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

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

The 2020 building permit application is still posted on the Fontaine site, but the new Vailog France project should be very different. On March 31, 2022, the administrative court of Besançon canceled the first building permit filed by the company Vailog France. The goal is to build a logistics platform of more than 76,000 m2 that accommodates the storage activities of the e-commerce giant Amazon. This cancellation was 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 standard procedure when challenging a court decision, another method was found. This is a legal agreement signed by the parties on May 31, 2022.

An agreement rather than an appeals procedure

“Everything but Amazon”. This is a small expression that can be summarized in this agreement between Vailog France and the two associations “Les Amis de la Terre France” and “France Nature Environnement 25/90”. Activist associations have largely fought the principles of e-commerce.

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

In an era marked by climate and energy crises, supply difficulties and price increases, the reduction and transfer of production is a necessity to get out of our vulnerability and mitigate the effects that are 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 “contributing to the explosion of the carbon footprint caused by the import of 1.3 billion additional products per year, as well as accelerating the destruction of non-food trade jobs. This project is also a disaster for land take”.

Vailog France, which we did not contact, preferred to seek an agreement with the associations instead of appealing. According to the associations, the real estate developer specializing in large buildings must file a new building permit that will not allow the hosting of e-commerce activities. “Amazon has given up” sums up Etienne Coubard, who manages the mobilization for “Friends of the Earth”.

The new building permit concerns the construction of certain buildings of less than 12,000 m2 and a height of 13 meters that can accommodate traditional logistics activities. Unlike the first draft, there is no need to seek exemptions from the State.

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

Gérard Groubatch, France Nature Environment 25/90

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

Contacted, the e-commerce giant responded to the impossibility of him setting up a storage site alongside 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 to our teams, and improve our customers’ experience. However, developing a logistics project is a long-term investment, and we do not think of possible future projects. »

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

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