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Tuesday, 29 April 2014

From our Brittany correspondent - what the Breton's are doing post winter storm damage

Here's a few words from an ex-pat living in Brittany monitoring the local press and media. It seems the French Government are being a little more supportive of those coastal regions hit hard by the winter storms - the speed with which they have actioned repairs in stark contrast to the minimal work carried out in Cornwall where work on all but the most obviously hazardous damage has ground to a halt following David Cameron's 'money no object' declaration post storms!

"Just as in Cornwall, the Breton coast was battered by the February storms. The damage to harbours and sea defences is estimated to have cost around 10 million euros (excluding damage to private property). The French government has just issued an official declaration concerning storm damage, which enables natural disaster insurance to come into play and repair work is underway in the most seriously affected areas, particularly around Penmarc’h and Le Guilvinec. Breakwaters have had to be rebuilt or strengthened following recent breaches along this stretch of the coast.

Among the most visible damage, the disappearance of dunes leading in some places to 20 metres of land being lost. Local authorities immediately moved into action to ensure the coastal paths and shoreline would be cleaned up before the summer season, and now they are moving into the second phase reflecting on how to ensure protection in the long term. Attitudes have changed considerably over the past few decades. Piling up of rocks is now rejected and limited to harbour defences with alternative methods being looked into for the general coastline, as these “exceptional” conditions are expected to become more frequent in the coming years. Tourist leaders remain optimistic suggesting that the spectacular storm images may even encourage visitors to come to Brittany this spring and during the summer season.

While the forces of nature cannot be controlled, the impact of man’s behaviour on the environment and landscape can be changed. In recent years, there has been particular concern about boats being abandoned in ports and inlets around the coast of Western Brittany. For some owners, the cost of removing and dismantling old boats is prohibitive. The local authorities, including Finistère Council and Douarnenez Council have just launched a trial to clean up the ports. A disposal site and pick-up service should enable owners to dispose of their unwanted boats at a much lower cost. Recycling is the key to the funding proposal and will determine whether the trial will be extended, with the exact cost of the service yet to be announced."