Versailles City Hall Blunders on the SDRIF

We have already explained here why the argument presented by the Mayor of Versailles claiming the Schéma directeur de la région d’Ile-de-France (SDRIF) as a truly restrictive document cannot be taken seriously.
We can now definitely prove that it does not hold water. To do so, we copied as precisely as possible the outline of the zones which can be urbanized in the SDRIF onto an aerial view of the Domain (ill. 1). The consequences are as follows :

1. Aerial view of the west side of the Versailles Domain.
In blue : the 1685 wall preserved for the most part.
In red : enclosure wall of Pion barracks built in 1906.
In yellow : “space which can be partially urbanized” according to
the SDRIF. This is the middle area of the Pion sector
(but not of the end) and of a long strip of land
belonging to the Etablissement public de Versailles (ill. 4).
From Google Earth.

2. Schéma directeur de la region d’Ile-de-France.
General dispositon for ground areas.
In salmon : “urbanized space”.
White squares on orange background : “space which can be
. White and orange lines : “space which can be
partially urbanized”
(Pion sector and, by extension,
Saint Quentin, encircled on the right). Dark green :
“woods or forest”. Light green : “Landscaped or green space”.

3. PLU approved on 24 November 2011.
Zoning plan for Pion sector.

- First, despite the small scale, it is obvious that the SDRIF provides for a "landscaped or green space" at the end of the Pion plot (ill. 2) because this land is shown in light green (see legend). However, the new PLU violates the provisions of the SDRIF for urbanizing this space, which is particularly strategic since it is located between the tree lanes of Fontenay and Saint Cyr. Indeed, it plans to install buildings nine meters high with a 30% plot ratio [1] and results in a total "artificialization" of the ground area (constructions, roads, parking lots...) equivalent to 80% [2] (ill. 3, zone URb). The project for the new SDRIF, not yet applicable, provides even more protection because all of the lands which cannot be built up in Pion (and not only the ends of these) are considered as an "agricultural space" [3]. The SDRIF, invoked by city hall to wash its hands of any responsibility, in fact opposes these projects...

- City Hall states furthermore, in its response, that "According to the orientations and measures of the SDRIF, the Pion sector is partly in an ’urbanized space’ and partly in a ’space which can be urbanized’ ". However, the second half of this statement is false. The middle section of the Pion site "can be partially urbanized" only, as stipulated in the SDRIF, which is not the same thing as "can be urbanized" alone (in the first case, the legend shows the white and orange lines, in the second, white squares on an orange background : see legend)... City hall simply made a mistake when consulting the SDRIF map, although it considers it the final authority. This is pushing it a bit too far ! Another question now arises : can a plot of land allowing only 20% of full ground spaces [4] (mainly for vegetation camouflaging on the perimeter of the site) really "be partially urbanized" ? We firmly doubt it.

4. EPV lands between the wall of the Pion barracks,
built in 1906, and the Accroissement tree lane (on the right).
This is a “space which can be partially urbanized” on the SDRIF.
The Etoile Royale is at the end of this perspective.
A plane is about to land at the Saint Cyr l’Ecole airfield.
Photo : Julien Lacaze

- We can also see that the SDRIF considers as a "space which can be partially urbanized" a strip of land falling between route D10 and the point of the Pion site (ill. 2). This listed land, belonging to the Etablissement public de Versailles (EPV), is located between the perimeter of the Pion barracks and the Accroissement tree lane (ill. 1 and 4). City hall, which claims it is compelled by the SDRIF provisions, should consequently classify it in zone U (urban)... It has not done it since the PLU places this long strip of land in a natural zone (ill. 3, zone NP). The city is thus contradicting itself again as it did on the subject of the land at Mortemets (see article) [5]. However, will it use the SDRIF argument one day in order to urbanize it and eat away a bit more at the Domaine national de Versailles ?

