At the entrance to the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier, in Ardèche, a sign warns the visitor: “Stop concrete, no to the construction of a basilica”. A basilica ? In this village of 430 souls? The project, led by a Catholic community, the Missionary Family of Notre-Dame, involves the construction of an imposing church that can accommodate 3,500 people, an accommodation building, as well as a parking area and a footbridge over the river – both already almost built. It extends over seven hectares, including 1.5 hectares of concrete, in the heart of the natural park of the Ardèche mountains and a valley home to many protected species: yellow-bellied toads, shrikes, otters…
For years, the dream of the religious builders has been wreaking havoc on this rural territory. New demonstration, legal recourse… At the start of 2023, the mobilization started again after a prefectural decree authorized the resumption of work, suspended for more than two years. “It’s a disproportionate project, which has enormous impacts on the landscape, on biodiversity, on the life of the village… And yet, we have never been associated by the municipality! »indignant Clémence Delahaye, farmer and member of the local collective Les Amis de la Bourges, who came to show the extent of the site in the freezing January air.
The case of the basilica of Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier began to escalate in 2018, during the building permit investigation. In its request for review sent to the environmental authority, the missionary Family then commits an original sin: to the questions of whether its project is located in a regional natural park, and whether it is likely to disturb the existing biodiversity, that it answers ” No “. The instructing services of the State do not come under and exempt the project from an environmental assessment.
“The environmental authority was clearly unable to base its decision on exact facts”will report a law firm consulted by the regional natural park, which considers that such a project should have been subjected to an impact study.
Appeal against the work resumption order
The permit is therefore granted and work begins in 2019. But the dispute is mounting. In June 2020, a start of ZAD is organized on the site, quickly evacuated… But not without results. The same summer, the prefect of the Ardèche organizes a consultation and suspends the work. Their resumption is conditional on an environmental study carried out over four seasons – a study however less complete than the evaluation from which the Missionary Family was exempted, which would have analyzed all the impacts (water, air, climate, landscape…) and would have been submitted to a public notice from the environmental authority.
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Source: Le Monde