Arm wrestling around the church of discord, an injunction filed against the resumption of work

The standoff continues. While the Ardèche prefecture had authorized the resumption of work on the gigantic (and controversial) church in the town of Saint-Pierre-de-Colombier, environmental defenders filed an interim order before the administrative court in order to urgently suspend this decision. A new time.

Qualified as “pharaonic”, the project carried out by the religious community of the Missionary Family of Notre-Dame consists of building, in the heart of the regional natural park of the Ardèche mountains, an imposing church that can accommodate 3,500 places as well as a car park. for buses and a footbridge.

Started in May 2019, the site was suspended for the first time in October 2020, pending an in-depth environmental study. The prefect commissioned the Naturalia firm to do this, which submitted its report in May 2022, but the local association “For the future of the Bourges valley” disputes the conclusions.

A “characterized impact on the environment”

“There is a risk of characterized impact on the environment”, estimated this Monday the lawyer of the association Guillaume Tumerelle, “which must lead to a request for exemption”. Based on the critical analysis of the Naturalia file, by both the Monts d’Ardèche Regional Natural Park (PNMA) and the National Association for Biodiversity (ANB), he denounces a “totally biased” study, in particular methodologically.

“A few months apart, Naturalia delivered two contradictory studies in its results”, he points out, recalling that in its latest version, the firm had concluded that there was a “negligible” impact, where, nine months earlier , he referred to a “low” impact. “There is an urgent need to interrupt the work”, because it would lead “to the destruction of protected species and their habitat”, insists the lawyer.

But for Guillaume Gardette, lawyer for the prefecture, the study was carried out “in accordance with the rules of the art, by a completely competent firm”. “The” environmental “risk is sufficiently reduced to be uncharacterized”, in particular “by the adoption of avoidance measures”, he argues.

FMND lawyer Auberi Gaudon for her part challenged any “urgency to act” in summary proceedings, because the earthworks “should not start before next September-October”. According to her, the Naturalia study has “taken into account the observations” and that “the only version to have to be taken into account is the 2nd”. The decision is expected Tuesday at the latest.

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