“Small Towns of Tomorrow”: a program for the development of rural communities



In Finistère, Pont-Aven la coquette is a Mecca for Breton tourism and a popular resort for retirees. But at the entrance to the village, the Belle Angèle industrial wasteland tarnishes the postcard. The old cannery, which testifies to the city’s working-class past, has been deteriorating since its closure in 1995. The first pickaxes for the rehabilitation of the site should begin next September, for a ten-year project and costing several million euros.

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To launch this major operation, the municipality of 2,800 inhabitants benefited from the “Small Towns of Tomorrow” program, which resulted in the hiring of a project manager (shared with Concarneau and Tréguier). “In villages like ours, what is most lacking is engineeringtestifies the mayor, Christian Dautel. It is a question of carrying out the Belle Angèle project, but also of rethinking the complicated traffic in the summer in Pont-Aven, or of bringing businesses back to the town center, where there are mainly gallery owners. »

700 million already committed

Launched by the government in 2020 in the aftermath of the yellow vests crisis, this program with 3 billion euros in funding by 2026 has really taken off. According to the progress note which will be published this Friday, May 20, 838 project managers, as in Pont-Aven, have been recruited – there were still only 620 last February – to support more than 1,400 municipalities.

“90% of positions” are occupied and 700 million euros have already been committed, underlines the National Agency for Territorial Cohesion. They work on different priorities: the revitalization of town centers (development of shops, rehabilitation of housing, etc.), ecological transition and even access to daily life procedures. It is in this sense that nearly 900 France Services houses have been opened over the past two years, ie 100 more than the initial target.

For several years, the trial of the excesses of metropolitanization has forced the public authorities to react. In 2017, the “Action heart of the city” plan was launched, targeting medium-sized towns that are encountering difficulties in terms of attractiveness, degraded housing or commercial vitality. Like Aurillac, Bayonne or Grasse, 222 municipalities are concerned.

After the France of the sub-prefectures (approximately 15 million inhabitants), it is that of the cantonal capitals which is targeted three years later: 1,600 municipalities, or 7 million inhabitants, are then selected. “It’s the beginning of a rebalancing, welcomes the president of the Association of rural mayors of France, Michel Fournier. Now, we have to go further in differentiated regional planning, to address the smallest municipalities, as we are asking political leaders with our “Villages of the Future” project. »

Creation of a club of small towns

According to figures from the Territorial Agency, half of the Small Towns of Tomorrow affect cities with fewer than 3,500 inhabitants, 862 exactly, 40% of towns with 3,500 to 15,000 inhabitants and 7% of towns with 15,000 to 20,000 inhabitants. The specificity of this program is to be piloted in a decentralized way: it is the prefects who have control over the selection of the winning municipalities. And to give priority to engineering and the sharing of know-how. The agency has thus created a Club of the small towns of tomorrow to support project managers, which will take the form of regional meetings, which will begin in June.

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Michel Maya, mayor of Tramayes (Saône-et-Loire), did not wait for the State to draw a future for his village of 1,080 inhabitants. The town has long been committed to a positive energy approach. “We are the only ones in France where all public buildings and electricity are produced by renewables”, said the chosen one proudly.

But to carry out its inclusive housing project and achieve the 120 kW of electricity produced, necessary for autonomy, the selection of its file is a real boost. “With four other villages in our group of municipalities, we have a project manager. This will help us open doors and apply for other programs. » Over the past ten years, Tramayes has seen its population increase by 10%.

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Project managers, especially women

According to the progress of the program, 838 project managers have been recruited for a renewable three-year term, out of a target of 900. They are responsible for leading the territory project.

They are 75% funded (National Agency for Territorial Cohesion, Bank of Territories, National Housing Agency).

70% are women; 17% have less than one year of experience and 20% between one and five years; 88% are graduates with bac +4 or bac +5; 64% are trained in town planning and land use planning.

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