Compulsory purchase of my home in Vence

Hello Everyone,

5 years ago I posted a blog seeking advice on the proposed compulsory purchase of our home in Vence.After many visits from various officials ranging from the Mairie of Vence, to representatives form Marseilles and the PACA region we were told in Jan 2014 that we we be out by March 2015 by the then ,Maire of Vence.

This is a huge project , 250 appartments ( some for social housing but mostly private),roads to be enlarged and roundabouts installed etc.

We spent all our spare time travelling around all the southern regions of France are we were not far off retirement in search of a new house but finally settled on one we really liked in Vence where we have lived for the 30 years. This only came about after a lot of harrassment by the officials involved in this. The really annoying part of this affair is that we were advised by the "big cheese" from Marseilles not to make any further improvements on our home as any further work would not be re-imbursed.

So, we cancelled at our cost, the building work we had planned before retirement. The most irritating part of this story was the callous assumption that we "were lucky" to have lived in a house in Vence centre for 25 years! No consideration to the hard work we put in renovating a ruin to a comfortable family home to bring our kids up in.

Both girls were born here and this is the only home they have known, so imagine the anxiety, tears,rage and finally acceptance that we had no choice.At my last meeting with the Maire in January I told him we had finally found a house. We gave in and accepted the outcome that we would have to move by the end of March.

Then fate took a nasty turn and he was voted out by a coalition party trying to stop this huge project! I was about to sign the comprime de vente on the new house!

I made a rdv with the new Maires ( two of them) as a precaution before signing anything to find out that they thought we were the owners of a maison secondaire and were astonished to learn that I had lived in Vence for 30 years in my only home! The other Maire asked to to point out where I lived on a map!

Surely such an enormous project, known to all in Vence escaped them? Stalling for time as they pleaded poverty and told me that the massive spending by the outgoing Maire had left the town bankrupt and with huge tracts of land, houses etc so they did'nt know how they were going to proceed!

In short, we are one off three remaining families unsold , surrounded by empty properties sold by people who had to sell quickly for one reason or another thus rendering us unsellable as everybody can look at the project on the website of the ville de Vence and see the magnitude of the project and know when the UMP get voted in in six years time they will take on where they left off.

Unfortuately, we have moved on in our heads and now want out to start afresh somewhere else but clearly this is not on their agenda and we are locked in a horrid situation where we must live here in wait for another six years where it can all start all over again except we will be a lot older( hopefully) and less energetic for a move.

We have been prisoners in velvet gloves for the past 5 years and after the political changes,appear to be dismissed as not "our responsibility". Where did "Egality, Fraternite and Libertie go to?"

So after this great rant, does anyone know of an Avocat French or other that can be recommended? Do we have any rights for the past few unpleasant years? Can we sue the Townhall for stealing five years of our lives, unsure what our fate would we be and unable to prepare for retirement? Is there any European mandate that defends home owners against such an impasse?

I moved to France because I loved this country but I am now having a sense of humour failure due to all the bureaucracy we are having to deal with. Now, we are in a very precarious situation financially and quite unsure of who to trust,

So any help and advice would be most welcome from all who read this.

Thank you all it is great to get it off my chest !

Yes, I think PACA are still involved as Vence is now a part of Nice Metropole.

Hi Ian , yes we may be the residual properties. 328 is a servitude /lane to 4 houses of which 329 and 330 are our two houses. I have been trying to arrange a rdv with the new Maires for over a week and as yet they have not responded so, I will go down to the Townhall on Friday and pin them down. They appear to be stalling for time although I am not holding my breath that thare will be any immediate solution. Nonetheless, I will seek legal action for the threats and lack of liberty imposed over the past 5 years. I must say that you have opened my eyes to the ramifications of this project as we finally accepted it as inevitable given the state of traffic and the appalling lack of social housing. On that note , after accepting that the need for the latter was serious, I was immensely disappointed to find out that only 15% would be dedicated to people that actually need an affordable home. Vence has an appalling track record in such an arena, subsequently are fined annually for not fulfilling their quota. The majority of the project was private investment which made me even more angry as they wanted my properties for a song to line the pockets of the investors GRRRRRR Hopefully, I may get a rdv with the Maire soon. Thank you

This link :

would seem to show some "residual" properties outside the "study perimeter", I'm presuming one of those would be yours, two out of the three to the north-east are shown as "possible stage" of the plan... this whole project seems quite wonky to me. Incidentally, I have seen that a PLU was subsituted for the POS in March 2011, that would have been the time to have raised objections, but too late now... unless the new mairie have to change the project (as they've said they will) in which case objections must again be allowed.

