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France bids to buy Europe's biggest dune

Ben McPartland · 28 Apr 2015, 15:21

Published: 28 Apr 2015 15:21 GMT+02:00

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The dune of Pyla or Pilat as it also known is the biggest sand dune in Europe and stands at around 107 metres high and is visited by around two million tourists and thrill-seekers each year.

It’s one of France’s most famous natural attractions because it gives stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean and the Bay of Arcachon.

The problem for the French state is that they don’t own it or at least they don't own it outright.

According to Sud-Ouest newspaper 65 percent of the most visited sight in the Aquitaine region of France is privately owned.

But the state appears to be fed up with having to deal with the numerous private owners thought to number at least 250.

In a bid to improve the welcome for visitors and management of the site, authorities, via the organisation Conservatoire du Littoral, which is tasked with protecting France’s coastline, are launching a process to buy out the other parties.

A spokeswoman from the conservation group told The Local that everything from the organisation of the parking to the installation of the stairway to the top of the dune has become complicated with so many owners.

For them, the only way the two million visitors can be handled properly as well as those who use the site for activities like sandboarding, is if the state is the sole owner the sand monument.

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The private owners would be bought out through a system of compulsory purchase orders for which the Conservatoire du Littoral has set aside €5.5 million.

However the process to snap up each grain of sand is estimated to last at least three years.


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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