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Privatization of famous French beach causes uproar

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Privatization of famous French beach causes uproar
Photo: AFP
15:00 CEST+02:00
The summer season is almost upon us but all is not well at a famous resort in western France where a section of what is Europe's longest beach has been privatized.
Which beach is it?
 
La Baule in Brittany, western France, one of the country's most famous beaches, and stretching 12km-long it is Europe's largest. 
 
While it isn't particularly well-known outside of France, during the summer months locals, holidaymakers and hordes of Parisians descend on the swanky beach to bask in the sunshine and take advantage of the town's casino and luxury hotels.
 
La Baule has attracted the French high society providing second homes to the crème de a crème since the beginning of the 20th century. 
 
 
What's the story
 
The right to manage a significant 5.4km of La Baule was handed over by the the Loire-Atlantique department to French utilities giant Veolia at the end of last December. 
 
The company plans to renovate and maintain the access to the beach, maintain the toilet facilities and take care of the management of the 35 businesses that operate along the 5.4km stretch including bars, restaurants and beach clubs.
 
But the move that will see Veolia manage the area for 12 years has angered the business owners already operating on this stretch of La Baule. 
 
 
Why all the uproar?
 
The 35 businesses currently operating on the beach bring in an average of €8.5 million and provide 500 seasonal jobs for people who go to La Baule to work in bars, restaurants and beach clubs. 
 
But next year the current permanent structures are due to be destroyed and replaced by temporary structures that can be dismantled out of season. The cost of this is estimated to be between €200,000 and €700,000 which businesses say will naturally lead to rent increases of 57 percent.
 
 
For many, these costs are unmanageable and they may be forced to give up their businesses.
 
While others may be forced to increase the space their business takes up, for example by putting out more tables and deckchairs, in an effort to increase turnover and make up for the rent hikes. This solution could create a chain reaction, prompting other businesses to do the same and leave less free space for holidaymakers. 
 
 
Why are authorities privatizing the beach anyway?
 
The privatization follows on from a 2006 a beach order that set the limit for the total beach area that can be dedicated to commercial use. The limit is 20 percent -- a limit which is judged by the surface area of the beach at half tide. 
 
But the beach order was not applied to La Baule. Then in January 2014 a fierce storm hit the beach and wrecked many of the businesses operating there. A state of natural disaster was declared. 
 
The problems arising from the fallout from this event persuaded the local authority they needed to bring in an outside company to manage the beach.
 
 
 
 
 

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