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Historic monuments need €11 billion

Huge sum is needed to safeguard the country's heritage according to the Ministry of Culture.

The country's historic monuments need 11 billion euros to stop them falling apart according to the Ministry of Culture.

The figure is more than three times the ministry's budget and has risen from four billion in 2002.

In 2007 a survey of historic monuments found that 41% were in a defective state (up from 32% in 2002) and of those 2,844 were deemed in a perilous state.

The statistics have been released a week before many of France's monuments open their doors to the public for the Journées du patrimoine on September 20-21.

According to the Groupement français des entreprises de restauration des monuments historiques (GMH), the government has cut funding to monuments by 20% since 2007, down to €300 million per year.

The president of the GMH Eric Eschlimann said: "If there is no improvement in 2008, we have enforced an already bad situation."

He added: "In areas like Borgogne or the Rhône-Alpes, no restoration work has been carried out this year."

The group has also criticised the lack of aid for private owners to protect monuments.

Despite more than half of the country's 42,644 historic buildings being in private hands, their owners receive barely a tenth of the budget allocated to restoration.

Owners do benefit from tax breaks but are exempted from the scheme if their monuments makes more than €60,000 a year commercially.

Mr Eschlimann added that the Ministry of Culture was only concerned with protecting "the grand works of the Ile-de-France" at the expense of the regions and smaller buildings.

Culture minister Christine Albanel said early this week that she had "high hopes" that supplementary funds would be made available in 2009.

If you want to know more about the Journées du patrimoine visit the official website.

Photo:The facade of Rouen Cathedral is graded as being in peril. Credit:Jpvargas

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