MAYORS in Ardennes, Brittany, Basse-Normandie, Deux-Sèvres, Haute-Loire, and Hérault are being investigated over windfarm deals that have allegedly seen some voting through projects on their own land earning them €100,000 a year.
While there is no law preventing mayors from renting out their own land for such a project they should not take any part in the decision-making process at the mairie – a rule which is often flagrantly disregarded.
This has led to a new wave of objections to windfarms which are seen by many as a vital extra source of energy as France bids to reduce its reliance on nuclear power.
Jean-Louis Butré, president of the national anti-windfarm group Fédération Environnement
Durable, says this type of corruption is widespread.
“Cases are treated in secrecy, agreements signed on the quiet, and residents are only told at the last minute. Mayors all over the country are profiteering in this way.
“We are a federation of around 900 environmental groups and similar complaints are being filed by our members every day.
“Two town councillors and the mayor of Ally in Haute-Loire have already been fined
€8,000 and jailed for four months for exactly this type of corruption.”
In Pas-de-Calais a mayor is under investigation for conflict of interest in getting approval for a 10-turbine windfarm as five of them were on his land. They make him €54,000 a year.
A court in Arras has already ordered the windfarm be pulled down as it was causing noise and visual disturbance to neighbours.
Mr Butré blames government grants. “There’s too much money sloshing about, and it’s not properly controlled. No-one knows where the money is going.”
France is struggling to find alternatives to nuclear power – which provides 75% of its power needs from 58 nuclear reactors across the country – but it wants to make more of renewable sources and be more like Denmark, which already sees nearly 30% of power come from windfarms.
Mr Butré said more research was still needed to find a good renewable energy resource that is cheap, clean and efficient:
“We need a revolution like the invention of IT 20 years ago. Since computers arrived, our lives have totally changed, and that’s what’s needed in the energy sector.”
The Association des Maires de France was not available to comment on the windfarm court cases.