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The Heritage as a Resource


"Building heritage, small heritage, landscapes..."

Monique Le Clézio
[LEADER Centre-Ouest Bretagne, France]


When the French departments were created in 1810,
Central West Brittany (100 000 inhabitants today),
which historically, geographically and culturally was
homogeneous, was divided into three areas that
were each attached to a different department: Côtes d'Armor,
Finistère and Morbihan. This administrative
division turned the region into a backwater.


On several occasions, then again in 1990 when the LEADER I programme was set up, the local actors decided to rebuild their region by taking advantage of its assets, particularly its strong cultural identity. Several actions to enhance cultural identity were therefore included in the LEADER I programme. One of them aimed to help promote the language, music and traditional dances by organising events: "Festival of the Breton Language", traditional arts festivals, etc.


Renovating the building heritage

Two specific actions were organised to renovate the building heritage. The first action, which was directly related to the development of tourism, aimed to spruce up the villages. It was not realistic to want to attract visitors, or even new inhabitants, if the image of the village centres was not improved. Why invest in accommodation capacities, amenities, promotion campaigns geared towards the quality of the facilities or the quality of life if the villages are neglected?

To ensure that the action (costing a total of about ECU 1 million) had an impact, only towns whose proposal met the objectives and criteria approved by the local action group were selected.
These criteria can be summed up as follows:

  • quality of building and religious heritage;

  • tourist-oriented village because located at an interesting site, where accommodation capacities have been developed by individuals or local authorities (holiday villages, rural cottages, guest rooms, etc.);

  • organisation by local boards comprising elected officials, local socio-economic actors and the local people of a global development project. This approach provided solutions for the neglected building heritage (incentive to create rental housing or relocate business activities or community services) and for the need to improve the image of villages (concealment of power lines, use of traditional materials, integration of the urban fixtures, erection of bilingual signs – Central West Brittany is a Breton-speaking region –, planting of flowers in the villages).

Twelve villages meeting all of these criteria were selected, including the village of Spézet which is in the Black Mountains. A survey carried out recently highlights the success of the operation.


Development of tourism and preservation of the countryside

The second action, which was more transversal, concerned small unprotected rural heritage sites (roadside crosses, bread ovens, fountains or wash houses) which were renovated and put to use. This small heritage belongs to the collective memory and is an integral part of the landscape. Its renovation enabled the creation of theme trails. For example, the "Slate Trail" in Caurol, a 3 hour loop-shaped route, crosses a changing countryside: broad-leaved trees, rocky outcrops of shale which overhang lake Guerlédan. Two quarry workshops were renovated to trace back the industrial history of the site where slate was quarried. The experiment carried out under LEADER I by Central West Brittany has been noteworthy because of the positive effects that it has had on local dynamics and development: voluntary activities have grown, and young families are moving to the renovated villages.

For the period 1995-1999, financing has been reserved to upgrade villages under the Objective 5b programme of the Brittany Region in order to spread this experience to the entire eligible area. Under LEADER II which began here in 1997, heritage sites will continue to be developed through promotion actions involving gastronomy, nature and art (language, music and dance).


source: LEADER Magazine No.17 - Spring, 1998

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