Marie responsibilty for roads - Help please

We have a lovely house that has a small lane running along side. Over the past few years the commune had been along and topped up the surface of the lane so that it is now a good metre above the original and causing damp in our house, Can we make the commune return the lane to its original level? It is causing us some serious problems with certain areas and I am loathe to pick up the cost of repairing something that was not an issue prior to the poor workmanship of the commune and will be rectified if the lane is returned to original levels (all tanked out and sound). Just one thing after another at the moment!

David, Brian made a good point when he mentioned 'a good Maire' and that is as true in local government as any other walk of life. In the three Departments I have lived in (excluding Paris, which really IS a bureaucratic nightmare) - Lot, Burgundy -Jura border,and now the Correze, I have found lack of information certainly, but never the lack of desire to try and help as best they can.

Maybe this doesn't give one everything, but it's better than I recall in other countries. It is valid and possible, even probable in your case that you don't have a 'good Maire', but it seems that you do carry a lot of aggression towards yours. Yes, you could and maybe have a good case to make, but forcing confrontation won't help very much - particularly as still a 'foreigner'.

Again one of those facts of life I'm afraid. I've never seen anger really settle a situation. Although I always remember when dealing with sometimes obnoxious clients the old axiom 'Don't get angry with the Customer, get angry with the Invoice'. I know it isn't applicable to your case, but it helped me calm down over many a tense situation.

Maybe you should invite him round for a glass of wine or something? Many times anonymous people turn out to be quite pleasant in reality and face-to-face.

Perhaps I am being unreasonable but I still believe in courtesy, replying to letters, actually dealing with large holes in the road when he admitted he was already aware of it and done nothing, getting his insurers to deal with it, replying to phone calls and not spinelessly hiding behind the receptionist, and perhaps may I mention the word manners. After as Secretary to a commune the guy is paid I would guess a decent salary, has benefits and I'm pretty sure a good pension. Forgive me that I disturbed the tranquillity that he seems to be accustomed to, Sir!

Norman has a point. I served as a councillor on an English parish council for years, chaired it for one stint. The clerk held a kind of rule book that one had to prise out of his/her hands almost forcefully. In fact, when the long term clerk retired and passed all else on to another, she was reluctant to pass the most recent version on. Once she was persuaded she had a box of them from the early 70s to late 90s, not actually that many or very hefty but often new copies of the existing one. The then chair brought them to the allotments and we burned the old ones. The new clerk left and she also withheld it but then her replacement was elusive as anybody could be on that. As chair I asked for it to be able to look right through and see what my duties were apart from sitting in the middle. It took weeks to get the darned thing. Then it told us just about nothing. It is as valid for Boris Johnson in London as it is for a tiny rural parish. If there are questions they have to be taken to the local authority legal department. East Cambridgeshire, in which we were, was allegedly useless so it always went to county level.

The only clear(ish) guidelines we had was in the form of a second thin booklet that described our planning responsibilities, which were negligible. Those were really district business, more often than not county. Any claims of helping a parishioner was stretching what we could really do. Most of our competence was given over to managing the village hall, issuing temporary licences to allow alcohol to be served, but never 'sold' although people could pay for bottles! Work that out. We were responsible for ordering the signs for diversions and so on if roadworks occurred in the parish, but not allowed to do the same for temporary traffic lights! We had a phone number for calling out a snowplough or other maintenance teams and vehicles if, for instance, a tree fell and blocked a road. Ultimately it was trivia like that. We had neither information nor real decision making powers.

French maires have a bit more resource than that, they even have the mairie when many UK parishes have no office at all, bar where the boxes are dumped at the clerk and chair's homes. Dealing with the issues raised here, well honestly said we were the postbox for forwarding enquiries and complaints on. The major problem here is that a maire is all but for life and often uses his/her office to pursue self-interests. That only happens to a lesser extent in the UK, certainly sitting on the position for many years does. In my case, as a 'young' mayor (48 when the council selected me to do it) I introduced a rota of two years mayoral office, with no immediate renewal and at least two terms of two years out of office. That is tricky for an eight person council but the legal people at county accepted it and it applies to the present as a 'younger' generation took over from the ancient lot. More, I concede, I did not achieve. A good maire and a commune that replaces him/her every few years with a mind to achieving something does better than can be achieved ever in the UK. In that sense, to me they appear comparatively powerful and despite limitations can move things and, moreover, despite having to raise their own money through cotisations and a little departmental subsidy, actually have money. We got our 'cut' of the council and business tax (a shop that eventually closed and a pub) which paid our very part time clerk a small fee and the hire fee for the village hall meetings, the hall being an independent 'charitable' body. When one knows the ins and out, the French system is not the worst.

