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Planned condo development on Juno Beach site cancelled after government deal

Construction posed a threat the integrity of Juno Beach, and Juno Beach Centre operations
The Juno Beach Centre, where Canada’s role in the D-Day invasion is commemorated, is shown in Courseulles sur Mer, France, Wednesday, April 28, 2004. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Franck Prevel

A proposed condominium development on Juno Beach in France has been cancelled after public outcry and a three-year legal fight.

The Canadian and French governments are helping the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer buy a parcel of land where a developer planned to build a 70-unit building.

Veterans Affairs Canada says the construction “posed a threat to both the integrity of Juno Beach itself, and Juno Beach Centre operations.”

Developers planned to use a private road next to the centre for nearly two years during construction, which the centre says would cause “chaos” and safety concerns for visitors.

Federal and local governments are also negotiating a 99-year lease to protect a parcel of land where Canadian soldiers landed on D-Day in June 1944, including a portion of Juno Park where visitors to the centre tour old bunkers.

The plans sparked a campaign called Save Juno Beach, which encouraged people to write letters to members of Parliament and French officials calling for a halt to the development plans.

“Canadians make a promise every Remembrance Day to never forget the sacrifices made for future generations. And this year, we forced our government to step up and protect the legacy and reputation of our country as an ally and force for good in a war-torn world,” the group’s founder, Cindy Clegg, said in a statement.

The Juno Beach Centre, a privately run museum that was built in 2003, has run into financial difficulty due to the pandemic and a legal fight with the building’s developer.

“The settlement will ensure that the Juno Beach Centre and the Canadian memorial presence in Normandy are preserved for generations to come,” the centre said in a statement Friday.

Veterans Affairs agreed in January to provide up to $500,000 over the next two years to cover some of the Juno Beach Centre’s expenses and help it weather the pandemic, on top of the $500,000 Ottawa gives the museum each year.

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