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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Littoral. A plan that could damage coastlines

by Eric Serres

Littoral. A plan that could damage coastlines

The upcoming Elan housing law, which includes the law pertaining to the coastline, may open the floodgates to property developers.

Translated Tuesday 19 June 2018, by Jane Swingler

You cannot say that the Elan housing and construction law, debated in the National Assembly from 30 May, is attracting a great deal of support. Proposed amendments to the Coastlines Act, to name but one, are going particularly badly. However, this historic pillar of our legislation on the preservation of the environment could be re-assessed in favour of property developers. In response, ONG (non-governmental organisations), including France Nature Environnement, were quick to react.

“We demand that the government and members of parliament maintain the integrity of the Coastlines Act and withdraw, at a public hearing, the measures which were hastily adopted at committee level, with neither consultation nor impact study”, came the reaction from its president, Michel Dubromel.

On the 16 May, during a committee meeting and using a classic strategy (holding the meeting behind closed doors, to avoid an open debate), Julien Denormandie, the Secretary of State, expressed a “very favourable opinion” towards several amendments put forward by the LREM (La République en Marche) group, which made areas hitherto protected by the 1986 Coastlines Act eligible for construction. Most precisely targeted were undeveloped greenfield spaces separating built up areas. According to the LREM plan, filling in these areas would make it possible to “respond to the demands relating to the possibility of increasing the density of urban models somewhere between rural villages and mixed urbanisation.” This is sacrilege to the ONG, who see it as a way of allowing local politicians to flout the law to develop previously protected areas.

“Hands off the Coastlines Act”

There is nothing new here. Since January 2017, the Senate has been attempting to chip away at this law. A flurry of attempts have been made to introduce the possibility of installing new businesses in coastal areas, extending existing towns and villages and assessing the potential for building on undeveloped greenfield sites. The irony here is the petition “Hands off the Coastlines Act”, launched by Jean-Laurent Félizia, regional spokesperson for the EELV Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, which was signed at the time by Nicolas Hulot and …. Emmanuel Macron, during his presidential campaign.

How times change. In an interview this week, Nicolas Hulot said that while he “had no wish to interfere with the basics”, he nevertheless recognised the difficulties of communities faced with a type of “inertia”, linked to the application of the coastal and mountain laws. Playing for time … while risking a backlash from those he had duped.

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