Serres d’Auteuil : Delanoë’s last ditch effort to save his project

Serres d’Auteuil
Maintenance buildings, listed as Monuments Historiques
Which the FFT now wishes to annex permanently
With the blessing of Paris city hall
Photo : Didier Rykner

11/2/11 – Heritage – Paris, Serres d’Auteuil – Well aware of the weak case in defense of his project for the Serres d’Auteuil and the extension of Roland-Garros, Bertrand Delanoë has once again made more concessions to the Fédération Française de Tennis, proving – if need be – that the greenhouses and their status as a botanical garden would be definitely compromised by the proposed plans.

In a letter, dated 8 February 2011, to the president of the FFT, Jean Gachassin, which we are revealing here, the Mayor of Paris dares to offer Roland-Garros, throughout the entire calendar year, “permanent use of the buildings in stone located to the south of the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil”. These are buildings which are listed as Historical Monuments and used strictly by the gardeners only to store the material which they need to maintain the greenhouses and the gardens. Originally, the buildings were to be ceded for use to Roland-Garros during the tennis tournament only, that is for about one month including the week before for set-up and the week after for cleaning up. Now, knowing that the locale below the technical buildings will disappear (see our first article), the maintenance buildings will also be off limits to the gardeners.
To sum up the situation : the hothouses will disappear and will be only partially replaced without providing a solution for preserving the plants during, nor after, the construction work ; delicate trees will be destroyed ; the historic greenhouses will not be demolished but anything needed in fact for their maintenance will vanish. This is not a promising sign for the future of the gardens.

Just a few days ago, while Delanoë’s letter was being delivered to FFT members, Jean Gachassin sent them a document summarizing the different projects being presented, of which they are supposed to choose one, pointing out their individual advantages and drawbacks. One paragraph discusses legal ramifications. He states that, theoretically, there is nothing to keep this project from being located in Gonesse or Marne-la-Vallée. However, the report explains that the Parisian project at the Serres d’Auteil is “more difficult”. Here are the arguments :

- “The hostility to what we wish to do at the Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil is very strong, on three fronts, environmental, cultural and botanical.” Obviously, the FFT has clearly understood what is going on. The over 35.000 signatures on the petition are abundant proof.

- “On Hébert, we fear that neighborhood associations will oppose our project for a CNE [National Training Centre], despite the concessions we have made (gymnasium and athletic track).” We should point out that the extension project for Roland-Garros (along with the reconstruction of the Jean Bouin stadium for the Stade Français), besides permanently damaging the Serres, would result in drastically reduced sports facilities for use by schools and residents in the neighborhood making it practically impossible for them to play any sports.

- “The revision of the PLU [Local urbaln planning regulations] will also be strongly opposed by residents, despite our efforts at landscaping”. The revisions of the PLU, which set down almost no restrictions in Paris (for example, see the case of the Samaritaine, which we will soon discuss here), seems to have become a trademark of Paris city hall.

- “We will also have to deal with the question of the annexes (gymnasiums, athletic track, greenhouses) as well as those spaces made available by the city to the FFT during the tournament.”

The report adds that, “in view of all these difficulties, the Mayor of Paris shows determination and optimism”, which is of course undeniable. He would do better to point out that all of the associations, including notably Europe Ecologie (Les Verts-the Green Party), have decided to take their fight all the way to court which is what will happen if the Parisian site is chosen. He should also say that they have every chance of winning since this project for the extension of Roland-Garros into the Serres appears risky and debatable on a legal level. We would like to add that, according to the Greens, quoted in Le Figaro (8 February 2011), “the investigating commissioner had stated a ‘favorable opinion on condition that the demands required be met’. Among these : a ‘commitment on the part of the FFT to not extend itself to the greenhouses””. We offer an extract of the document, stating this demand, here online [1]. It also includes the condition that the “City of Paris [solemnly promise to] not allow an extension into the greenhouses and the Poètes Square”. We will let our readers judge the value of these promises.

Finally, a word about the project for Versailles, which is just as debatable on both legal and cultural terms. It “has not been covered very much by the media until now [and] has not yet met with too much hostility”, which is true except for our article. The report observes, however, with a good deal of common sense that “it might not be much easier to achieve, given the extremely sensitive character of the site, which enjoys the highest level possible of heritage protection and, furthermore, is listed as Unesco World Heritage site.” “This might hamper the tight schedule for preparations to welcome the tournament in 2016”. That is a bit of an understatement !

Didier Rykner, vendredi 11 février 2011


[1] The important points are underlined in yellow, pp. 8 and 11.

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