The intended gigafactory divides the municipalities in their vicinity | iRADIO


Negotiations, memoranda, but also referenda and petitions. Residents of the villages in the Karvinska region, where the state is negotiating the construction of the so-called gigafactory, are now mainly living with this issue. A referendum is to be held in Dolní Lutyn, where the factory is to be located, already in June. Representatives of the Ministry of Industry, as well as the region, go to the village to negotiate with the people, but as Mayor Pavel Buzek (STAN) reports, many questions have still not been explained. And so the construction divides the village and families.

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5:00 a.m May 13, 2024

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Opponents of the construction of the project tend to go to the meeting | Photo: Vladimír Pryček | Source: ČTK

On the road between Dolní Lutyní and Věřňovice near the Polish border, a car or agricultural machinery passes from time to time. Across the field you can see the drawbridges, the remains of the First Republic strongholds and puddles of water after rains or spills from rivers and streams. The only thing that disturbs the peace at least partially is the highway to Poland, which can be seen in the distance, and the barking of dogs near family houses.

The residents of Lower Lutynia are planning a referendum on the gigafactory. They would like to vote already in June

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But this calm could soon be replaced by the sounds of construction equipment, and instead of fields, an industrial complex for strategic investment could grow up near the houses – the so-called gigafactory. For now, its location near Dolní Lutyn is still uncertain, pending the outcome of the geoengineering and hydrological survey. This is to determine whether construction near Dolní Lutyn will be possible at all.

“Studies and analyzes should be combined in the third or fourth quarter of this year in a comprehensive feasibility study, which must answer at what time and under what conditions we are able to solve the limits that exist in that area,” David Petr describes the current situation, director of development of the State Investment and Development Company (SIRS), which is now in charge of preparing the territory for key investments in the Czech Republic.

He adds that representatives of CzechInvest, SIRS, and the region meet regularly with the leadership of Dolní Lutyně and surrounding municipalities, as well as their citizens and associations, to inform them of ongoing steps. “However, people often ask us at those debates how we are going to solve waste collection, which is premature, because we are only in the verification phase. And negotiations with the investor are running in parallel. We are at the beginning of the process, but we definitely want to talk to all the participants,” he says, referring to the created website with updates about the project.

Overview of property relationships in the area around Dolní Lutyn, on which new gigafactories could be created | Photo: Jan Cibulka Source: Czech Radio

A divided community

There have already been two public hearings, where people from the surrounding municipalities could ask the project representatives their questions. According to the mayor of Dolní Lutyna, Pavel Buzek (STAN), some questions are being clarified, but many of them still remain unanswered.

“At the moment we are going around in circles. It is still true that we think that the area is not that easy to build a factory on such a scale. That’s the occupation of 280 hectares in the flood zone, and we don’t know how exactly they want to solve it,” he says, adding that he does not understand the state’s behavior in this regard and considers it ill-conceived.

“On the one hand, they claim that large industrial zones are necessary, but they wake up at the last minute and say that they will just do it here. At the same time, 15 years before, they did everything to ensure that nothing like this would arise here,” he points out, referring to the fact that he did not learn about the planned project from the ministry, but only from the broadcast of Radiožurnál.

Meeting of representatives of the Moravian-Silesian Region with residents of the village of Dolní Lutyně in Karvina, where the gigafactory is planned to be established from the end of April 2024 | Source: ČTK

The creators of the petition from the association Zachovejme Poolší are also working with these objections. In the village, they pushed the question into the announced referendum, which will take place in June at the same time as the elections to the European Parliament. He believes that the residents of Dolní Lutyn will oblige the village management to file objections against the construction of the factory. “Now we have to explain the question in the referendum door-to-door,” says Nina Brtníčková from the association’s management.

Mayor Buzek is also waiting for the results of the referendum, who expects to learn from it how exactly people in the village perceive the possible construction. But he is not happy with the atmosphere in the village.

“I say that the referendum will split the village 50:50, but I mean that it will split relations in the village. Every citizen has a different opinion. Families, parts of the village, young and old can fall out over it – it’s so unpredictable. Lately, I’ve been doing nothing but working on the gigafactory and I don’t have time for normal work,” explains the mayor, why waiting for “some” decision is difficult.

Map of land that the state is negotiating with an investor for the eventual construction of a gigafactory

‘What do you want to discuss?’

According to David Petr, negotiations with municipalities continue. “At the beginning of those debates, we offered them memoranda of cooperation, so that the municipalities themselves could say what they perceive as a problem in a given locality, and so that we would know what to focus on. For example, when noise barriers are not implemented somewhere or there is a problem with intersections,” he explains.

Meeting of representatives of the Moravian-Silesian Region with residents of the village of Dolní Lutyně in Karvina, where a gigafactory is planned

Raised voices, heated debate, albeit with lower participation. People from Dolní Lutyň do not want to live next to the gigafactory

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Only in the next phase, after the collected initiatives have been evaluated, would the state offer the municipalities a binding cooperation agreement, where it would be clearly defined who would be in charge of what and what would happen if they did not fulfill their obligations. “This is the construct that we offered to the municipalities, we are debating it, but especially in Lower Lutyna they say that we should first let a referendum take place, so that they can find out the mood of the citizens. Only then are they willing to possibly talk about contracts,” explains the SIRS development director.

