Alarm raised over 'threat' to France's monuments

15th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 15, 2006 (AFP) - Despite a proud heritage that draws millions of foreign tourists every year, some of France's historic monuments are under threat due to a lack of funding, restoration groups have warned.

PARIS, Sept 15, 2006 (AFP) - Despite a proud heritage that draws millions of foreign tourists every year, some of France's historic monuments are under threat due to a lack of funding, restoration groups have warned.

As France readies for European Heritage Days this weekend, architect Frédéric Didier, president of the College of Historic Monuments warned that a fifth of the country's historic sites were at risk.

"At a prestigious site like Versailles, there are outbuildings which are falling into ruin," Didier complained.

No work has been undertaken on the castle in Compiègne, north of Paris, for 150 years, he said, while at the cathedral in the central town of Nevers "all the statuary is falling down".

France will join more than 40 other European countries offering visitors the chance to visit thousands of buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are normally off-limits to the public.

In Paris, visitors will be able to peek inside the studios of France Television, or the salons of the Elysée presidential palace, among the 17,000 events organised in France.

But private owners, who own about half of France's 40,000 protected monuments, have accused the state of "disengaging".

Christophe Eschlimann, of the GMH association grouping three quarters of restoration companies, said a third of the works projects underway had been interrupted due to lack of funding in the first half of 2006.

And the VMF grouping of 20,000 owners and heritage-lovers has launched a petition calling for urgent measures to restore public funds.

In July, a report by the French Senate's commission of cultural affairs noted that funds for 2006 stood at EUR 195 million which would "permit only a little less than a half of the expressed needs to be satisfied".

But heritage groups agree that an annual EUR 350 million was actually needed, Didier said.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin reacted on Thursday, announcing extra funding for heritage sites, of which EUR 24 million would be immediately released.

But the VMF group warned it would remain vigilant, calling it a "partial response".

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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