Club closures will kill Saint-Tropez

Petition launched to save bars of the rich and famous from demolition

SAINT-TROPEZ beach clubs, which for decades have welcomed film, sports and pop stars and the "famous for being famous," have launched a petition against their demolition under coastline planning laws.

The president of the Pampelonne beach club owners' association, Carol Balligand, said the plans envisage the complete destruction of all the beach facility buildings.

"If nothing is done about it, it means the death of Pampelonne as we know and love it," she said.

Replacement clubs would have no sea view and be smaller, with fewer sun loungers, she said. What is more, some plots could be allocated to big hotel groups, not existing club owners. "It's the whole spirit of Pampelonne, which has grown up over nearly 60 years, that will disappear," she said.

The club owners' association has launched a petition online and on the beach and says it has collected thousands of names. They have also threatened to strike if the plans are confirmed.

The clubs have an annual turnover of e40 million a year and employ some 600 people.

The plans are out to public consultation and would need a final OK from the state, though the mairie has already agreed them in principle.

The mairie of Ramatuelle has drawn up new strict regulations for the 4.5km sandy beach at Pampelonne, which has been fashionable since Et Dieu Créa la Femme was filmed there with Brigitte Bardot in 1955.

One famous venue, Club 55, started as a beach hut serving food to the crew and now entertains diners like King Abdullah of Jordan or King Carl Gustaf of Sweden. Leonardo DiCaprio, Bruce Willis, Paris Hilton, Penélope Cruz, Kate Moss and Bono are among other celebrities spotted on the beach in recent years, while Pamela Anderson married Kid Rock in a yacht off the shore.

The plans mean the clubs could be demolished in 2012 and rebuilt further from the sea in light construction without difficult-to-remove material such as concrete and behind a "dune" constructed along the beach. Any in front of the dune would have to be taken down each autumn, the draft plans say. The number of clubs, currently 27, would also be limited to 23.

Mayor Roland Bruno says new rules are needed to find a happy medium between the preservation of nature and tourism, the clubs having proliferated in what is now officially classed as a "remarkable natural area".

Gulf of Saint-Tropez tourism director Emmanuel Bertrand said some of the clubs break Loi Littoral rules on allowing a sufficient strip of public space by the sea, some are too solidly constructed for a protected natural area and overall they cover too much of the beach.

"It is either a compromise or the state will demand the beach is stripped of clubs completely," he said. Mr Bertrand added the "dune" would be a reconstruction of an existing feature and only around a metre high.

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