I bet our mayor is spitting chips. The government has just announced a plan to revitalise the centres of more than 200 medium sized provincial towns. They are offering generous funding so the locals don't have to contribute, and have even stolen our mayor's name for his project to improve the centre of Preuilly.
In fact, Preuilly wouldn't have qualified for this new programme. It's for towns with populations between thirty and fifty thousand. Twenty-three percent of the population live in such towns and twenty-six percent work in them. Many of these towns struggle with social problems and lack of resources to maintain their attractiveness.
To help these towns a fund of 5 billion euros will be rolled out over 5 years, available for 222 towns.
The mayors of these towns will produce plans in partnership with public and private local enterprises. Known as 'Coeur de ville' ('town heart') the project can take different forms.
The historic centre of Poitiers.
The first is to improve the energy ratings of dwellings in the centre of town. 1.2 billion will be available to adapt the built heritage in these town centres so they are more energy efficient.
The second is to use 1.5 billion euros to build new dwellings in town centres as well as develop education, cultural and transport options to improve quality of life.
Finally, there is support for businesses wishing to establish themselves in the centre of town. This is seen as key to the vitality of these places. One way of doing that is to assist businesses to develop their online presence. The rules will be relaxed and businesses who wish to set up in town will no longer have to apply for permission from the préfecture (shire offices).
A classic car event in Blois.
Around us the towns who will benefit include Chateauroux, Chinon, Issoudun, Blois, Bourges, Chatellerault, Limoges and Poitiers.
The project is seen as a successor to the previous programme to improve internet access for everyone and eliminate the 'dead zones'. The government has come to an agreement with the telecomms companies to resolve the issue and end patchy internet connections. They recognise that three out of four job seekers use the internet.
Old and new in Bourges.