PLANS to help fund a giant facsimile of the Lascaux caves in the Dordogne have been scrapped under government cuts - but local councillors say they will save the €50million project.
Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti said that several cultural projects announced by the previous government - totalling almost a billion euros but mostly unbudgeted - would be scrapped, delayed or postponed.
These included the Lascaux 4 reconstruction near Montignac, the Maison de l'Histoire de France national history museum, a reserve art store for the Louvre at Cergy-Pontoise, and an extra theatre for the Comédie-Française.
Ms Filipetti said that Lascaux 4 was "not a priority project" but Bernard Cazeau, president of Dordogne conseil général, said that was "surprising" as the plans to safeguard the hillside above Lascaux were laid under instructions from the government and Unesco.
He and Aquitaine regional president Alain Rousset were calling on President Hollande to decide on the project, which was a vital economic and cultural boost for the department. He said: "Lascaux 4 is not abandoned. In several weeks we will choose the team of architects."
Mr Rousset said that "ministers had bosses" and that they would be asking Hollande for a meeting to restore the state's €15m share of the funding. If not, he said, there was still the possibility of business partnerships or a charity foundation.
Mr Cazeau said Lascaux 4 would be a facsimile of the complete painted caves over 7,600sq.m and built away from the caves themselves to "avoid a repeat of Altamira [painted cave in Spain] where a crack in the roof had allowed water to wash away part of the wall".
Palaeo-anthropologist Yves Coppens, the scientist charged with maintaining the caves, said Lascaux 4 was a "crucial part" of saving the caves and their 17,000-year-old paintings as it would keep visitors and their vehicles away. He was opposed to it being dropped.
The Lascaux caves have been closed since the 1960s as the paintings were degrading.
See what the caves are like: Lascaux website