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Center Parcs: France's latest eco battleground

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Center Parcs: France's latest eco battleground
The radicals, belonging to activist group ZAD (Zone to Defend), were shown little opposition by police present at the scene. Photo: Philippe Desmazes/AF[
15:44 CET+01:00
Violence erupted in a forest in south-eastern France on Sunday after more than 1,000 environmentalists gathered to protest against the construction of a Center Parcs holiday village. It's just the latest battle between authorities and environmentalists in France.

Protesters met at the Chambaran forest at midday on Sunday for what was initially meant to be a peaceful demonstration.

Over a thousand people marched to the Center Parcs construction site to condemn a project they not only judge "excessive" and "pointless" but also a disaster for the local environment.

After being postponed several times since 2007, the project by Pierre & Vacances-Center Parcs has finally been given the green light.

According to Le Dauphiné Libéré a small number of masked demonstrators began to trash the site of the future leisure park, ripping out beacons, writing graffiti on the walls of old forestry buildings and damaging building machinery.

"The people protesting couldn't care less about the project or the environment," a Roybon local told French national broadcaster RTL.

"They're vandals and that scares us."

The radicals, belonging to activist group ZAD (Zone to Defend), were shown little opposition by police present at the scene.

"We have no choice but to employ civil disobedience because they're just stepping in without any authorization, it’s completely illegal," a ZAD member told RTL.

The demonstration comes just days after the European Commission launched legal action against France over a controversial dam project that saw a young protester killed by a police grenade in October.

The Commission, the EU's executive arm, said the dam at Sivens, southern France, risked violating European water management rules. 

Protesters also argued the dam will benefit only a handful of agri-businesses.

France was at the centre of another environmental scandal last February when plans to build a new airport near the western French city of Nantes were met by violent protests quashed by the police. 

The protest came two months after local officials gave the final go-ahead for preliminary work on the €580-million ($795-million) project, which was approved in 2008.

Construction is due to start this year but has not yet begun, and the target date for opening has been pushed back from 2017 to at least 2019.

The airport is set to have an initial annual capacity of four million passengers. Supporters say it will provide a major boost to tourism in western France and on the Atlantic coast.

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