Tara, I followed this link :

where it says (my translation) :

"In 2007, a convention was signed between the Établissement public foncier Provence Alpes Côte d'Azur (EPF PACA) and the ex-CANCA (translator's note : the predecessor of the Communauté de Communes) to set up an accompaniment to the commune's land acquisition policy in an area situated in the quartier Chagall, between the avenue des Alliés, the avenue Henri Giraud and the avenue Rhin et Danube (3 hectares). The objective : facilitate the setting-up of the Programme local de l'habitat (P.L.H) of the ex-CANCA projecting the creation of more than a thousand social housing units per year on its territory.

Last summer (2008), a new stage with a right of preemption delegated for each individual case by the commune to the EPF PACA. This permits the regional establishment to acquire, by advance funds to the commune, all properties declared "for sale".....

...Land is, let's remember, the most costly part of this sort of project . It's estimated at around 10 million euros over the whole sector Chagall...

Third stage, December last (2008), with the creation of a study perimeter by modification of the Plan d'occupation des sols (POS) of July 1998, still applicable. The interest of this perimeter : de facto stopping all new construction for five years."

Do you know if the EPF-PACA is still involved? Normally once the money is advanced for a project, it has to go through, otherwise the commune has to reimburse. And what about the "study perimeter"? The five years have gone by, and I'm sure any modifications to a POS mean it has to be replaced by a PLU now.

Still looking at this...

Thank you so much Ian. Every bit of information really helps.

Right Tara, I'll read carefully the quite complex and multi-layered stuff in French I've unearthed on this and see if there's anything which might help. :)

Yes Ian , it is the famous project in the quartier Chagall. Enormous and yes , they now have no idea how to finish it although much of the funding is from the state. A real mess leaving three families in limbo after years of harassment, threats and kept as virtual prisoners. Wish the then Maire was re-elected.

Hi Tara, you say : "Ian the quartier is L'Etoile and the plans are well documented on the Ville de Vence website."

Is this the famous Quartier Chagall project? Effectively, if so, it's a big big mess, isn't it, and seems to be intimately linked with the defeat of the outgoing Maire. The new lot seem to be "navigating " in quite an obscure way...

We wish you the very best of luck.

Hi Tara.

Not an expert but I assume that you need a sollicitor specialised in FRENCH URBANISME. If he's not, he should work with somebody who is - and is also well independent, obviously. (+ just a thought : if you have an insurance called Protection Juridique, it is time to use it indeed !!!)

Plus it seems to me that all that was done by the previous mairie means it could be considered as an PROMESSE DE RACHAT by compulsory purchase because it was decided by the maire with the advice of his conseillers municipaux, after all : DROIT DE PRÉEMPTION


Because the mairie represents the state, I also assume that all that was done previously for the compulsory purchase is enough proof that they intended to proceed.

Our local mairie keeps saying to his conseillers that when they plan anything to do with urbanisme (town planning) they need to think carefully as it will affect the commune for the next 30 - 50 years. It means that whatever is decided, the next maires will have to take care of / endure.

Your maire(s) need to take responsability for what was started before them. They have no choice.

Le Code de l'urbanisme is available online. Best bedside reading stuff I've ever read :D

Bonne chance et bon courage !

Thank you all for your comments and good wishes. I am ready to move on now but the problem will be who will buy? Most local people know of this project and would be reluctant to pay market value if there was any possibility of it starting all over again in six years time.I am just amazed that so much has been spend on buying up the land for the project to be potentially shelved as the new politians err on the side of the "green" party. However, by actually finishing off the job could actually provide a real green space for local people, sort out the appalling traffic congestion and make a real difference to the quality of life of the Vencois.

Unhappily, the powers that be seem to think we should make the biggest donation and give them house for a price grossly below market value. This is, if they decide to carry on where the outgoing Maire left off. I think the only option is to rent it and move on. Ian the quartier is L'Etoile and the plans are well documented on the Ville de Vence website. Norman we are not bang ,smack in the old down but very close to the Chapel Matisse about 500 mts from the Cathedral and probably the only large parcel of land that can be developed so close to the town hall. Problem is, it appears to come to an abrupt halt as they say they do not have the means to finish. Surprises me as the PLU have a big part in this .A bit like Highways and Byways in UK I guess. I shall be meeting the new Maire again soon to find out a progress but not holding my breath. In the meantime I believe we will porte a plainte against the townhall for harrassment and loss of income and the probability we are unsellable.David, I will get in touch with Jeantet as I too, believe they are all in bed together and do not trust any locals to get me a reasonable solution. Our current avocat is very friendly with one of the biggest Immobiliers in the town. Alarm bells were set off. Still I shall fight the good fight for justice.

