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National Trust à la française? Inspired by Britain’s National Trust, a new Fondation du Patrimoine looks likely to be set up in France this summer.

Culture minister proposes new heritage institution funded by public membership

Paris

On 14 February France’s Culture Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy presented the Council of Ministers with a proposal to create a new legal framework within which the Fondation would operate. The novelty lies in the fact that the Fondation would be a combination of two types of institution as currently defined under French law, a public utility and an association as defined under the law of 1901.

The running of the new institution would be in the hands of its founders, who would have the majority voice in its running. Capital funds of between FFr40 and 50 million are to be raised from public and private sources, but this has yet to be achieved. The money needed for the work of the Fondation would come from membership fees from the general public, as with the National Trust in Britain.

The Trust’s 2.2 million members have given the Ministry of Culture pause for thought, and in France Mr Douste-Blazy is counting on a “huge tide of public support” which will encourage people to give money to “this great national cause—our heritage”. First priority is local heritage which at present is not protected and has led to the total neglect of “the chapels, ramparts, and public lavoirs, which one finds in every district in the country”. The intention is now to identify and label these small but vital parts of France’s heritage. The new measures will be applied to every monument or building in danger of being broken up or destroyed, as well as to sites of outstanding natural beauty.

In addition to being covered by the normal code of French law, the Fondation will have additional rights of pre-emption and expropriation. Between 8,000 and 10,000 jobs will be created to run the new Fondation.

Mr Douste-Blazy has announced a further initiative to create jobs in his sector. To be launched in the next few weeks is a “Job and Culture Plan”, drawn up with the Minister of Employment, Jacques Barrot.

Originally appeared in The Art Newspaper as 'National Trust à la française?'