“The context has changed”… The army no longer wants to part with its land

The imaginary “for sale” sign has been taken down. In Rennes, the imposing Foch barracks seemed destined for a takeover by the metropolis, which dreamed of recovering the seven hectares and 50,000 m² of buildings constructed to make it a new residential district. Nothing will happen. “We are no longer sellers,” assures the staff of the Rennes army. If the military site aroused so much covetousness, it is because it has serious advantages.

Located a few minutes walk from the city center, it is one of the last large reserves of land in the Breton capital. Since the transformation of the mushroom districts of Courrouze, Baud-Chardonnet and Beauregard, Rennes no longer has any large wasteland to develop. It must rebuild itself and is used to asking the “big owners” to negotiate. With war at Europe’s doorstep, the army is no longer interested in selling.

Like the SNCF or the Church, the army is nevertheless well endowed in land with its multiple establishments. From the Directorate General of Armaments (DGA) in Bruz, to the Maltière site in Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, via the Foch and Margueritte barracks, the military institution has a large breeding ground for work about 6,000 people, two-thirds of them civilians. But contrary to what she envisaged ten years ago, she is no longer willing to part with it. “The context has changed since 2010. We had to reconsider our entire location in Rennes and around. Today, we need land and we must keep it, ”says General Laurent Michon, who commands the western defense and security zone.

“New Context”

In this “new context”, there is of course the war in Ukraine, which puts all the European armies on alert and requires a full mobilization of its personnel. Specialized in information and cyberdefence, Rennes is at the forefront of this surveillance mission. But, if the army no longer wishes to sell its land, it is above all for a problem that many inhabitants of the metropolis also suffer: the difficulty of finding housing. “We need housing for our soldiers and their families. This is a real problem for us, especially to recruit. In the army, 70% of people are on fixed-term contracts. They can’t find where to stay or have to move 30, 40 or 50 kilometers away from their place of work”, continues General Michon.

In Rennes, the Foch barracks has a significant land of seven hectares. – C. Allain/20 Minutes

According to him, this remoteness has financial consequences on the purchasing power of the military. But it can also have an impact on their involvement at work. “If a soldier in the field knows that his family is well, that they are well housed, that his or her partner has a job, he will be better off in operation,” he adds.

The problem of housing soldiers does not fuel the attractiveness of the army either, which must recruit quickly, especially in the field of cybersecurity. Since 2018 and until 2025, 1,800 jobs will have been created in cybersecurity within the Rennes metropolitan area, according to an INSEE survey unveiled last year. “We are already building new buildings to accommodate them, but we also need to house them. There is a deconcentration of our workforce at national level, and Rennes must deal with it, ”warns the general.

“We are not short of projects”

Faced with this new situation, the city claims to be able to adapt. “We are not short of projects. We are discussing with the SNCF for Solférino or the old technicentre. We must also exchange with the universities which have a lot of land in Beaulieu, ”says Marc Hervé, assistant town planner. The latter has not yet given up the idea of ​​recovering a piece of the Foch barracks. “You have to see how the site can mutate”, specifies the elected socialist.

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