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BRITS IN FRANCE

Petition calls on the UK government to recognise vaccination certificates of Brits living in France

An online petition launched to persuade the UK government to allow vaccinated Britons living abroad to visit families back home without having to quarantine is nearly halfway to its target of being considered for a debate in Parliament.

Petition calls on the UK government to recognise vaccination certificates of Brits living in France
Photo: Ben Fathers | AFP

The petition points out that millions of Britons living abroad still have to quarantine if they want to return home to visit family and friends, even if they have been vaccinated. This is despite British tourists getting to go-ahead to avoid quarantine on their return.

“Regardless of vaccination status, we face prohibitively lengthy and expensive hotel quarantine if we return home. Many of us have not seen family since before the pandemic and are being prevented from doing so by quarantine restrictions,” the petition read.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced last week that, from July 19th, Britons visiting amber list countries, such as France, would no longer have to quarantine on arrival back in the UK, as long as they were fully vaccinated.

However the UK will only accept vaccines administered by the NHS.

The rules mean that UK nationals in France who had their jabs in the UK can travel overseas and return without having to quarantine – but those who had their vaccines in France will face a 10-day quarantine if they want to travel to the UK to visit friends and family, as well as paying around £160 for the compulsory testing on the second and eighth day of self-isolation.

The announcement sparked anger among UK nationals living abroad, many of whom have not seen family for 18 months as they cannot afford expensive travel testing packages as well as taking an extra 10 days off work to quarantine.

READ ALSO ‘I have to quarantine to see my dying dad’ – Brits in France furious over UK travel rules

More than 44,000 people have now signed the petition, prompting a response from the government. If it reaches 100,000 signatures, it will be considered for a debate in Parliament.

The UK government said in its response: “Public health has always been our number one priority and we will not risk throwing away our hard-won achievements which have only been possible through the work of the British people.

“We recognise the impact that restrictions and this pandemic have had on many people. We have made enormous progress this past year in tackling the pandemic across Britain. That progress has been hard won and it is important that we do not risk undermining it now. Yet we are also a nation with ties across the globe.

“There are some instances where travellers might be able to get an exemption from needing to quarantine. These exemptions are exceptional and limited, and you will need evidence to support your request.

“Even if you’ve been vaccinated, you still have to follow the same testing and isolation requirements as non-vaccinated people when you return to the country, as per the traffic light system.”

You can sign the petition HERE.

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TOURISM

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Amid accusations of racism at fancy seaside resorts and legal controversies surrounding US statesmen, we take a look at the law surrounding private beaches in France.

Reader question: Are there private beaches in France?

Question: I read that all beaches in France are public property, but down here on the Riviera there are a lot of ‘private beaches’ – how do the rules actually work?

In France, everyone has the right to a dip in the ocean, though it might not seem that way when walking through certain areas.

There are 1,500 of these “private beaches” in France – the vast majority of them located on the Côte d’Azur.

They have become a source of controversy recently, after two private beaches in Juan-les-Pins were accused of racism and discrimination following an investigation and video circulated by French media Loopsider. The video (below) shows how a white couples receive different treatment than North African or Black couples.

So what are these ‘private beaches’ and are they even legal in France?

In reality, none of these beachfront hotels, resorts or beach operators actually own that land, as the sea and the beach are considered ‘public maritime’ and are therefore the domain of the French state.

This means that technically there are no private beaches in France, as no one is supposed to be allowed to own the beach, though there are some caveats to that rule.

Since 1986, the State has been able to grant ‘concessions’ to allow for parts of the beach to be temporarily rented. Thus, hotels, resorts or beach operators can request a temporary rental of the beach for a specific period of time – the maximum duration being twelve years, which is renewable. If the local town hall agrees, then the renter will pay a fee (typically between €15,000 and €100,000 per year). 

This might seem like a de facto way of allowing beaches to be privatised, but the few who manage to ‘rent the beach’ are still subject to some constraints. For instance, they are only allowed to occupy the beach for six months of the year (sometimes this can be extended up to eight months with the permission of the town hall, or twelve months in less common circumstances).

At the end of the season, they are required to dismantle their installations, so permanent private structures on the beach are therefore not allowed.

So you might see a waterfront resort, but they do not technically have ownership over the beach.

What about private deckchairs or sun beds next to the water? 

This is another rule that is not always perfectly respected. Legally, any organisation that rents a part of the beach is required to leave a strip of “significant width” along the sea.

This is usually about three to five metres from the high tide mark, where members or the public can walk along the water or bring down their own towels or deck chairs down to the beach.

If a ‘private beach’ has deck chairs or sun-loungers right up against the water, there is a good chance the renting organisation is not following the rules.

Beachfront property

As the public has the right to be able to access the beach, homeowners are not allowed to block passage and can even incur fines for doing so. 

The public must be able to pass through land to get to the beach, and cannot be blocked from the beach in front of a property.

Public access to the beach came into the spotlight due to a controversy surrounding a property of former American presidential candidate and statesman, John Kerry.

Kerry’s family owns a villa in Saint-Briac-sur-Mer in Brittany, and has fought a three-decade legal battle to be able to block the coastal trail on the property, which by French law, should be accessible to the public. 

Despite the family siting potential ‘security threats’ should the beach front path be open to the public, local authorities backed plans to continue allowing public access in 2019.

What about building a waterfront property?

First, keep in mind that building in general in France is a heavily regulated process that requires planning permission.

You will not be able to build within 100 metres of the shoreline. If you buy a pre-existing coastal property, you will need to remember the three-metre rule discussed above and, as the Kerry family discovered, you are not allowed to block public access to the beach. 

For ‘coastal zones’ specifically, there are more strict regulations and most plots of land by the sea are listed as protected natural areas, and therefore are not allowed to be built on.

Can access to the beach ever be forbidden?

Yes, as per the Coastal Law of 1986, local authorities can forbid access to the beach for “security, national defence or environmental protection.” During the Covid lockdowns several local authorities banned access to beaches to avoid illicit partying.

There are also several rules about what you are allowed to do – and not to do – while visiting French beaches, and some of them might surprise you. 

READ MORE: The little-known French beach rule that could net you a €1,500 fine

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