Rhone Gard: the Chartreuse de Valbonne will not be a haven of peace… the investors are throwing in the towel

The investors had a project: to develop a program of healing stays based on yoga and mediation at the Chartreuse de Valbonne.

The operation, costing €95 million, will ultimately not take place. The project was to generate at least 150 jobs. It is obviously a considerable loss for the territory and the local companies which are seeing a financial windfall which would have made it possible to restore and enhance an emblematic historic monument for the Gard Rhône and the Occitanie region.

This has indeed become a certainty since the fifth and last Steering Committee meeting held in the Gard prefecture on Tuesday November 22, 2022. A meeting attended by the promoters’ teams and the representatives of the stakeholder administrations, namely the Drac (1), the Dreal (2), the DDTM (3), the National Forestry Office and the mayor of Saint-Paulet-de-Caisson Christophe Serre.

At the request of Dreal, the promoters had hired environmental technicians to carry out a four-season study. The Gard Rhodanien agglomeration community was also represented. Still owner of the Chartreuse de Valbonne, the ASVMT (4) was also present.

The question of bats

It will be two years since the compromise was signed. It was January 20, 2020. In two years of discussions and negotiations, there has been little significant progress. And the single environmental authorization (AEU) which would allow the work to be done is still pending.

This summit meeting could suggest that the process of acquiring the building classified as a Historic Monument was coming to an end. Which did not correspond to the outcome that the promoters hoped for.

Other requirements have been added to the specifications: problems with the car parks with the ONF, constraints on the flow of water and difficulties in obtaining a sufficient flow of water. It takes 200 m³ per day to supply such a complex. And then there is the last straw that broke the camel’s back on the question of the presence of bats, a protected species that have settled in Valbonne for twelve years.

One of the participants in the Copil of November 22 testifies: “We were told: You will not have all the authorizations before the end of the first half of 2024”. Tired of the fight, the promoters who have already invested €2 million in study costs ended up throwing in the towel, fearing that in two years new constraints would ultimately arise when the current requirements would have been met. The couple Ignace and Magali Vantorre Schulz therefore ended up giving up.

The “Ayatollahs” … of ecology

An outcome that puzzles those who saw a positive view of the realization of such a project. “There are a lot of people who should have supported these promoters, starting with the historical monument services. When you have a person capable of putting €95 million on a monument like the Chartreuse with no prospect of return on investment immediate we must support it. And instead of that, we have the impression that there are people, undoubtedly within the administration and also certain Ayatollah of the defense of the ecology fauna and flora, who are mobilized to derail the project. There is a certain relentlessness. It’s quite disappointing. And I find that the management of bats is quite mind-blowing” regret this observer.

The hotel that will never see the light of day

The 20,000 m2 of floor space of the Chartreuse de Valbonne were to be occupied by a hotel with around a hundred rooms, two restaurants, a spa and numerous practice areas.

A necessary and complex rehabilitation was to bring life back to this listed monumental complex, which had been largely abandoned for many years. “Despite the considerable efforts that we have made with our teams to meet the objective of filing authorization applications by the end of 2022, this deadline will not be met” declare the promoters.

1) Regional directorates of cultural affairs. 2) Regional Directorates for the Environment, Planning and Housing 3) Departmental Directorate for Sea Territories 4) Departmental Directorate for Sea Territories.

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Rhone Gard: the Chartreuse de Valbonne will not be a haven of peace… the investors are throwing in the towel

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