French village split as mayor sparks woodpile battle

A village is split over its mayor’s determination to remove a woodpile from the front of a house.

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Saskia Wanrooij, 68, has lived in the village of Saissac in the Aude for 21 years and was taken aback to receive a letter from the mairie telling her she had to move her woodpile.

“I was absolutely astounded,” she said.

“How it suddenly became a problem is beyond me.”The wood sits on a margelle, a step, in front of the top floor of her three-storey house, which is built into a cliff.

A legal letter said her woodpile obstructed the road and “represented a danger to the users of the road, the pavement and blocked the passage”.

Ms Wanrooij (pictured left) argued her case before the municipal council but it came down in favour of the mayor.

She said the margelle was probably the same age as the centuries-old house and that the mortar used for it was the same as used to fill in gaps in hard rocks which were not broken when the road was built.

“The village cadastre is not clear whether the margelle is part of the road or part of the house, but when you look at it, it is obviously part of the house,” she said. “The same sort of rocks were left in the wall when they built the house because they are so hard.”

The disputed area had been used to store wood before she bought the house. After she spoke to the municipal council, she got a lawyer’s letter saying she must move the wood.

She told Connexion: “It is obvious the lawyer has not seen the real situation, so I wrote back and said I will be happy to see the lawyer in court to argue the case.”

In the meantime, she has placed a humorous notice on the woodpile saying: “Woodstock, 1969-2019.”

She said: “There is nowhere else I can store my wood, and it is obvious the house has always used wood for heating.

“The town council changed the rules for parking in the town and I no longer park near my house, which is fine, but to expect me to carry wood for 200 metres every day is too much. The house has always been heated by wood and the wood has always been outside, where it is now.”

She says her case might have been caused by a resident complaining but all her immediate neighbours support her.

“There might be someone somewhere who complained to the mayor but they certainly have not spoken to me.”

She said support for her stand has come from all quarters in the village, where she has helped maintain the terraced gardens for which the village is known for many years.

Her name has been included on two footbridges built by a local association over rivers around the village.

“Obviously, the mayor thought it was important for some people, but they have not come to me to complain to my face, and I think he might be in a situation where he got ahead of himself.

“Everyone I know says the mayor is being silly about this.”

The mairie told Connexion that the mayor would not comment, and he was waiting for the decision of the courts.