At the end of 2019, the Breton group Le Duff announced that it was investing 250 million euros in the construction of a factory for its bread and pastry subsidiary Bridor in Liffré, near Rennes. The key: the creation of 500 jobs that cannot be relocated, including nearly 150 from 2022. Driven by local elected officials, the project has since received strong support from the Brittany Region and its president Loïg Chesnais-Girard, but many opponents gradually emerged.
This Friday, January 21, several elected officials and environmental activists met at the agricultural tavern “Le Guibra” in Saint-Sulpice-la-Forêt a few kilometers from the site. The opportunity to take stock of this explosive file. “This project is symptomatic of a world before that is perpetuated,” laments Daniel Salmon, environmental senator from Ille-et-Vilaine. “It’s a bit like the logic of always more, it’s gigantism. Today, we must stop this inconsiderate development which artificializes protected areas”.
The president of the Brittany region criticized
Despite the promise of job creation, environmental associations such as the CoLERE collective denounce “the concreting of an area of 21 ha” and its consequences on the environment. “The production unit should capture a volume of drinking water of 200,000 cubic meters annually, that corresponds to half of Liffré’s current consumption”, explains Frédéric Paul, spokesperson for the collective. “By its ecological influence, this unit will inevitably generate negative indirect costs for Lifréens in the long term”.
The position of the Brittany Region and its president Loïg Chesnais-Girard, former mayor of Liffré, is also strongly criticized. “To think that we are going to put public money today in a project like this is an aberration”, indignant Claire Desmares, president of the environmental group at the Regional Council. “Why is the Region defending the existence of this project when it goes against the logic of zero net artificialisation to which it is committed, that it goes against the re-establishment of the economy, that it goes against the development of local resources? . It should be noted that the butter used to make these pastries is not even Breton butter”.
An appeal before the Administrative Court of Rennes
The majority of the production of the factory being intended for export, environmental activists also point the finger at the economic nonsense of the project. “But to be able to discuss, we have to go to court”, plague an activist. At the end of November 2021, an appeal for annulment against a decision voted on by the municipal council of Liffré was filed with the administrative court of Rennes by two residents and the association Nature in the City.
“We are also thinking of initiating a summary-suspension with our lawyers”, confides Pascal Branchu, president of the environmental association. “The elected officials of Liffré-Cormier Community took a decision on reduced impact studies, with surfaces different from reality. The decision was falsified and a procedural defect can cancel everything. We won’t give up.”
For activists, hope also lies in a hypothetical local referendum. “The law of democracy requires that these things be clearly debated and be the subject of public consultation, that would be the least of things”, indicates Frédéric Paul, spokesperson for the CoLERE collective.
“The elected environmentalists have never tried to discuss with me”
Contacted, the mayor of Liffré Guillaume Bégué minimizes the extent of the dispute. “Apart from the few members of the CoLERE collective, the population never challenges me on the subject in the street. Instead, people ask me when the plant will arrive, because 500 jobs are important for the territory”.
“When the senator, when the regional elected officials want to discuss over a coffee, it will be with pleasure”, launches Guillaume Bégué. “In the meantime, they have never tried to discuss with me, they give the impression of knowing the file better… In my program and in the program of many mayors elected in 2020, there was Bridor. We’ve always thought about the area where we could set up businesses with the least possible impact on biodiversity, and that’s what we did. It was also the poorest agricultural land. Everything has been thought out perfectly.”
In recent months, a new actor has provided support to the protesters: the Confédération paysanne, which wishes to “protect land and promote the installation of farmers on these lands”. At the same time, the project is progressing. The impact study file will be submitted to a public inquiry in the coming weeks.