French government offers €80k grants to attract shops, bars and cafés to rural villages

The Local France
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French government offers €80k grants to attract shops, bars and cafés to rural villages
Rural France. (Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP)

In attempt to stop the decline of rural communities, the French government has today launched a €12 million scheme that offers grants to entice shops, bars, cafés and other businesses to isolated areas of France.


France boasted 34,965 communes in 2021, according to official figures.

Not counting the six martyr villages that have mayors but no residents, they range from the smallest, Rochefourchat in the Drôme (population: one - plus castle ruins and a church) to the largest, Paris (population: 2,175,601).

Of those 34,965 French communes, more than 21,000 (62 percent) have no shop, figures collated by national statistics body Insee, show. In comparison, 75 percent of France’s communes had at least one shop in 1980.

The problems are clear. Because there’s no nearby shop - in those sparsely populated areas of France that most people only get to see flash by when the Tour de France is on, the median road trip for daily provisions is 10 minutes, Insee said, compared to less than three minutes in city environments - smaller, rural communes with empty shops are less attractive to house hunters, which in turn makes them less attractive to prospective businesses. 


So the shops stay empty and unmaintained, property hunters stay away. And so the vicious circle turns.

This story of slow rural decline, in contrast to the famous and strangely controversial 15-minute city plans of Anne Hidalgo in Paris, doesn’t usually make the headlines.

READ ALSO What is a ’15-minute city’ and how is it working in Paris?

Last month, the French government launched a €12 million scheme to reverse that trend in up to 1,000 communes, to attract businesses to business-less areas, cut the need for residents in isolated areas to resort their cars, and make life in rural France attractive again.

And, as of Monday, March 1st, businesses were invited to register their interest with a specially set-up registration desk at their local préfectures - which will make their selections to go forward for government consideration.

The State funding is intended to support a permanent multi-service business in a rural village or town with few or no local amenities - for example a combined shop and café - or a mobile business which visits otherwise isolated areas several times a week.

Under the terms of the scheme, candidate villages must be places where any existing local business cannot meet the daily basic needs of residents and must be at least a 10-minute drive from the nearest commercial centre.

Up to €80,000 will be available for a permanent business, and €20,000 for a mobile one, a sum that the government says must be at least matched by the business or commune concerned.

The government has indicated that it would be open to other options depending on the local situation. 


A single-activity business (such as a bakery, for example) would not necessarily be excluded, nor would a plan for the creation of a second business in a commune, as long as it complemented and consolidated an existing operation.

If successful, the scheme may be renewed for 2024/25, targeting more poorly served local areas.


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Anonymous 2023/03/02 10:21
Are grants available for UK migrants wishing to become residence in France?

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