McDonald’s opens on French island after five-year legal battle

It was the end of a five-year legal battle involving the regional authorities and the court of appeal, but on Thursday a McDonald's opened on a small island off the coast of France.

McDonald's opens on French island after five-year legal battle
The idyllic Île d'Oléron had - until now - no McDonald's. Photo: AFP

The opening marked the first ever presence of US fast food giant McDonald's on the Île d'Oléron, a small island just off La Rochelle in the Charente-Maritime.

The island is popular with holidaymakers and second home owners, although it is not as exclusive as the nearby Île de Ré, and has recently been the site of another high profile legal battle in the French court – when Maurice the noisy cockerel was pitted against his neighbours.

READ ALSO How Maurice the noisy cockerel exposed France's urban and rural divide


The McDonald's in the town of Dolus-d'Oléron opened its doors with little fanfare, and under the eye of several security guards, on December 26th to give local people their Big Mac fix.

The fast food outlet has been vigorously opposed by the local mayor, former Greenpeace activist Grégory Gendre, who had blocked building permits for the restaurant.

He said he had safety concerns about access to the site and the risk of flooding.

After a five-year legal battle involving both the regional tribunal in Poitiers and the appeal court in Bordeaux, McDonald's was finally granted planning permission.

But that may not be the end of the story, as the local town hall has lodged an appeal, particularly over parking and access concerns in the summer, when the population of the island increases fivefold as the holidaymakers arrive.

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French village inherits fortune from Austrian who fled Nazis

An Austrian man who fled the Nazis with his family during World War II has bequeathed a large part of his fortune to the French village whose residents hid them from persecution for years.

French village inherits fortune from Austrian who fled Nazis
The village of Chambon-sur-Lignon in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France. Photo: AFP

Eric Schwam, who died aged 90 on December 25th, wrote the surprise gift into his will for Chambon-sur-Lignon, located on a remote mountain plateau in the Auvergne area of southeast France that historically has a large Protestant community known for offering shelter to those in need.

“It's a large amount for the village,” Mayor Jean-Michel Eyraud told AFP.

He declined to specify the amount since the will was still being sorted out, but his predecessor, who told a local website that she met with Schwam and his wife twice to discuss the gift, said it was around two million euros.

Schwam and his family arrived in 1943 and were hidden in a school for the duration of the war, and remained until 1950.

He later studied pharmacy and married a Catholic woman from the region near Lyon, where they lived.

Eyraud said Schwam asked that the money be used for educational and youth initiatives, in particular scholarships.

Around 2,500 Jews were taken in and protected during World War II by Chambon-sur-Lignon, whose residents were honoured as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial centre.

Over the centuries the village has taken in a wide range of people fleeing religious or political persecution, from priests driven into hiding during the French Revolution to Spanish republicans during the civil war of the 1930s, and more recently migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa.