September 6, 2021
Australia, France

France is up in arms over a proposed wind farm near a WWI memorial

France is up in arms over a proposed wind farm near a WWI memorial. | By George Mackie | The Washington Newsday | September 3, 2021 |

France is up in arms over a proposed wind farm near a WWI memorial.

Opponents of a wind farm proposed near a battlefield in France where hundreds of Australian soldiers died during World War I are pressing the government to scrap the project, calling it an insult to the dead’s memory.

Politicians and activists have spent years fighting plans for wind turbines near World War I killing fields in northern France, where tens of thousands of Australians were killed or wounded.

In 2017, Australian officials expressed relief as the French state electrical provider Engie cancelled a wind farm project in Bullecourt, which had been the location of two particularly fatal battles for Australians.

The business claimed at the time that the harsh reaction, including that of the French government, had highlighted the site’s “sacredness.”

In the same year, French authorities rejected proposals for a wind farm near Australia’s national war memorial in Villers-Bretonneux, near President Emmanuel Macron’s hometown of Amiens, claiming it would be an eyesore.

However, in March of this year, an appeals court in Douai overruled that ruling, allowing wind energy company Les Vents de Picardie to proceed with the farm, which is located about five kilometers from the memorial.

Local lawmakers have turned the matter into a cause celebre, putting pressure on Macron to take the case to France’s highest courts.

In a telephone interview with AFP, Christophe Coulon, vice-president of the Hauts-de-France region, said: “We cannot accept that the required transition to green energy takes precedence over the memory and respect for the dead.”

“It’s a moral issue,” Coulon said at a press conference at the memorial site on Thursday with two other prominent local lawmakers.

The administration, on the other hand, has thus far refused to appeal the ruling.

Last month, the office of Environment Minister Barbara Pompili told AFP that it was not opposed to wind turbines being visible from memorial sites and that it would not take the case to higher courts.

Villers-Bretonneux was the location of one of Australia’s greatest World War I successes, when Australian troops besieged and retook the village from Nazi forces, with 1,200 people dying in the process.

Every year, a small Anzac Day ceremony is staged at the location, which is one of many Australian tourists’ first stops in France.

The memorial, which is located close to a military cemetery, features a tower encircled by walls and panels inscribed with the names of the 10,732 soldiers who died in the war.

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