Situated on the Loire River, close to the Atlantic coast, Nantes is a green wonder of western France with a temperate and oceanic climate. It is France’s sixth largest city The conurbation (Nantes Métropole) comprises 600,000 inhabitants, a number which should reach the 700,000 mark by 2030. The city of Nantes is the capital city of the Pays de la Loire Region, and the Préfecture of the Loire-Atlantique Department. In 2004, Time Magazine named Nantes ‘the most liveable city in Europe’ and in 2013 it held the title of European Green Capital. The Loire River (the longest river in France) played a key role in the city's history and development. In the past, the economy was driven by the city's shipyards and maritime industry. Today, the city's industry and economy have undergone profound, sometimes difficult transformations that have provided an opportunity to redevelop large urban areas, while protecting the fragile eco-systems of the Loire estuary.

Embracing the legacy of the past and adapting it to the requirements of the future is also one of Nantes trademarks. Former industrial sites have been rehabilitated and turned into residential areas based on a sustainable city philosophy centred on building low-energy housing with green spaces and leisure facilities to house the growing population. On the Île de Nantes, urban territory located between two Loire river “arms”, a major sustainable urban planning project is currently underway. This "eco-district" will comprise housing, gardens, leisure facilities, shops and workshops. The Île de Nantes reflects Nantes' innovative and creative take on sustainable urban development. The scheme draws on cutting-edge approaches in terms of construction, public transport, recycling and renewable-energy technologies.

Nantes Métropole’s Climate Plan provides a means of combating global warming. The development of low-energy transport and buildings is an essential component of Nantes' commitment. Natural and agricultural areas account for 60% of the Nantes conurbation, which also boasts 250 kilometres of rivers and streams. The city wants to preserve this living environment and promote balanced and sustainable development across the region. Controlled urban growth and the preservation of natural spaces are strategic objectives. Simultaneously and due to the inhabitants future projections, Nantes has to develop its housing offer. This urban development is constrained because urban sprawl has to be limited.

Urban planning and management

The urban planning is controlled by several guidelines. Nantes Métropole’s Climate Plan provides a means of combating global warming. The development of low-energy transport and buildings is an essential component of Nantes' commitment, along with a preservation of the living environment of the conurbation, characterised by a proportion of 60% of natural and agricultural areas and 250 kilometres of rivers and streams. The city development is additionally highly related to the urban soil management and makes it necessary to develop new research actions. Four case studies point out the need for
subsurface characterisation (top layer, subsoils) and the relationship between soil pollution and hydrology/geology : management of metallic soil pollution in urban allotment gardens, impact of sustainable urban rainwater management, environmental impact of a municipal waste landfill site, excavated materials management according to geochemical properties. The overall research perspectives of this urban soil in Nantes are the development of novel field characterization approaches to improve the cost and time consuming phase of decontaminating soils.

Since 1 January 2001, Nantes Métropole has been acting in the interests of 590,000 inhabitants of 24 municipalities in the Nantes urban area. In creating Nantes Métropole, these 24 municipalities (See Figure 1) joined forces for greater solidarity between their residents and for development that would respect natural balances. The authorities of the institution Nantes Métropole encompass: urban planning, transportation, environment and energy, water and sewerage, sanitation, waste, street network, public spaces, housing, economic development, higher education and research, employment, Europe and international attractiveness. The City of Nantes is the biggest city of Nantes Métropole and it has specific complementary authorities such as public green spaces management. 

Read the City case study of Nantes in report TU1206-WG1-009