Flood-zone homes sold and destroyed

2011 plan will lay down areas for demolition with 'no exceptions', says Ecology Ministry

7 September 2010
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HOME OWNERS living close to a river or the sea could be forced to sell their property to the state in a major reorganisation of France’s flood zone planning rules due early next year.

The Ecology Ministry is drawing up a new map of the parts of France considered to pose the greatest danger to human life, after deadly flooding in the Var in June and the Vendée and Charente-Maritime in February.

The map will define a number of zones noires, areas where new construction will be banned and existing properties destroyed.

Ecology minister Chantal Jouanno said “no exceptions” would be made once the map was drawn up. This means that home owners will have to take legal action if they wish to challenge a decision about their property.

The procedure will work in two stages. The state will first attempt a rachat à l’amiable – seeking an independent valuation of the property and offering to buy it.

If the home owner refuses, the state may then begin court proceedings to have the home expropriated. It will carry out further analysis of the risks on a house-by-house basis and the final decision will rest with the judge.

Ms Jouanno has already suggested that the boundaries on the map will be more extensive than previous flood plans, which she said had underestimated the risks and had often been “negotiated” at a local level by mayors keen to encourage development in their commune.

“It is better to overestimate the risks than to underestimate them,” she said.

The Ecology Ministry said it was too early to say how many areas risked being classified as uninhabitable, because as the research is not being carried out until the autumn. However, it said that affected residents would be fully informed about how the procedure works and what their rights are.

Some 1,510 people in various coastal communes in the Vendée and Charente-Maritime are already involved in the sale and destruction proceedings after February’s floods, which killed 59 people.

Some of the offers made by the state have been unexpectedly high, with an extra 10% added to the valuation price to cover notaires’ fees for buying a new home (called a prime de réemploi) and an extra payment for new furniture and fittings, called an indemnité de déménagement.

In Charron, a house valued at e320,000 was bought by the state for e360,000 – and the total pay-out came to e420,000 once the compensation was added.
La Flotte-en-Ré mayor Léon Gendre said he feared the rates being offered would artificially inflate the rest of the housing market in the area because buyers would have extra cash to spend.

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