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Nantes Métropole : turning wastelands into produtive lands


Nantes Métropole

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** (written within the framework of the Milan Urban Food Policy Pact, this same information can be found on their website).


The development of wastelands and brownfields in Nantes during the 1980s and 1990s was the result of the rising land prices (due to speculative practices combined with a major urban sprawl and a high population growth), which made the land too expensive for agricultural use. Furthermore, the specialization of agriculture at national level and its “deterritorialization” also contributed to the development of wastelands. In the 2000s, landowners — which were in demand for the expansion and installation of farms — expressed concern about the increasing number of wastelands in agricultural and natural areas. 

In 2009, the Chamber of Agriculture decided to conduct an assessment in order to qualify and quantify the actual land use within areas covered by the Local Town Planning Plan. The result of the assessment was then shared with local municipalities and professional networks (farmers organizations, agricultural unions, agricultural collectives, etc.), identifying 155 sites on which agriculture could be relocated without too much investment, fostering local economic development and increased production.


The assessment identified a total of 1 500 to 2 000 hectares (ha) as potential agricultural lands. In order to enhance these previously untapped sites, several stakeholders first defined the resources needed to prepare the land and obtain necessary infrastructure. A double objective was set: to clear one site per commune in 2011 and to replant 500 ha by 2014. 

More than 300 local meetings were organized between 2011 and 2014, using a method based on three pillars: 

1. The organization of a local group by the commune, involving representatives of the commune, the Nantes metropolitan government, the Chamber of Agriculture and other local actors according to the wishes and needs of the municipalities. This group has the authority to validate the choice of production sites to be cleared and to plan the projects. 

2. A joint coordination group of Nantes Métropole and the Chamber of Agriculture, which ensures the transversality of the program and that the project is taken into account in different public policies of Nantes Métropole. External partners are also regularly associated according to the topics covered. 

3. An annual meeting between each of these actors, with the aim of pooling and sharing experiences. Since 2009, Nantes Métropole has implemented and updated various means, providing financial aid, technical support and information. 

Finally, between 2009 and 2014, 137 sites were appraised on 1 900 ha. Twelve new farm facilities have been finalized and nine are underway or under study at cleared sites. Today, the process of supporting land clearing has continued thanks to a 2014 follow-up assessment that identified priority sectors of intervention and the evolution of agricultural land use by commune.

Results and lessons learned 

As a progressive realization of its food policy, the Nantes Métropole objective is to revitalize the former agricultural wasteland through innovative approaches and projects. The methodological innovation aims to generate dynamic results to inform food policy. The actors involved share their priorities and project ideas within their respective areas of competence. 

At the Nantes Métropole scale, a specific action plan made it possible to bring coherence to public action and works in several dimensions: 

  • regulatory protection of land in urban planning documents; 
  • intervention in partnership with the operators “on the ground”;
  • development of collective approaches aiming at the emergence of local projects . 

This approach has generated impressive results: 450 ha have been cleared and re-cultivated on 51 different sites. This action has directly benefited many farms that have diversified, been restructured by welcoming new partners, or have been newly created thanks to the significant reduction of the cost of clearing. 

There are also environmental, social and economic co-benefits to the territory, including: 

  • the creation and / or maintenance of agricultural jobs ; 
  • the emergence of new sales networks in short food chains;
  • the increased diversity of landscapes as a result of the diversity of agricultural activities in the territory. 

The revitalization and multiple benefits of such territorial food system diversification is a key feature of the project. This approach was taken after a thorough reflection on the process of urbanization and the need to contain urban sprawl which is essential for the preservation of agricultural and natural areas. This action is the foundation of the Territorial Food Project shared by public and private actors of the Nantes Métropole.

Source :

Article Ouest France, avril 2018.

© FAO, 2018 

This publication has been initially drafted by the city government in the framework of the 2016 and 2017 Milan Pact Awards and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of FAO.

Last modification : 06 Apr 2020.

Nantes Métropole

Nantes Métropole Cours du Champ de Mars Nantes France

As a progressive realization of its food policy, the Nantes Métropole objective is to revitalize the former agricultural wasteland through innovative approaches and projects.


Dominique Barreau
Chargé de mission du PAT