Tougher sanctions for French mayors who break law on travellers' hardstands


French interior minister Manuel Valls favours tougher action against the mayors of French towns who fail to provide hard stands for travellers, amid a row over illegal encampments.


“We cannot accept that the Besson law [stipulating that any town with more than 5,000 in habitants must create hardstands for traditional travellers] which was passed 13 years ago, is largely ignored,”

“Barely 52 per cent of these hardstands have been built, and only 29 per cent of the larger ones”, Valls told a working group of MPs studying the problem.

The interior minister said that Prefects, who represent the French state at local level, should take the necessary measures to ensure hardstands were built.

He stopped short of insisting that Prefects withhold a part of the budget of mayors who fail to comply, as some MPs wish.

As well as building more hardstands, Valls wishes to give local mayors more power to dismantle illegal encampments.

The opposition MP and Mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, recently published a handbook advising local mayors on how to stop travellers settling up illegal encampments and how to dismantle such camps.

Estrosi said he issued the guidebook after a number of local mayors, from both left and right of the political spectrum expressed an interest in the idea. He said they felt abandoned by the Socialist government.

When Valls criticised the Nice mayor’s handbook, Estrosi hit back saying “I can only regret the demagogic position, [of Valls] so far removed from the reality on the ground.”

There have been a number of recent clashes between local populations and nearby travellers in illegal encampments, and the issue is likely to surface in the March local elections.

In the summer months many traditional travellers head towards the south of France for a summer gathering which is held in a different place and on a different date in the south of the country each year.


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