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More than 100 French areas newly added to coastal erosion risk list

The communes will be subject to stricter planning controls and have access to government aid to mitigate the threat

A view of the Etretat Aval cliffs in Normandy

Coastal areas in Normandy are among those most at-risk of erosion Pic: Anna Kuzmenko / Shutterstock

More than 100 communes have been added to the list of areas in France at risk of coastal erosion, bringing the total number to 242.

A decree from July 31, published in the Journal Officiel on August 1, added 126 communes to the list, meaning that their urban planning projects must consider the shifting ground due to the risk of coastal erosion.

Most (but not all) of the newly added communes are in Charente-Maritime, Finistère and Manche.

The coasts of Normandy are also at particular risk, with the cliffs between Le Havre and Le Tréport (Seine-Maritime) estimated to retreat by around 20cm per year. 

In February, a 40cm-long rock detached from the cliff, even taking away part of the road above it. In December 2021, a huge part of the cliff fell close to the Tilleul beach, at the edge of the gulf of Etretat.

Local mayor Raphaël Lesueur told France 3: “That was the first time that I saw a collapse of that size in the commune. [The rock was] 90 metres long and 50 metres wide, and practically four metres tall.”

Read more: Rising sea levels provoke exodus from northern French coastline  

Climate change law

The list of at-risk communes was first created in a decree of April 29, 2022, within the context of the climate change law, la loi Climat et résilience [Climate and Resilience Act]. Despite criticism from some local authorities, these extra 100 communes joined the list voluntarily.

Being on the list means that any urban planning or changes must meet the conditions laid out in the urban code article L. 121-22-3 du code de l’urbanisme, to take account of the coastal areas at risk. The code outlines which developments would be authorised for the area, and which would not be considered safe.

The erosion areas concerned are categorised into two sections; one at risk within the next 30 years, and one at risk between 30 to 100 years.

Planning permission will be refused for any projects in areas at risk of collapse within the next 30 years and will be only be granted to areas at risk between 30-100 years on condition that the owner of the land and property agrees to pay for the project’s demolition when the risk becomes too great.

Communes on the list are also set to benefit from help and direction to enable them to make changes to ensure the safety of their inhabitants. For example, they should gradually relocate housing and activities in areas that will be affected by erosion.

Sébastien Fagnen, Mayor of Cherbourg-Octeville and vice-chairman in charge of town planning and land strategy for the Cotentin region, told La Presse de la Manche: “This decree introduces new administrative measures [and] useful legal tools. 

“Although coastal risks had already been incorporated into certain town planning documents, the Climate and Resilience Act provides a useful framework. Climate change is a reality that we need to anticipate in order to limit the risks and protect the population.”

Yves Asseline, mayor of Réville (Manche), which was added to the list, said: "Urban development is complicated, and is becoming even more so due to the receding coastline and legislation. There are strategies to be put in place. So as not to be sidelined, we accepted the proposal to add the commune to this list.

“The aim is to work together, with the government departments, to apply the law without harming the communes, as part of a reasonable strategy.”

Yet, the amount of financial help the government will offer remains to be confirmed.

The list is subject to change, as communes can decide to be added (or withdrawn, as in the case of Vielle-Saint-Girons in Landes) from the list. It is also revised at least every nine years to ensure it includes the communes most at-risk.

The 126 communes newly added to the list

  1. Binic-Étables-sur-Mer
  2. L'Île-de-Bréhat
  3. Lannion
  4. Penvénan
  5. Plérin
  6. Pleubian
  7. Plougrescant
  8. Saint-Brieuc
  9. Saint-Quay-Portrieux
  10. Trébeurden
  11. Trédrez-Locquémeau
  12. Trégastel
  13. Trélévern
  14. Trévou-Tréguignec
  15. Brélès
  16. Camaret-sur-Mer
  17. Carantec
  18. Guissény
  19. l'Île-Molène
  20. Kerlouan
  21. Lampaul-Plouarzel
  22. Lampaul-Ploudalmezeau
  23. Landéda
  24. Landunvez
  25. Lanildut
  26. Conquet
  27. Locmaria-Plouzané
  28. Locquirec
  29. Plouarzel
  30. Plougasnou
  31. Plougonvelin
  32. Ploumoguer
  33. Porspoder
  34. Saint-Martin-des-Champs
  35. Saint-Pabu
  36. Trébabu
  37. Tréglonou
  38. Arzon
  39. Le Palais
  40. Quiberon
  41. Saint-Pierre-Quiberon
  42. Ault
  43. Saint-Quentin-en-Tourmont
  44. Asnelles
  45. Bernières-sur-Mer
  46. Courseulles-sur-Mer
  47. Saint-Côme-de-Fresné
  48. Agon-Coutainville
  49. Donville-les-Bains
  50. Genêts
  51. Héauville
  52. Jullouville
  53. Lingreville
  54. Montmartin-sur-Mer
  55. Saint-Jean-le-Thomas
  56. Criel-sur-Mer
  57. Dieppe
  58. Quiberville
  59. Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer
  60. Île-d'Aix
  61. Arces
  62. Fouras
  63. L'Houmeau
  64. La Brée-les-Bains
  65. Les Mathes
  66. Port-des-Barques
  67. Saint-Georges-d'Oléron
  68. Saint-Palais-sur-Mer
  69. Talmont-sur-Gironde
  70. Arcachon
  71. Carcans
  72. La Teste-de-Buch
  73. Lacanau
  74. Le Verdon-sur-Mer
  75. Lège-Cap-Ferret
  76. Soulac-sur-Mer
  77. Vendays-Montalivet
  78. Biscarrosse
  79. Capbreton
  80. Mimizan
  81. Ondres
  82. Seignosse
  83. Soorts-Hossegor
  84. Vielle-Saint-Girons
  85. Anglet
  86. Biarritz
  87. Bidart
  88. Ciboure
  89. Guéthary
  90. Saint-Jean-de-Luz
  91. Fleury
  92. Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone
  93. Collioure
  94. Èze
  95. Cassis
  96. Assérac
  97. La Baule-Escoublac
  98. Pornichet
  99. Saint-Brevin-les-Pins
  100. Saint-Nazaire
  101. La Tranche-sur-Mer
  102. Baillif
  103. Bouillante
  104. Deshaies
  105. Moule
  106. Pointe-Noire
  107. Port-Louis
  108. Sainte-Anne
  109. Saint-François
  110. Terre-de-Haut
  111. Basse-Pointe
  112. Case-Pilote;
  113. Grand'Rivière
  114. Lorrain
  115. La Trinité
  116. Prêcheur
  117. Robert
  118. Trois-Îlets
  119. Macouba
  120. Sainte-Luce
  121. Sainte-Marie
  122. Schœlcher
  123. Saint-Pierre
  124. Awala-Yalimapo
  125. Cayenne
  126. Macouria

Read also

French second homes at risk of coastal erosion and other property news
Property buyers not attentive to natural hazards, French experts fear
Map: The 101 French communes affected by coastal erosion
COP26: New map shows 20% of French coast at risk from erosion

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