PLU of Versailles : City Hall’s First Concessions ?

Aerial view of the protected zones around
the Domaine national de Versailles

In black : boundary of the former Petit Parc
with enclosed walls, government property.
In green : lands listed as sites.
In yellow : lands listed as historical monuments.
In purple : national forest.
Pion, along with Satory, represents
a major gap in the protection of the
Domaine national de Versailles.
Taken from Google Earth, October 2007

7/02/12 – Heritage – Versailles, Domaine national du parc et du château - Is Versailles starting a retreat, aware of its contradictions and that the debate concerning the PLU has now reached national proportions ?

In any case, the press release issued last 27 January leads us to think so. It was meant “to provide more details on the changes made [to the PLU]”.
There is no longer any reference to the Schéma Directeur Régional d’Ile-de-France (SDRIF), which the city hid behind just a few days ago to justify the most controversial sections of the PLU. We had in fact shown in two articles (here and here) just how inane this was.

Now, the city is stating that the new PLU provides more protection than the preceding one. This is not true and is a preposterous line of defense as the previous PLU had, moreover, been supported and voted at the time, by the deputy mayor for culture who was none other than François de Mazières.

In the case of Mortemets, the city explains that the Orientations d’aménagement [Orientations for installations] of the PLU provide for the establishment of “a landscaped space, related to the composition of the château’s park and the Suisses pond”. Besides the fact that this sentence does not really mean anything [1], the city does not include the one following it, and which we had already pointed as appearing later : “It [this refers to the landscaped space] has the potential capacity of welcoming recreational, cultural, sports and tourist activities […]”, with very few restrictions on building permits. We would like to reassert the fact that if a park is to remain so, it is not supposed to welcome “activities” but people wishing to enjoy nature. The mayor’s idea by which he requests concessions for family gardens from the EPV, is on the other hand quite commendable in our opinion.

We have already explained, on the subject of freezing construction at Matelots, that this strategy was to avoid having any new construction hamper a more ambitious project, for instance such as Roland-Garros in Versailles, and which is perhaps not any more beneficial than that of unrestricted building [2]. This is therefore in no way a step to protect the heritage of Versailles, but simply delaying its urbanization for a period of maximum five years [3]. In fact, as far as we know, the château in no way requested this be done.

Once again, François de Mazières flourishes the reconstitution of the allée at Mortemets, claiming to be behind it, whereas we have demonstrated that it was largely carried out at army expense. What the mayor also forgets to mention is that by extending it, the PLU plans to open it to automobile traffic coming from the D10 [4]. In fact, it is this very unpatrimonial and unecological project which city hall vaunted in order to attract Roland-Garros to Versailles : “The site of Matelots consists of two historical and planted, main axes, which branch out laterally and can be adapted for increasing traffic” [5]. The fact that the side-lanes will welcome “low-impact traffic” will not change a thing.

However, we totally support the mayor’s remark making the government accountable for its part in the matter. It is true that it is responsible for what is taking place, and will take place in the future, on this land which it owns. But allowing the government given what it is, certainly not honorable, to urbanize, via the PLU, this land which should be listed as a natural zone is unacceptable.

In any case, the fact that François de Mazières, a candidate in the legislative elections, has opened up the way for the government to purchase the zone corresponding to the Pion barracks at its sale price, can be seen as an important, and attention-getting, first step. The French Ministry of Culture will no doubt react instantly to the proposition. It would mean an exceptional opportunity for returning this land which is part of the Etoile Royal to the Versailles domain without spending a cent after assigning it to the army in 1906, a controversial move at the time, and which today suffers from various restrictions. The undesirable buildings now occupying the property would have to be cleared and it should then be listed as a historical monument in the same way as Mortemets and Matelots, finally closing this dangerous loophole in the protection of the Domain (ill. 1). Luckily, its new owner, the Etablissement public foncier des Yvelines (EPFY) is capacitated notably to “save or enhance the constructed or non-constructed heritage and natural spaces [6]” and could, consequently, order the demolitions… All that is needed is the decision to do so. We will then know if the government really wants to sell the land enclosed by the walls put up by Louis XIV around the Grand Canal.

Version française

Didier Rykner et Julien Lacaze, mercredi 8 février 2012


[1] This was already proposed by the Roland-Garros project with the concept of “sport nature space”.

[2] The answers to the most frequently asked questions can be read here as they appear on the former internet website which the Mayor had opened for the Roland-Garros project. They are spine chilling, especially since they can also be generally applied to the city’s future projects.

[3] The deputy mayor for urban planning also indicated that this is “a procedure which can be lifted in a simple manner”. Session of 27 January 2011, p. 26.

[4] According to the PLU, this means “allowing, notably, a continuity in the network of low-impact traffic”. Public inquiry case approved by the municipal council on 24 November 2011. 2b – Orientation for installations by sector, p. 15.

[5] Former Versailles Roland-Garros website, under the heading “Driving access”.

[6] Art. L. 300-1 of the Code de l’urbanisme, with reference to article 2 of the constituent decree of the EPFI of 13 September 2006.

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