Pilsen Region approved the assignment of an update of its development plan due to gigafactory

by   CIJ News iDesk III
2023-02-07   11:01

The deputies of the Plzeň Region yesterday approved the preparation of an update of the development plan. It will allow the creation of a strategic industrial park at the reserve army airport of Líně near Plzeň, where the Volkswagen (VW) concern is considering building a factory to produce batteries for electric cars, which the government supports. The maximum area of the zone for industry will be 280 hectares, not 700 hectares as in the current policy, which is the region's master plan. Neighbouring municipalities have also demanded the reduction, and their demands will not be circumvented in the future, deputy governor Petr Vanka (ANO and independents) announced. The municipalities welcome the modification of the principles.

"We are starting the update at the request of the government through the MIT (Ministry of Industry and Trade). And we are also responding to the municipalities' demand that the zone be made smaller," said Rudolf Špoták (Pirates). "The fact that a possible strategic investor, VW, has emerged has prompted the region and municipalities to discuss changes to the principles that define what should be at the airport," he said.

According to Vanka, there is a chance to build something worthwhile in Liny while significantly improving the area's road and rail infrastructure with state money. "We don't want to destroy something there or create a chemical plant," he said.

The upgrade will be financed by the MIT. Miroslav Michalec, the head of the Regional Development Department announced that updating the principles normally takes one and a quarter years and about five companies in the Czech Republic can prepare them. He estimated the costs at CZK 1.5 million.

"As pilots, we have no comments on the discussion of the principles so far, we support the reduction of the zone. We want to get assurances that if VW is not interested in the area, the airport will remain as it is now," said Stefan Koprda, head of EAGA, the European Association for the Development of General Aviation, from Linz. If VW says "yes", he said, the location of the new airport must be clear in the principles. Vanka said the county is fighting for the aeroclubs of Lini to build a modern area as an adequate replacement for Lini. "We are in talks with the MIT about this. It will be in the development principles and in the memorandum of understanding," he said. The draft MoU from the MIT was also approved by the councillors yesterday.

The government is very keen on the CZK 120 billion VW factory. VW has until the end of March to decide whether it will choose Poland, Slovakia or Hungary. It would like to start construction at the end of 2024 and produce battery cells from 2027.

Crucially for the municipalities, there is a consensus that the green areas at the airport will be preserved. "What is important for us is that there is now the political will for the zone to shrink. Since 2009, municipalities have refused to develop agricultural land in their vicinity," Martin Sobotka, the mayor of Dobřany (Aktivní Dobřany), told the Czech News Agency. He said the idea of building quality roads around the airport had also returned to the principles. "With 200 hectares at most for industry, no investor can come there because the cost of building the infrastructure would be high," he said. So if VW refuses Lini, he said, the industrial zone in Lini will be postponed for a long time.

"It is not just a matter of narrowing the site, but the aim of updating the principles is to abolish the existing airport as a building," said opposition councillor and senator Vladislav Vilímec (ODS). He did not like the fact that at a time when VW has not yet decided whether to build the gigafactory in Lini, the region is already discussing the cancellation of the airport. According to Vilímec, it is clear that no new airport will be built. The governor said that the region and municipalities have a promise from Transport Minister Martin Kupka (ODS).

Opposition councillor Jiří Valenta (KSČM) did not understand why the policy was being changed in advance when VW had not yet decided on Líně. He added that if the concern then says "no", assembly plants will be set up in Liny. "There is no such option," said opposition councillor and Culture Minister Martin Baxa (ODS). If VW does not decide on the area, he said, the government will not use it for another industrial purpose. The government has identified key buildings at the site that would never have been built without the gigafactory and is prepared to spend CZK 9 billion, he added. Roman Zarzycký (ANO), the mayor of Plzeň and a coalition regional councillor, said that he would not vote for updating the principles because he is bound by the resolution of the city council, which does not support the gigafactory.

"I see this as a huge opportunity for the economic development of the region," said deputy governor Josef Bernard (STAN). He said the gigafactory is a great chance to reverse the trend of the 1990s, when the region was flooded mainly by assembly plants. According to Vanka, the factory will be built on a maximum of 200 hectares and on another 80 hectares there will be facilities such as substations, a pumping station and others. However, if the EIA (environmental impact assessment) says the building cannot be there, it will not be there, Bernard said. According to Vanka, the investment must not reduce the quality of life of the citizens, it must have the least possible impact on the ecology, the air ambulance service will remain in the area and the aeroclubs and the aviation museum must be compensated.