Victory for British neighbours in €57 million chateau court battle

A vast Renaissance-style castle in southern France, worth €57 million, has been ordered to be demolished in a long-running judicial battle between a French property developer and his multi-millionaire British neighbours.

Victory for British neighbours in €57 million chateau court battle
Photo: Google Maps
It's not exactly something you'd want to be told if you owned your very own castle in a picturesque part of France. 
But the Aix-en-Provence court of appeal ruled on Monday that Château Diter in Grasse, a town on the French Riviera, has to be destroyed on legal grounds. 
And the owner of the €57 million property, Patrick Diter, has been given a year and a half to do it. 
So, what's going on?
Well, the property wasn't always the vast French chateau of 3,000 metres squared that  it is now. 

In fact, at one point, it was a more modest 200 metres squared country house which through a lot of construction work, Diter turned into the palace it is today. 
The chateau has a swimming pool, a heliport and a road of 600 metres squared – all built illegally in a protected wooded area. 
Due to the fact that the work was carried out illegally, the French courts ordered “the restoration of the premises by demolishing all of the construction work” which had been carried out since 2005. 
Diter who was also fined €450,000 will face a further fine of €500 for every day he exceeds the time limit of 18 months specified by the French courts. 
Diter was also ordered to pay his neighbours €450,000 in damages, but an earlier imposed six-month suspended jail sentence was waived on appeal.
At Diter's first trial, held back in January 2019, assistant public prosecutor Pierre-Jean Gaury described Diter's transformation of the property as a “pharaonic project, delusional, totally illegal and built illegally.”
Gaury added that it was carried out “in violation of urban planning rules, as well as of safety and environmental rules” by an owner whose “only concern is money”.
Diter had earlier acknowledged making “mistakes” in carrying out wave after wave of expansion to the farmhouse on the large property he acquired in 1999.
He later sold off part of the estate to a London-based British couple, Stephen and Caroline Butt.
Stephen Butt operates Silchester Partners, an asset management company, and was described by the Sunday Times newspaper as one of the richest fund managers in England.
Over 10 years, he and his wife filed a series of complaints over what they called their neighbour's “building frenzy” and the disturbance caused when the property is let out for large-scale weddings and film shoots.
The property notably featured as Villa Carmella in the first season of  Riviera, a TV thriller first broadcast by Sky Atlantic.

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Snobs, beaches and drunks – 5 things this joke map teaches us about France

A popular joke 'map' of France has once again been widely shared on social media, sparking endless jokes at the expense of certain regions of France.

Snobs, beaches and drunks - 5 things this joke map teaches us about France
Image AFP/
But while the map – created by – is clearly intended to be comic, it teaches us some important points about France’s regional divides, local stereotypes and in-jokes.

Here are some of the key points.
1. Everyone hates Parisians
The map is purportedly France as seen through the eyes of Parisians, and contains a series of snobbish and rude generalisations about every part of France that is not maison (home) in the capital and its surroundings. The great majority of the country is labelled simply as paysans (peasants).
The general stereotype about Parisians is that they are snobs, rudely judging the rest of the country which they regard as backwards and full of ploucs (yokels) apart from small areas which make nice holiday destinations.
Like all sweeping generalisations, this is true of some people and very much not of others, but one of the few things that can unite people from all areas of France is how much they hate les parigots têtes de veaux (a colloquialism that very roughly translates as ‘asshole Parisians’)
2. Staycations rule
Even before Covid-related travel restrictions, holidaying within France was the norm for many French people.
As the map shows, Parisians regard the southern and western coastlines as simply plages (beaches) which they decamp to for at least a month in July or August. In the height of summer French cities tend to empty out (apart from tourists) as locals head to the seaside or the countryside.
In winter the Pyrenees and Alps are popular ski destinations.
3. Northerners like a drink
There is a very widespread stereotype, although not really backed up by evidence, that the people of Normandy, Brittany and the Nord area like a drink or two. Many suggest this is to cope with the weather, which does tend to be rainier than the rest of France (although has plenty of sunshine too).
Official health data doesn’t really back this up, as none of these areas show a significantly greater than average rate of daily drinkers, although Nord does hold the sad record for the highest rate of people dying from alcohol-related liver disease.
What’s certainly true is that Brittany and Normandy are cider country, with delicious locally-produced ciders on sale everywhere, well worth a try if you are visiting.
4. Poverty
The map labels the north eastern corner of France as simply pauvres – the poor.
The north east of the country was once France’s industrial and coal-mining heartland, and as traditional industries have declined there are indeed pockets of extreme poverty and high unemployment. The novel The End of Eddy, telling the story of novelist Edouard Louis’ childhood in a struggling small town near Amiens, lays out the social problems of such areas in stark detail.
However poverty is not just confined to one corner of France and the département that records the highest levels of deprivation is actually Seine-Saint-Denis in the Paris suburbs.
5. Southern prejudice
According to the map, those from the south are either branleurs (slackers) or menteurs (liars). 
This isn’t true, obviously, there are many lovely, hard-working and truthful people in southern France, but the persistent stereotype is that they are lazy – maybe because it’s too hot to do much work – and slightly shifty.
Even people who aren’t actually rude about southerners can be pretty patronising, as shown when south west native Jean Castex became the prime minister in summer 2020. 
Castex has a noticeable south west accent which sparked much comment from the Paris-based media and political classes, with comments ranging from the patronising – “I love his accent, I feel like I’m on holiday” – to the very patronising – “that accent is a bit rugby” (a reference to the fact that TV rugby commentators often come from France’s rugby heartlands in the south west).
In his first year as PM, Castex has undertaken a dizzying schedule of appointments around the four corners of France, so hopefully the lazy myth can now be put to bed.
And anyone tempted to take the piss out of his accent – glottophobie (accent prejudice) is now a crime in France.
For more maps that reflect France, head to