David, Have you seen the annual Law Books that are issued? They are HUGE!. Do you seriously expect a local village Maire to be up-to-date with all the legal niceties on things like Immigration? Plus with all due respect, they also have certain priorities, and yes, a pothole can be annoying, even potentially dangerous in some respects, but really don't you think you are expecting rather too much?

At least you do have a direct contact with local (very) administrations, which is better than many other places, but automatically presuming them to be 'experts' is I suggest, unrealistic.

How would you have approached this back in the UK? Local Town Hall? with what result? Almost certainly you would have to 'go to law' wouldn't you? Solicitors, Barristers and the like - and please correct me if I am wrong, as I haven't lived there in over 50 years, except very briefly. If my memory DOES serve me, going to law was never cheap.

I am also surprised that you are surprised at being 'checked-out' as you say. Sounds like an eminently sensible thing to do by a Mairie, as there are plenty of timewasters out there.

An interesting thread, with some interesting coments!

As I write, we are having the entire 'main' road through the village re-aligned (chicanes to slow down the speeding maire), regraded (to eliminate the humps and totally resurfaced/rebuilt). All to make the village look more attractive (one flower pot would do that!). The result seems to be that our front courtyard and drive will now be about 20cm below the level of the pavement, whereas it was level with it before. Now, they have produced a preliminary 'grading' down from the gutters to the courtyard gates - so in future when it rains the courtyard will flood, the water will then flow into the barn and thence down into the cellar.

Who will be responsible for rectifying this (eg by providing a proper means of drainge)? They are already running out of funds because the planners selected by 'higher authority' have made a complete '.... up' of it and not included things that were clearly essential (like a conduit for the surface water to run under the crossroads). Who do I sue when it all goes pear-shaped?

Answers on the back of a large postcard please....!


I fell on the ice in our village on the unsalted/uncleared road and completely did my cruciate ligament which means even after two years, physio etc, I cannot walk properly. No doubt in the UK I would be suing the council for shedloads. However I do merge into the village scene with all the other old guys hobbling around!

I think there is a basic question of cost v. budget here. Communes raise 'x' from the commune to pay for repairs etc., but it is not unlimited money or the charges inevitably must go up. Fact of life.

Currently the whole road through our village is unsurfaced following a complete connection to the mains sewage. We understand there now is a problem in agreement over re-surfacing and who pays for what. I'm afraid it is very 'French', but a friendly relationship with the Maire often helps. We have two public 'chemins' each side of our house, both of which need attention, but flooding happily is not one of our problems as we live on a high 'ridge' so water disappears below us unimpeded as a rule.

I don't claim any expertise but wouldn't standard house insurance cover damage from water/flooding?


I also have a problem with the road leading to my house.

The problem is that there is only one single track "road" into the house. It runs for approximately 300m after turning off the route to the house. The route to the house is tarmac and in good condition. This stops at the turning for our lane/chemin. For the 300m or so after this turning it is extremely muddy and during the snow and ice it was very slippy. The Mairie refuse to do anything for the road as the tax fonciere is extremely low for the house, but the road is a "chemin communal" and as far as we are aware we are unable to do anything with this. Now we and a number of other people have slid off the road which has caused damage to a number of vehicles including our car.

Is there anything we can do to force the hand of the mairie? We are even willing to pay for the materials or the labour but not both as even just to lay dolimite the quote we received for 40m was approximately 4000 euros.

Thanks in advance and my apologies for jumping on someones question.

Tell me about it. Four years ago, my access road was resurfaced (quite nicely) by the commune. I am the only permanent resident living up here, so I was chuffed. However, they, too, have raised the surface about six inches from the original level, consequently, whenever there is heavy (or even continuous moderate) rain, the run off floods my garage. I've written to the mairie, sent photographs, and each year the mayor and one of his acolytes visits, armed with a measuring tape and a clipboard, they make all sorts of measurements, stride around a bit, hum and ha, then they they go away, never to be seen until the following year. So that's a total of four (no, five - they came twice last year) visits, and still nothing has been done.