According to Mayor Buzek, however, debates about contracts are premature, as neither the aforementioned feasibility studies nor the opinions of conservationists are on the table yet.

“We don’t know a potential investor, we don’t know what the project would look like exactly. And if we don’t have any details, what do you want to negotiate about?” he asks. And he adds that mayors of municipalities on the Polish side of the border are also calling him regarding information about the gigafactory. But he has nothing to say to them because he also lacks the answers to their questions.

Dissatisfied people from Věřňovice with banners against the construction of the gigafactory Photo: Andrea Brtníková | Source: Czech Radio

However, there are more conciliatory moods in neighboring Dětmarovice, as the local mayor Ladislav Rosman (Nez.) points out. According to him, the municipality is divided roughly in half in terms of opinions on the construction of the gigafactory, with those who do not mind the construction prevailing. He explains this by the fact that the construction of the industrial park itself affects Dětmarovice rather peripherally, while Dolní Lutyně and Věřňovice are directly affected.

Gigafactory near Dolní Lutyn

  • A key project for the economy and employment. This is how politicians describe the new plan to build a battery factory for electric cars in the Moravian-Silesian region. From an investment of 200 billion crowns, the government promises up to seven thousand new jobs.
  • As the server and Radiožurnál discovered, land between Dolní Lutyní and the village of Věřňovice, right next to the Polish border and a protected area, was selected for the investment. Years ago, the Hyundai car company also considered them for the construction of its plant. But she alluded to the nearby protected area and problems with the regular overflow of the nearby Olše River.
  • The government is currently negotiating with a specific investor, but he may eventually decide on Poland, for example. In that case, the selected area would be waiting for the next interested party.

“These villages are more affected than Dětmarovice. Members of the Zachovejme Poolší association from Dolní Lutyň came to our council meeting, and we gave them space to explain the whole thing. We didn’t vote on any position after that, but as far as I could see, roughly half of the representatives are against the construction and half are in favor,” he describes the mood in the village.

According to Mayor Rosman, people understand well the possible positives of the project, such as the “stimulation of the regional economy”. At the same time, however, they also point to the shortcomings of the plan. “It is a mistake that 10-15 years were wasted and there was no preparation of a suitable area on the former OKD lands. Nature would not have to be destroyed to the extent that is being considered,” he explains the opinions of fellow citizens and his own.

“I myself would welcome the plan with great enthusiasm and support if the project was created on a brownfield. Today, however, it is already the case that further negative interventions in nature and environmental damage are not carried over too much,” he points out, noting that the project thus has more support in more distant parts of the region, such as Karviné, which, according to the mayor, expects a higher attractiveness of the region and the end of depopulation of the city.

200 billion project

As previously reported by and Radiožurnál, the state is discussing the construction plan from around autumn 2023.

The intention to locate a battery factory for electric cars was moved to the Dolní Lutyná area after CzechInvest was unsuccessful with an investor with an offered brownfield in the Karviná Doly area, with whom the investment company Panattoni recently concluded a future purchase agreement with its current owner, the company Asental Land Zdenek Bakala.

The location where the gigafactory could stand – between the Barbora mine and the Ostravská road. Asental Land Zdeňka Bakaly’s plots of land are shown in purple. This plan eventually fell through due to unsuitable terrain

According to former regional governor Ivo Vondrák (Nez.), due to the construction of the battery factory, a strategic project funded by the Fair Transformation Fund: the Eden research center, which was originally supposed to be located at this location, was also moved. The new location was chosen by the region closer to Karviná, as we wrote earlier.

“We tried to offer this land to an investor with CzechInvest, but when he saw the area, he saw the state in which the land is, he said that he did not want to invest there now. And that the Czech Republic must offer something else, or it will not continue in the competition,” explains SIRS development director David Petr.

As the server has already pointed out, the territory is difficult for building a large factory, which was already discovered by the previous investor – the LG company. There is an elevation of about twenty meters on the land, which the company would have to level before construction. Which would be billions of extra costs for her and would delay the entire investment.

David Petr, director of development of the State Investment and Development Company (SIRS) | Source: ČTK

The state chose extensive agricultural land between Dolní Lutyní and Věřňovice in the Moravian-Silesian region for the location of the gigafactory, partly because it had already been considered for the location of the Hyundai car manufacturer in the region. And on the one hand also because they correspond to the investor’s intentions.

“This location meets the demanding criteria of the considered end investor of the project. It has a sufficient size, it is close to the Dětmarovice power plant, which enables a sufficient supply of technical infrastructure. At the same time, thanks to the close proximity of the highway and the railway, it is very easily accessible,” Vojtěch Srnka, a spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Trade, explained the reasons earlier.

This is another attempt to attract an investor to the Czech Republic who would build a gigafactory here. Until now, a similar type of industry is missing in the Czech Republic. The German Volkswagen concern was also considering the construction of its battery factory in Líny near Pilsen in 2023. But he reconsidered his decision last November. Its chairman, Oliver Blume, justified this by the slower-than-expected take-up of electromobility.

Tomáš Pika, Klára Filipová

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