Conserving the Mountains - How much more can our Winter Playgrounds take?
In years gone by, the mountains were home to a lucky few. Whilst there were some passionate sportsmen who had taken up residence, and perhaps a few businessmen keen to make the most of the visiting tourists as ski holidays took off, the majority of ski resorts were populated by locals whose families had been there for generations before them.
Those times have changed. Now, ski resorts are becoming more and more accessible. With greater tourism and more people making a permanent move to what were once tiny farming villages, the sheer number of people living in these spaces that used to house a few hundred are having a deeply negative impact on the environment we have come to love.
Whilst urban areas have the capacity to continue expanding when the population grows, mountain towns do not. With little space to build and ever-growing populations, the mayors of five of France’s most popular ski resorts have banded together to find a solution.
The 5 mayors of Les-Deux-Alpes, Chamonix, Bourg St Maurice, Grand Bornand and La Clusaz are currently arguing that the Loi Alur (rental) laws of France should not apply to their towns. Article 157 of Loi Alur encourages more construction when housing supply is low regardless of land to building ratio. Rather than encourage this type of urban growth Eric Fournier, mayor of Chamonix, has suggested limiting the sale of large plots of land to foreign buyers who build immense chalets that are hardly used, so that the remaining land may be utilised for the permanent population of these towns. Already, the Chamonix Mairie receives more than double the applications for the construction or extension of large chalets though tries to oppose as many of them as possible. These new rental laws would be known as Loi Montagne and are similar to the Lex Weber laws in Switzerland, where no more than 20% of properties in the resort can be second homes.
It is hoped that the Loi Montagne will preserve these towns by restricting the unnecessary development of extravagant holiday homes and focusing more on the needs of the permanent populations.