Could you tell us the name of the projet, or the area concerned? I've done a swift google in French on Vence's municipal affairs, and it seems there are several frightful messes left over from the last municipality. It would be useful to know the name of the project concerning you, in order to narrow down the present circumstances. there are apparently several local worthies who are actively campaigning on these issues.

Apart from being appalled that such a scheme should be even thought of in the CENTRE of Vence, I would seriously suggest you talk to some local and not-so-local Estate Agents who generally have their ear to the ground.

Peter Elias might be able to give you a steer? He is highly professional and would know more than most of us - or at least who you should be talking to.

Jeantet et Associes do still exist BTW.

All projects are political, especially large ones. Somebody once told me "Planning IS Politics". It's a huge industry and getting projects off the ground is very time consuming and very expensive. The need to consult with local groups and communities introduced over the last twenty years or so, and designed to protect "human rights" has made the process more expensive and therefore there has been a drift towards larger rather than smaller projects. ANY course of litigation is lengthy and expensive- it's hardly worth litigating for under about £20,000 these days (sad but true). Stand back and consider whether you really want a fight, whether you have the resources and whether you think you would be better off moving on. It sounds like the way the place has become, and may go, is far from the place you bought into. Of course if you look at many. towns and cities you can easily argue that the place before (if properly maintained and reinvested in) was potentially a far nicer place than any likely replacement. I had a professional career in development for more than forty years and I saw many a project take twenty years from a gleam in the eye to the front door key. Battersea Power Station has taken 45 years so far and they will start building soon. Several people have gone bust in the project. Many people talk about huge development profits but I've seen hundreds of developers, banks, contractors, subcontractors and others go bust or even commit suicide. One private client of mine went bankrupt for £1.6billion. Yet construction is one of the key economic generators. The small guy doesn't really stand much of a chance and one thing you may be assured of is that the ever changing politicians will lie and be duplicitous.

You said yourself that you should move on - and I agree you should move on to a new chapter in your life in a different location. Otherwise you may have to go thro' it all over again in 6 years time having thrown a lot of money at solicitors and gone thro' another dreadful load of grief to no effect in 6 years when it could all start again. So if the new Maire can removekill the plans you can sell the house and move on. Whether you then want to continue the hassle of paying solicitors fees/attending courts etc to recompense is another matter - but personaly I think once you've succeded in moving you should draw a line and start afresh.

I am so sorry that this has happened to you. Unfortunately this type of thing has happened a lot in UK. The last government made huge plans for redevelopment and people were made to leave the homes they had lived in for years. These homes are still empty and the grand schemes are unaffordable.
There was a programme on the radio I heard recently where single mothers have taken to squatting in a large social housing site which was supposed to being demolished, but has not happened and they are being housed put of the Borough.
Why this is allowed to happen I do not know, but it does seem that grandiose schemes are not just for the people who are intended to live in them but for the self aggrandisement of those setting up these schemes.

I was involved in something quite difficult in about 1991, and it ended with my commune having to pay compensation. I decided not to rely on any local firm (as they all seemed far too cosy with each other) so I successfully used Jeantet et Associes in Paris. Not sure if they are still around.

Another good firm in London is Russell Cooke in Putney SW15. Richard Frimston is the man. He has French and English qualifications and knows alot about property.

Hi Ian,
Some years have passed since our last communication. I hope you are well. Three years ago the Mairie kindly told us that the project was shelved and we could now sell our home as we wished or stay put. Last year we were approached by a well know building consortium to sell to them only to find out that the Mairie are building as they have chopped all living trees down in a huge area behind us (1500m2) in order to conduct archaeological search so I imagine after such drastic destruction they are serious this time. We are now at an age of retirement 7 years down the line and still no personal communication from the townhall. May chain myself to the railings until somebody tells us something. PACA seem to still be involved. Local politics have changed. We have lost interest and tomorrow is supposedly the desision day as to what they will now do with the wasteland next to our back yard. Sense of humour is totally important.
Best wishes to you.