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French chateau owner heartbroken over motorway planned 300m away

Château de Scopont in Tarn should have been protected by its listed monument status

Owner Bernard d’Ingrando found out too late about the four-lane A69 passing within 300 metres of Château de Scopont, Tarn Pic: Château de Scopont / Bernard d’Ingrando

The ‘heartbroken’ owner of a listed chateau says a motorway being built next to his 13-hectare estate is “a catastrophe” but he cannot oppose the project as he found out about it too late.

The four-lane A69, running between Castres, in the Tarn, and Verfeil, Haute-Garonne, will pass within 300 metres of the listed Château de Scopont, parts of which date from 1540. 

It will also pass 180 metres from a listed neo-Gothic pavilion in its grounds. 

As a listed building, a 500-metre radius should protect Château de Scopont from any major works. 

Last year, Architectes des Bâtiments de France gave an unfavourable opinion on the proposed A69 route and suggested alternatives, but they were not acted upon.  

In May this year, the then-Tarn prefect François-Xavier Lauch said the A69’s proximity to Château de Scopont was due to technical issues linked to its ‘turning radius’ at that point, making it impossible to move. 

Read more: Controversial new motorway project resumes in southwest France

Hydraulic dam will dry out wetlands on property

Owner Bernard d’Ingrando said he is “heartbroken”.

He said a ‘declaration of public utility’ had been made for the motorway, allowing work to advance. 

“I never received any documents warning me I had to come forward to oppose a project so close to a listed monument. When I did find out, it was too late.”

Mr d’Ingrando added: “Four lanes will be added to the current two-lane road, so it’s going to increase noise and pollution. 

“The motorway will also create a hydraulic dam. In other words, the water flowing down the hillsides will be blocked. We have wetlands and as soon as there’s no more water to feed them, the whole park and the 100-year-old trees are going to suffer.

“Even more so, if the park dries up, the pavilion Romantique, a listed historic monument, and all the other buildings dry out, which will automatically lead to cracks. It’s quite simply a catastrophe.”

Mr d’Ingrando said a lawyer, alongside Paris-based association Sites & Monuments, which seeks to protect French heritage, has lodged an appeal with the administrative court. 

“I’m trying to believe they will hear this case. I hope they listen,” he said. 

Read more: Controversial new A69 motorway in southern France: What do you think?

The A69 is set to open in 2025 costing €450million

Efforts to improve the connection between Castres and Toulouse date from 1995 with a proposal to expand the RN126 trunk road, currently the main highway, to two lanes. 

In 2010, authorities opted for a private tolled motorway. Two years later, a concession agreement gave the firm Atosca the task of building and operating the 53km motorway for 55 years. 

The A69 is set to open in 2025, and is estimated to cost around €450million, including €23million of public funds. 

Atosca has publicly said that it was appointed after the route had been defined in 2018, and therefore could not “oppose nor modify what has been ordered”. 

The A69 has long divided public opinion

Department president Christophe Ramond says it is “vital” for the southern Tarn’s economy, with half its 200,000 population living in the Castres-Mazamet area alone. 

However, environmental campaigners have long fought the project, calling it  “pointless and anachronistic”. 

This summer, Thomas Brail, president of the Groupe National de Surveillance des Arbres, launched a hunger strike after trees were cut down at Vendine. 

In September, it emerged that Transport Minister Clément Beaune has asked Atosca to reduce the project’s impact on the land by five hectares. 

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