Jobs or environment: the debate over plans to build 'EuropaCity' Paris complex

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It is one of the largest development projects in the Paris region. The Auchan supermarket chain wants to build a vast shopping complex on farmland near Charles-De-Gaulle airport that will contain not just shops but a leisure park, a ski slope and cultural centres. Its supporters say EuropaCity will bring thousands of job to a poor, deprived area and serve as a blueprint for commerce and society in the 21st century. Opponents doubt the number of jobs it will create, say it will harm the environment, and argue that it is at odds with the commitments made by France and other nations at the COP21 climate summit held in Paris in December. Urban utopia or environmental nightmare? Jade Lindgaard reports.

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A battle of figures is under way over plans for a massive new commercial centre in the Paris region. The EuropaCity project has been earmarked for construction on one of the last large undeveloped areas around the French capital and is now at the heart of a debate between two very different views of development.

The first approach insists that this monument to consumerism and entertainment can help save a suburb of outer Paris that has long been burdened by unemployment and social stigma. The other approach fears that this vast development on farmland between Gonesse, Roissy and Aulnay-sous-Bois north of Paris, a triangle of land squeezed between the airports of Le Bourget and Charles de Gaulle at Roissy, will destroy the quality of life of locals and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and climate disruption. Ironically, the COP21 climate summit in December, at which France and other nations pledged to combat climate change, was held just down the road at Le Bourget conference centre.