Welcome to Le Teil, an Urban Utopia near Lyon

Published: 2020/04/11
Our French contributor Marc Uhry has recently been involved in working on a project aimed at regenerating the town of Le Teil in the Ardèche. This once thriving medieval town just an hour and a half drive from Lyon, has introduced a range of strategies to rebuild its economy through its unique culture and a through the solidarity of its residents.

 

Le Teil: a shadow of its former glory

Situated alongside the Rhône River this picturesque town is sandwiched in by the highway on one side, and by the Ardèche mountains on the other; it sits on the only road linking the south-east of France to its centre.

Although a once thriving town situated in prime position for transport and trade links, nowadays the once bustling main street once full of commerce has increasingly witnessed more and more local businesses and family run enterprises struggling to find trade in these modern times, leading to the inevitable outcome of closure.

The passerby now sees empty shops with empty shop windows. Perhaps this is due to the dwindling number of residents, as young people move to the city to seek work or an alternative lifestyle, which has left around 40% of homes vacant.

Le Teil village in Ardèche near Lyon

Le Teil’s church © Creative common

The earthquake in Le Teil in 2019

Not only did the earthquake damage many of the town’s buildings, infrastructure and homes, it also may have damaged the hearts of its residents.

Its cement plant and cloth factory once providing employment for the townsfolk were damaged in the earthquake and are now subsequently closed.

It’s left the unemployment rate at 20% with 22% of people living at poverty level.

Even the National Railway company has closed. Despite an ideal location equidistant from Lyon, Montpellier and Marseille, there is no obvious reason why firms would be attracted to locate in Le Teil.

Thus empty, boarded up, roofless buildings evoke the sense of a sad delapitated ghost town. 

Earthquake in Le Teil near Lyon

Earthquake in Le Teil in November 2019 © CC

Local resilience to build a better future

A number of proactive local individuals along with the support of the charismatic mayor, Olivier Peverelli, have come together to plan and implement a range of strategies aimed at bringing new ideas and projects that will breathe life back into the town.

There’s a new Montessori school Ardoise et Coquelicot, empty houses are being renovated through the Community Land Trust, the former cement plant is being transformed into a concert hall, the church will be available to host workshops from photography to classical music, refurbished local bars are re-opening to encourage the community to come together.

New greenhouse in Le Teil

Zone 5 greenhouse

Compagnie Emiline Valentin one of France’s most famous puppeteers will host theatre shows and workshops, a dedicated permaculture zone has been created featuring greenhouses and a mandala garden; to name just a few of the new developments underway.

Unemployed residents will be offered priority to be given opportunities to work on these new emerging projects as new roles are created as the need arises.

Former Temple, soon dedicated to photography ans classical music”

Le Teil coming together

Its been undoubtedly the local people of the town that have managed  to come together in the town’s hour of need that have redirected the future of Le Teil for the needs of modern times and for future generations to come.

Its all about solidarity and recognising when something is worth fighting for and together as a community they will no doubt be once again be proud of their home.

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