

“The group is continuing its industrial strategy here to make this site a center of excellence for secure radiocommunications products from 2025.”

A 21.6 hectare plot of land on the La Touche site

Which will be located on a new site, which is being completed for a move in early 2025. “This strategic grouping of skills reflects Thales’ desire to develop its position as a major player in national sovereignty in its markets”continues the defense electronics specialist who has selected 21.6 hectares of land on the La Touche site, located near the city center of Cholet, near the train station and on the northern outskirts of the city.

Here, the project consists of creating a set of buildings with a maximum floor area of ​​6.7 hectares, associated with 4.7 hectares of roads and 5.3 hectares of parking space, service by soft links and a station. bus. This project represents an investment of 70 million euros with 2,770 employees by 2030. That is to say the creation of 970 additional jobs by then. A figure that could change ” shortly “according to the company, syears to provide more details.

Thales also indicates that the first phase of work has been launched since spring 2023. The Logistics Hub will be delivered at the end of May. “Our staff, inventory and logistics activities will move there by September 2024, when it will enter operational service. Around 120 people will work there from Septemberindicates the company. Our Research & Development extension will be delivered at the end of 2024. Staff and activities will move from February 2025. Around 640 people will work within the center of excellence for secure radiocommunications products. »

Good news for the economy…

This project was therefore selected among “national and European initiatives”. In other words, its 21.6 hectares escape the ZAN law and the quotas of land that can be artificialized by 2031. Consequently, this land consumption will not be deducted from the 47 hectares envisaged in the SCoT de Cholet Agglomeration to create intermediate economic activity zones by 2035.

This announcement was eagerly awaited by certain territorial stakeholders. Starting with Denis Masséglia, Renaissance deputy for the fifth constituency of Cholet, who specifies that he is currently on standby from the Thales company. In a joint press release with Senator Corinne Bourcier (Les Indépendants) and Renaissance MP Nicole Dubre-Chirat, the parliamentarian said ” happy “ after several months of negotiations with the Region and the State.

“We defended the project so that it was included in the list. I exchanged with Christophe Béchu on the importance of this file on a national scale for the industrial and military sovereignty of the country”.

For the MP, “the balance between economic development and preservation of our environment” is favored. The objective is not to oppose but to support the development of the territory, extremely dynamic, while protecting nature. » A project which, according to him, would have been thought about at length with environmental associations, such as LPO (League for the Protection of Birds).

…less for ecology

However, this project makes environmental defenders cringe, who point to the destruction of wetlands (18.3 hectares) and consider the compensation insufficient. The Regional Environmental Authority Mission made certain observations and recommendations on this point in 2022.

This is also the case for the elected representative of the ecological opposition from Cholet who has closely followed this issue. Municipal councilor and advisor to Cholet Agglomération, Franck Loiseau says he understands Thales’ strategy of grouping some of its activities on the same site. He adds : We voted in favor of this project at the municipal council because it was considered essential on a national and even European scale. This is good news for the local economy. » But this leads ecological sacrifices ».

Like him, Elsa Richard, elected from the L’Écologie ensemble group, regional councilor of Maine-et-Loire (Territories, rurality, environment, ecological and energy transition commission, water, housing, digital infrastructure, security and health), municipal councilor in Angers and community councilor in Angers Loire Métropole, regrets that the principle “avoid, reduce and compensate” – totem in environmental matters – is not respected.

Because wetlands are not the only ones to make this elected official tick. There is also the oversizing of parking lots. She points out the fact that 10 hectares out of the 21.6 hectares of the project are devoted to waterproofing for roads and parking.

“Of course, we need economic development. The question of reindustrialization of necessary products is essential. But at what cost and for what? If it’s for parking, there’s no point.”, she believes. His fear is “that projects of national and European scale authorize circumvention of environmental protection and lift all the firewalls that it took us years to obtain”, she concludes.

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