I assume the Marie(s) do have a legal responsibility for keeping roads -particularly main roads - in their Commune(s) in reasonable condition, as in the UK There are several main roads within Communes in my area that are in terrible condition and I have in mind putting the relevant Mairies "on notice" that if I damage myself and/or my bicycle and/or my motor scooter while travelling on these particular roads while they are in poor repair they will be responsible for all costs - including loss of earnings whilst incapacitated. Does anyone know the precise section of the law that requires Mairies to keep roads in their Communes in good condition ?

I have an ongoing saga not with my own Mairie but with that of an adjoining commune. Last April my wife's car sustained damage to a tyre and a wheel due to a huge pothole. I immediately visited the Mairie armed with photos, map etc and eventually bills (I claimed one tyre and one wheel although I had to replace two tyres). They verbally admitted liability and have promised on various occasions to reimburse me. Now after eight letters, several emails and phone calls, none of which were replied to I gave them notice that I would take the matter to the Mediateur. I have now done that but even the Mediateur's office bogged up and we now have a new date. Meanwhile the Mediiateur surreptiously telephoned my own Mairie to "check me out"! I.E. to see if I was serious, honest etc. It's pretty clear that they have just been playing around with me but equally I have made it clear that I will see it through. On a road maintenance issue I have experience of having done some gravelling outside a maison secondaire there was a flood due to a municipal drain being blocked up and my own Mairie replaced the lost gravel free. I decided to hard surface the land (which I do not own but the Mairie does) and I have been waiting for a quote from the Mairie for several months. Generally I have found small country Mairies to be pretty slow and often actually lacking knowledge of the finer points of the law regarding immigration etc. The fact that there are 35000 communes in France perhaps explains this. The cost of so many administrations plus the central one must be enormous and it is noticeable that true locals are given priority for employment in such places.

Difference here is we have the few locals, boulangerie, poste, a few hunters and farm tractors and none of that frequent bar the poste and us taking children to school on a 'daily' basis. A gully only works if it is a lined conduit higher than the water rises, that is expensive but would solve it, except that the road surface sounds bad news to begin with because it is also putting more and more pressure on the lower layers which will encourage potholing eventually.

Thank you for the advice Brian. We do have a gully running alongside the building that used to protect the building but they come around about once a year and throw more bitumen and chippings down, sloping the surface down into the gully so now all of the water from the lane flows onto our building before going downhill. They only have to resurface so often because the local 4x4 and quad bike clubs use the lane as a race circuit (Which we don't mind, it's only a few times a year and they have to go somewhere). Other than that there are only three houses up the hill so very little traffic at all.

Our most urgent battle is with the LGV construction - we are getting about 30 trucks an hour thundering through the village at 70kph. They are causing major structural damage and we are getting no response from them or the marie about putting speed restrictions / traffic calming in place. Such is life!

We have the opposite happening where heavy rain washes the road surface on to our 'forecourt' and the road is going down. They come out to repair twice a year but even over three and a half years it has gone down by about 15cm. The maire is good about it but the commune does not have responsibility for resurfacing, only repairing. He told us that the communauté des communes, district or canton if you like, is responsible. If, like us, you have some very well used roads that are in a real mess in your district then like our basically unimportant side road, you will be well down the list. Sympathetic ears but, and I believe the present maire, no power to get precedence for your road. What our maire has suggested is that we formally write a letter to the communauté des communes which we give to him, he knows it will not get immediate approval so add that we expect an answer within two or three months, then ask him again. Unless we are (miraculously) told it will be done soon then right to the departmental highways department. Do the usual recorded with acknowledgement, then wait. If no reply in reasonable time then registered letter all over again to the executive of the department saying we are getting no response.

In our case we get rain that does make a lot of gravel and ruts on our land four at tops six times a year and whilst the rest of the rain clearly contributes, the couple of repairs a year are better than nothing. We are not going to go to the bother of doing what we were advised but may eventually put a drainage gully in with a drive over grille and let the water flow on downhill instead of diverting through us.

Your situation is far, far worse but maybe that is the course to follow. Our maire is quite Machiavellian, plus his wife and mine are very friendly (which helps), and if he cannot help and does not expect us to get it in a fairly well off communauté des communes, then you probably also need to go beyond your commune if you are to have any chance at all. A metre higher sounds very extreme, a structural engineer would pull his hair out in disbelief if that road surface is touching property walls and being built up on your property.