In the Hérault, a theme park project failed for lack of environmental authorization

The “Mediterranean Gardens”: under this engaging name, the Hérault departmental council plans to open to the public, on around thirty hectares, at the gates of Béziers, spaces with Greek or tropical plant atmospheres, with a bamboo grove , a “sacred wood » of oaks or even a labyrinth made up of vines. At the Bayssan estate, which belongs to him, several constructions are planned: a wine pavilion, a restaurant, an aquarium, an immersive cinema dome, a greenhouse, a lighthouse-belvedere more than thirty meters high, a building of reception, technical rooms… Three hundred thousand annual visitors are expected. But the department did not consider it necessary to seek environmental authorization with the impact studies and public consultation that accompany it.

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Wrongly, according to the decision of the Council of State, made public on May 25: beyond ten hectares taken on a natural space, a development must be subject to an environmental instruction. The high court thus calls into question the green lights obtained on the spot, in 2020: the summary judgment of the Montpellier administrative court which had dismissed the appeal at first instance is ” canceled “and the implicit authorization of the prefect of Hérault is “suspended”.

The project, which seemed to be progressing smoothly for several years, came up against the determination of France Nature Environnement (FNE). The Languedoc-Roussillon FNE opposed this ” school case “ of a vast development, but presented by sections, which allows it not to have to comply with the constraints of environmental law. The federation has filed an appeal to stop the construction of the water retention basins, the first stage of the work to come.

“Two more years”

The department council takes note of the decision of the Council of State and is therefore preparing to launch an authorization procedure in good and due form. “The total, with public inquiry and impact studies, assures Dominique Jaumard, Deputy Director General in charge of regional planning. It will take two more years. Our reading of the texts had led us to think that it was not necessary. It must be said that the law is unstable: between December 30, 2020 and July 30, 2021, fundamental decrees modified the regulations three times. »

Between the buildings – for which the building permits have already been obtained – and the circulation spaces, the project will lead to the artificialization of less than five hectares, according to Dominique Jaumard, who does not take into account the surrounding clearings. However, he recognizes that, in his presentation, the community did not take into account the surfaces of the previous developments, although adjoining. A theater and an amphitheater opened in 2021 have replaced a marquee, and the adjoining car park has been extended to reach six hundred and fifty spaces in anticipation of the reinforced power of attraction of the touristic-cultural pole of Bayssan.

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In the Hérault, a theme park project failed for lack of environmental authorization

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