Workshop A Tale of two Regions Towards a multilevel approach of decisionmaking processes concerning transport infrastructure in France

In France, the last three years have seen several conflicts among infrastructure projects, reaching high levels of contention. In october 2014, the death of an activist during a demonstration against a dam project, forced the government to launch a reform in order to improve the decison-making process. Yet, various means of public participation in the decision-making process have been set during the last 20 years. Public debates for example, have been settled in 1995 precisely to avoid further conflict. Why do these existing forms of public participation do not seem to prevent processes of escalation, as they were initially supposed to do?

Our hypothese is that the French decision-making process does not allow to take seriously environmental concerns into account, and is not designed to do so. Our methodology is based on the assumption that we cannot answer these questions without getting a bird’s eye view of land-planning as a whole at a territorial scale. In other words, we need to understand the way projects and existing infrastructure interact and are (or not) part of a global land-planning policy.

Two french regions will be compared : Région Rhône-Alpes, which is concerned by three important projects : Lyon-Turin high speed line, Rhin-Rhône High-Speed Line, and the Lyon urban area bypass (Contournement ferroviaire de l’agglomération lyonnaise, CFAL) ; Région Aquitaine with, among others, a High Speed railway project (Large South West Railway Project - Grand Projet Ferroviaire du Sud-Ouest, GPSO). Our data consists in several qualitatives tools (interviews, observation, and document analysis).

As we will underline, this regional land-planning policy itself is channelled and framed by national and European orientations and constraints. The place occupied by environmental information in the elaboration of a land-planning policy, as well as the monitoring of the quality of environmental information in France, will be presented and discussed. The communication will show that, while the reform of the decision-making process is still being debated, several concerns are competing. On the one hand, there is a will to improve the way environment in a broad sense is taken into account in large project elaboration and implementation. The necessity to improve the quality of environmental information has been emphasized. But on the other hand, there are actors complaining concerning the burden and delays linked to environmental issues and public participation.

This communication will be based on the result of an on-going research project called INEDIT (Integrating Environmental Issues in the Decision-Making Process concerning Transport Infrastructure). INEDIT is part of the ITTECOP Program (Land Transport Infrastructures, Ecosystems and Landscapes, an incentive program led by the French Ministry for Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy).

Multi-level governance, conflicts, decision-making process, « Unnecessary, Imposed Large Projects », environment, biodiversity, public participation, France.