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Court halts forest clearing for Tesla's Berlin plant

Jill Petzinger
Jill Petzinger, Germany Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
The US electric car manufacturer Tesla clearing the forest for its new plant in Grünheide, Brandenburg, 14 February 2020. Photo: Jörg Carstensen/picture alliance via Getty Images

Preparations for Tesla’s (TSLA) huge new plant in Germany hit a snag on Saturday evening when a court ordered a temporary halt to chopping down trees to clear the site.

The Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg issued the injunction after environmental organisation Green League filed an emergency appeal. Work had already begun on Thursday last week to clear over 90 hectares (222 acres) of forest for the Tesla Gigafactory site.

Brandenburg state’s economics minister Jörg Steinbach tweeted that they expect a prompt decision by the court in the next few days.

The Brandenburg government sold the 300 hectare site to Tesla for €41 million, and the largely forested area has been combed by bomb disposal teams for any explosives left over from the Second World War.

Elon Musk’s announcement that he would build his first manufacturing plant in Europe just outside Berlin has been met with a mostly positive response from local politicians, who welcome the around 12,000 jobs it will create when it is fully operational.

However, there have been protests by locals and environmentalists in the past weeks, some of whom are concerned about the sheer amount of water the plant will use, and worried it will pollute their ground water. There are also concerns about felling a forest that is home to all sorts of small wildlife.

READ MORE: Tesla CEO attempts to calm locals' water worries over German factory

Tesla’s plans to produce the Model Y and Model 3 at the new factory, and is targeting 500,000 units annually at full capacity.

Construction is slated to start in the middle of this year — the final construction permit has still not been issued —  with the goal of being operational in July 2021. These plans could face delays however, depending on the court’s decision on the forest, and the fact that complaints against the factory can still be legally registered until 5 March.