5. Choissy pond (created between 1680 and 1684), no doubt the
one least well-known in the park, and buildings of the Institut national
de la recherche agronomique (voir ill. 1).
The land on which the buildings lie is listed as a
historical monument and will be returned to the EPV if
there is “modification of its use” by the INRA.
Photo : Julien Lacaze

- Also, we do not understand either, given the guiding principles which the city claims to follow, why the INRA lands, placed by the SDRIF in the category of "landscaped or green space" (ill. 2), can be urbanized in the PLU (ill. 3, zone USPa). The SDRIF classification is understandable as the INRA site, listed as a historical monument and urbanized after the war against the wishes of the French Ministry, has been promised to the EPV [6] which should, eventually, return it to nature. For this reason, it would be wise to prevent the further densification of this part of the park, so close to the Grand Canal and adjacent to the Choisy pond (ill. 5), whereas the PLU grants its authorization without setting any real limits [7].

Finally, we would like to recall that the SDRIF, whatever the circumstances, is merely a poorly detailed orientation document. For example, we have a hard time understanding why the land at Santos-Dumont, which is objectively not urbanized (ill. 1) has been classified by the Schéma directeur among "urbanized spaces" (ill. 2). This descripton is particularly harmful as this space is located at the end of the Etoile Royale (between the tree lanes in Fontenay and Saint Cyr). Moreover, the map is in contradiction with the written measures of the SDRIF which stipulate that : "The heritage quality of the Versailles Plain deserves to have its protection reinforced. In particular, the spaces which are still free should be preserved, which will imply putting strict limits on the growth of existing communities" [8]...

We see that City Hall ignores the SDRIF so often that its claim affirming that it follows its provisions blindly is blatantly deceptive. The principle of free management of local communities, establishing their autonomy as relates to the SDRIF, can be used almost systematically in the same sense. In this way, the SDRIF is observed when it seems to justify the urbanization of the Domaine (which is not true for all of the zones listed as historical monuments : see article) but is ignored when it opposes it (the lands at Pion which are not urbanized) ! We can see also that it is particularly urgent to reexamine the status of the land areas in the Domaine national de Versailles... Such a lack of precision, in such an important location for national heritage and so coveted by all sorts of developers, is far from being reasonable.

Version française

Didier Rykner et Julien Lacaze, vendredi 27 janvier 2012


[1] File of public inquiry approved by the Municipal council on 24 November 2011. 3a - Regulations. Written rule, p. 291, art. UR 10-2 and 9-2.

[2] We are using the figures provided for the overall sector of Pion, as the zone URb has not received any particular restrictions on the subject.

[3] See here.

[4] File of public inquiry approved by the Municipal council on 24 November 2011. 3a - Regulations. Written rule, p. 298, art. UR 13-3 : "20% of the land area must be arranged in full ground landscaping".

[5] We should recall that, considered as a "space which can be urbanized" by the SDRIF (ill. 2), the land at Mortemets was placed by the PLU in a natural zone (NP), a measure rendered nonsensical by the creation of a sub-zone (NPa) authorizing almost restriction-free urbanization (see article). However, this "urbanized" zone as defined by the SDRIF belongs to a natural zone in the PLU, a change in status which the city claims is impossible.

[6] See here (art. 8 al. 2 and annex, parcel BY 30).

[7] The PLU, which was not revised on this point, should have been modified in favor of heritage preservation. It unfortunately provides for new construction "linked to agricultural activity or agronomic research, if [they] are compatible with the enhancement of the Domaine Nationale" (art. UPS 2. 2., p. 302), which does not mean anything, except taking "enhancement" in an economic sense. Furthermore, "The height of the buildings cannot exceed that of the existing buildings" (art. UPS 10.2, p. 309), which are, in the case of the largest ones, much too high. Neither the plot ratio (art. UPS 9, p. 309), nor their density (COS) (art. UPS 14, p. 315) are regulated, the PLU simply limits itself to providing that "In the UPSa sector, the choice of installing new constructions and the size of their volume should respect the balance of the composition of the château’s park" (art. UPS 11. 1, p. 310)... We should also point out that the INRA is the principal "partner" of the project "le vivant et la ville" planned by the city, a commendable undertaking, on condition that it is not in detriment to the park itself : see here.

[8] SDRIF, p. 303. See here.

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