SOME 2,500 French police have torn down flaming barricades and fired tear gas at tenacious squatters as they evacuated a protest camp erected nearly a decade ago to block construction of an airport.

Police used tear gas at the Notre-Dames-des-Landes site against hundreds of activists, who built makeshift barricades and set some ablaze.

The gendarme service said about 100 squatters were living at the site when the operation began, and a few hundred others came to join the protests.

At least one person was arrested and scattered clashes occurred as police moved into the site in Notre-Dame-des-Landes in western France early on Monday.

Police fired some 50 tear gas grenades at a group of about 30 to 50 activists throwing petrol bombs, stones and flares at police, according to interior ministry spokesman Frederic Delanouvelle.

Proponents had argued the region needed a larger airport to boost its economic prospects.

Opponents said a new airport was unnecessary and a symbol of exploitative globalisation.

The French government in January abandoned plans for the airport after 50 years of debate and gave squatters until spring to clear out.

But many stayed in place, seeking to turn it into a “space of social, environmental and agricultural experimentation”.