23 April 2017

sablet expanding outwards

LOOK, I KNOW SABLET HAS TO GROW, but did it have to right in the middle of my favourite view out of the village across to the Dentelles, the view I've been recording every time we come and in every season? The vista just one hundred yards from our little house here? is there no end to the disappearing vineyards around the town and their replacement with building lots and the itty bitty villas so universal and characterless that are growing like topsy all across France?





Perfectly good vines, clearly productive if somewhat aged, in the flush of springtime growth, suddenly grubbed up, so that yet another patch of infrastructure can get started ready to accommodate another five or so villas (there is the tell-tale planning notice loosely tied to a roadside cypress), just like the now-established villas I turned my back on to take these pictures, and the ten or so more that are just completing behind them, infilling down to the post office, and already the foreground to what was a wonderful view from la terrasse towards Cheval Longue (if one stood on a chair or leaned out a bit far). The results are shown below, two autumns ago and underneath, what we are getting now.

Sablet is setting out it seems to bring its housing stock into the twenty twenties, without much thought to what this may do the character of the town and its future attractiveness to visitors who are in no small part contributory to the well being and recovery of Sablet. Yes yes, people need somewhere to live, and the department expects the communes to come up with a plan to play their part. But the mayor is concerned that his town does not become commuter belt. How will he stop it though with access to Carpentras, Vaison and Orange being a matter of a few minutes? And how come that amongst the developments already up and running there are holiday complexes (beloved of the Belgians) how do these help with the housing situation? The open faced development below the old station had another such complex booked in but that plan seems to be stillborn,the ground is weedy and unkempt, where only three years ago neat vines grew.

The French way is to put in all the infrastructure (roads, pavements, street lights, drainage soakaways, power, even letterboxes) before any house begins to go up, but this system clearly reveals the hand of speculative activity. So far there seems to be very little slowing up in the purchasing of these prepared plots, and the 'real estate' goes up in very short order, so there is clearly demand for houses still in Sablet.

Of course this barely affects the old town. Up there it is already filled in (mostly) and anyway the majority of younger French folk don't want to live in older property, usually without gardens, they want smooth walls, air con and wired off patios. So I can report without telling a lie that the incomers who have bought the old houses of the centre, in and around the old walls and towers, those who use them as holiday homes and businesses, done them up, have done the town a service: it is acknowledged, by the Mayor, and other inhabitants who live centrally. So for those who live up there it is mainly the view that is changing, that's all. I just hope that Sablet continues to be a working town and to maintain it's particular character . . .

It will all blend in, in time no doubt, and the character of the centre should remain largely unaltered. But what about the school (capacity wise) and the other services of the town? At the moment they are very good and adequate. Will they remain so? The current Mayor will see to it no doubt, but he is set upon reducing any more development if he can, we believe . . .

When we first came here, we were delighted to be able to walk out into the vines within a minute or two of leaving the house, it was one of the reasons that Sablet appealed to us. Soon though we will be passing through small housing developments to do so and the vines will have retreated. Sablet will look just a bit less like a village. It's progress I'm told . . . luckily the old town stays as good as ever – difficult of access, damp, cramped, picturesquely awkward stuck up in the Mistral, sometimes noisy neighbours — still with the views though, and a solid fan base!

We of course are situated between these two camps: not in the old town but of it; so we have advantages and disadvantages.



Advantage? Well to walk out along one of the lanes below No.1 as dusk came in, hearing the nightingales exchanging pleasantries, being passed by by bats, crickets chattering and somewhere across the fields, either a Midwife Toad or a Scopes Owl giving out its asdic ping (they have almost identical calls and both are present!): satisfyingly remote from the count for round one of the French Presidential Election.