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In France, the forest saved by citizens

A group of French citizens succeeded in fighting against the project aimed at the construction of an immense holiday village in the heart of Chambarans forest.

Imagine an immense holiday village in the middle of an ancient forest. An artificial city that can house 6 thousand people, with huge indoor water parks surrounded by about one thousand cottages for whose construction about a hundred hectares of forest should be cut down. This is the project that the tourism multinational company Pierre et Vacances aims to realise in Roybon, France, (Rhône-Alpes region, no further than a hundred kilometres away from Lyon), in the heart of Chambarans forest, which is rich in damp areas and protected animal species.

 

The company is a giant in this field and with 50 thousand apartment blocks and houses built in three hundreds sites throughout Europe it accommodated 7.5 million tourists only between 2012 and 2013. The Roybon project, called Center Parcs, has this same objective: to build a limitless entertainment centre, profit from the rentals of the cottages and, according to supporters, “to employ hundreds of people” (few, underpaid flexworkers, according to opposers).

 

Center Parcs Roybon Francia1

 

At the end of October 2014, the prefecture of Isère (the province in charge in this area) gave the green light to the project; so, the municipality sold a plot of forest, which became private property. And the company lost no time: in few days more than twenty-eight hectares of wood were cut down, despite the great number of citizens who opposed and gathered in an association aimed to protect nature.

 

Center Parcs Roybon Francia

 

Since late November, a group of youngsters have been illegally occupying an abandoned house in the surroundings of the construction site: “We have to protect this zone”, they explain. In the meantime, with the help of lawyers and experts – and along with the Federation of fishermen of Drôme (a nearby province) – those who opposed the construction of the holiday village presented a number of complaints to the administrative court of Grenoble. One of these was accepted in late December and Pierre et Vacances was obliged to stop the chainsaws.

 

Center Parcs Roybon Francia4

 

The population is supported by the French green movement, whose spokesperson remembered that the project is also financed with “public funds accounting for approximately eighty million euros. This money could have been employed to promote local sustainable tourism”. But the majority of politicians are in favour of the Center Parcs. Even for this reason, Pierre et Vacances communicated that it won’t give up but, rather, it will bring a complaint against the decision of the court. However, in the meanwhile, David beated Goliath.

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