Saturday, October 29, 2011

Greed and Influence

I was pondering, the other day, as you do, about whether my blog is a life in France blog. I don't seem to write about specific life in France type things, like village life, or interacting with the locals. And when I do actually, it usually gets me into trouble - oops... I suppose it's a bit off-putting, getting into trouble each time you stick your head above the parapet.

Recently, apart from the weekend away blogs in Mont Ventoux, you'd be hard-pressed to realise I live in France, as I've blogged about boys' smelly socks, my stomach muscles, and Groupon. I suppose I don't think of myself as having a life in France specifically, I just live here and get on with it in my own little way.

Anyway, today I thought I'd break out again, and risk local wrath, to write about the shenanigans of the agglomeration. My village is not part of the agglomeration. This means local taxes are low which is a good thing. It also means the mayor has more say in what can be built where, which is also a good thing. It is part of a community of villages which share the same outlook on life - preserving village life and not being consumed by the voracious agglo which would really like to cover the place in flats, tax us heavily and not really offer anything much beyond 40cts off the price of park and ride tram ticket.

A few years ago, the previous president of the region decided unilaterally and completely illegally to impose membership of the agglo on my village and the one next door. A referendum was held and 95% of the inhabitants said they didn't want to be part of the agglo. So the mayors took legal action, and two years later we were out of it again. I must say, in that time, I didn't notice any improvement in living conditions beyond a few cents off here and there and a better bus service, but I never use the bus.

The president of the agglo, however, is not satisfied. He looks to the wealth of the villages and wants to tap into that lovely taxable revenue to fund waste water treatment centres for the city, tram lines that won't reach either village and other such projects. He is also under pressure from predatory developers who eye hungrily all the prime site land just waiting to be concreted over by des res flats and starter homes.

Despite the fact that the Region's Prefet has approved the existing limits of the village community - an act of wisdom and courage, according to our mayor - the lobbyists are fighting to have access to unacceptable levels of land development. We are awaiting news of the outcome of a series of meetings defining the future plan of development which will determine whether we retain our rural identity or become absorbed by the conurbation.

Absolutely no one wants to be absorbed into anything; no one that lives here, anyway, as it is precisely this rural aspect that is so appealing - quiet, peaceful, safe, but right near the big city. I don't know how much longer we can hang on, but I hope the voracious agglo doesn't get its way, because it would seriously affect life around here - more cars, more people, more noise, less security, more disturbance, etc.

I live here because it's a perfect environment for bringing up children. My children can roam free, as I did at their age, and can be independent to a much greater degree than if they lived in a place that had major traffic issues, fewer places to roam, and less sense of security.

I just hope that common sense prevails, not the greedy developers, and the wishes of the inhabitants are upheld.

When you think that there are no actual jobs for people to have around here, one does wonder who it is the developers expect to buy all the new flats and houses, quite apart from the fact that Montpellier has already been transformed recently by excessive building, and promotion of the last days of the tax dodge scheme the Loi Scellier. Investors may find such projects interesting, but who are they going to rent to? Where are all the jobs needed to finance the purchase of rental of such properties? It's quite a conundrum.