Interview. Businesses, tourism: Thomas Gourlan bets on the attractiveness of Sud-Yvelines

Thomas Gourlan, President of Rambouillet Territories. (©Rambouillet Territories)

News: Rambouillet Territoires has launched a major project for the management of rainwater in the Groussay district of Rambouillet, which goes hand in hand with the new wastewater treatment plant…

Thomas Gourlan: Indeed. This is the next phase of general flood prevention, water treatment initiated by my predecessor, Marc Robert. This so-called storm basin, which is intended to temporarily store large influxes of water, so that the Gazeran wastewater treatment plant has time to process. We are in the process, phase by phase, of anticipating the future and adapting to climate change, which is generating more precipitation in frequency and intensity.

The 6,000 m2 pond is built here because it is where the rainwater converges. The work should last one year and two months. A public meeting is scheduled for September 15 to present the project to local residents and the different phases of the work.

The cost is estimated at around 10 million euros, fully funded. We must salute the anticipation of Marc Robert following the floods of 2016 and 2018. There will be no additional costs.

At the end of the work, there will only be a small house left to house the technical solutions. We will have a valuation of the site with landscaped areas. And the city-stadium will be reinstalled.

Water is also a concern at the Etangs de Hollande, more specifically cyanobacteria which disrupted the season. What conclusions do you draw?

XL: We had 16,700 entries from June to August. Revenue volume is consistent with previous years.

This year’s news: the ARS analysis protocol has changed. It allows a finer reading of the state of the water to act week after week. This allowed us to obtain a stabilized attendance. The season is generally satisfactory with episodes of intense heat.

The summer of 2023 could be just as hot, or even hotter. What do you envision?

XL: The cyanobox did not give entirely convincing results. To anticipate the future, we are going to explore two avenues. First of all, define the natural discharges that feed the basin and feed the cyanobacteria. We’ll see if we can reduce them. The remarkable site does not allow us to go further.

In addition, we are going to think about new cultural and sporting activities but also an improved catering offer to take advantage of the site in the event of closure of swimming. Increasing the opening range in the year is an option. The range of bicycles presented by the service provider is intended to continue. We are in discussion with the ONF which could organize discoveries of the forest massif, its fauna and its flora.

What should we expect in terms of tourism development in the coming months?

XL: Generally speaking, we want to develop heritage tourism. Ensuring that those who come to the territory discover our remarkable heritage: the Château de Rambouillet, that goes without saying, but more generally the buildings, the sites to discover in the villages. It is also about our natural heritage, the forest. We intend to sign an agreement with the ONF to help people discover this remarkable forest, wetter than the other forests in the Ile-de-France region. With a very particular specificity of fauna and flora. But also the agricultural heritage, which is part of our identity.

The first component is the Hiking Center, operational on sunny days, in the premises of the Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines Tourist Office. We are going to create thematic pedestrian loops specific to our territory to discover the villages.

We will also participate in the necessary arrangements for the Véloscénie, in particular by securing crossroads in collaboration with the Department. We will identify accident-prone areas. But also the animation of the network with rural lodgings and bike repairers. I would like us to be part of this dynamic.

Véloscénie induces a leisure practice. Statistics show that when the distance between the home and the place of destination is greater than 7 km, the bicycle is no longer borrowed. Someone who lives in Paray-Douaville will not cycle to Rambouillet station.

I would also like tourist terminals to be set up in stations to show the extent of what can be done in the territory.

Rambouillet Territoires is in charge of economic development. How to attract businesses, and therefore jobs, to Sud-Yvelines?

XL: Our territorial attractiveness is accentuated thanks to several factors: quality of life, environment and many services. Entrepreneurs who settle are investors for their own account. I am careful that the installation is sustainable.

In addition, the price of the land is attractive.

I want a balance between the companies that set up and the population that lives in the area. Nearly 70% of the inhabitants of Rambouillet Territoires work outside. A change in the business typology (from employee to R&D) is needed to create territorial wealth.

I’m looking at the type of business that comes to settle. I am in contact with a company that is working on new modes of wireless communication, a revolutionary patent, in connection with the Saclay plateau. They will probably come and set up here with their research and development part.

I seek innovation, the creation of added value and territorial development, targeting businesses. But everyone also has to have their place.

We are not far from the Saclay plateau, we can bring in companies and start-ups.

Economic development can be limited by the availability of land…

XL: The Climate and Resilience law and the Ile de France master plan (zero artificialisation) force us to artificialise the land less than before. This raises many questions for local communities. I have written to the state explaining the potential enforcement difficulties. The principle is virtuous and cannot be called into question.

However, it creates enormous constraints on the price of land, on the rehabilitation of industrial wastelands and makes land more scarce. This factor enjoins me even more to be rather selective on the companies.

Interview by Philippe Cohen and Stéphanie Petit

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Interview. Businesses, tourism: Thomas Gourlan bets on the attractiveness of Sud-Yvelines

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