Tension high before ruling on Center Parcs village in ancient French forest
On the edge of an ancient forest in a remote corner of south-eastern France, a spray-painted sign marked the entrance to the “free zone”.
An abandoned forestry house had been transformed into a squatted operations centre called “the fortress”. Men and women were building wooden structures, planting small vegetable patches and surveying a map of “barricades” built deep into the woodland. This is the frontline in the latest battle over the heart and soul of the French countryside: a protest movement to stop the construction of a Center Parcs holiday village in the Forest of Chambaran in Isère.
“Why would you destroy such a calm and beautiful bit of nature to build an artificial holiday village of bungalows crammed with thousands of people around a tropical dome with a heated pool?” asked one protester in her 20s who had been squatting at the site for several months. “This is an important environmental area. We won’t leave until we’ve stopped this industrial tourism project going ahead.” One banner summed up her position: “No to the violence of leisure.”
For eight years, Center Parcs – the woodland holiday-camp concept known for its family bungalows and giant transparent domes containing pools and jacuzzis – has been planning to build a holiday village of nearly 1,000 cottages on a 150-hectare site in this remote forest. The project sits at the edge of the small village of Roybon about 40 miles from Grenoble, which has a population of 1,300 people, and is surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of high plateaus and rolling grassy hills against a mountain backdrop.