Glossary Entry:- France Brownfields
Brownfield sites are sites that have been affected by the former uses of the site and surrounding land,
are derelict or underused, may have real or perceived contamination problems, are mainly in developed
urban areas and require intervention to bring them back to beneficial use.
In 2000, the number of brownfields in France was estimated to be between 200,000 and 300,000, located
mostly the Nord-Pas de Calais, Lorraine and Rhône-Alpes regions (20,000 hectares identified and
being reclaimed). Since the 1980's, the French government and the regions have developed a derelict
land policy and specific land reclamation programmes. These initiatives combat harmful economic
and ecological effects and foster the positive development of derelict sites and/or areas.
1. General Approach
France considers that brownfields are different from contaminated sites. The definition of a brownfield
site is, “previously developed land (agriculture, harbour, industry, service, ore processing,
military/defence, storage or transport) that has been temporarily or permanently abandoned following
the cessation of activity and must be reclaimed for a future use.' Brownfields can be partially occupied,
derelict, or contaminated.
Brownfield sites have been of considerable interest in some former industrial French regions
since the 1970s (in particular, in Lorraine and Nord-Pas de Calais), and more recently in other regions
because of extensive urban development (Paris and Île-de-France, Rhône-Alpes). Most of the available
information on brownfield management (regional procedures, location of brownfields, regional
databases, examples of site reclamation, etc.) is provided by regional authorities or the specific
redevelopment agencies established in these regions (EPF Lorraine, Nord-Pas de Calais, Ouest Rhône-Alpes,
Various issues have been addressed – inventories of brownfield sites, suitability of sites for
future use (when sites are not considered to be contaminated), site reclamation – depending on the
situations encountered in the various regions. In a first approximation, about 200,000 former industrial
and service sites, and about 200 former mines are now brownfields. It is estimated that industrial
brownfields in these regions cover about 20,000 ha. As expected, this land is concentrated in the
traditional industrial areas in Northern and Eastern France, especially in the Nord-Pas de Calais
region (9,400 ha) and Lorraine (2,500 ha). Most of the brownfield sites cover more than 10 ha and are
located in suburban areas or around cities. The number of brownfields has not decreased in the last
decade, despite active reclamation.
The activity of the revitalisation agencies (EPFs, see below) seems, therefore, to regulate the
flux between successful reclamation projects and new brownfields resulting from the closure of
2. Policy and Regulation
In France, long-term policies and programmes exist in the traditional industrial regions, led by
Lorraine. Since the 1980s, within the framework of national planning contracts (contrats de plan)
funded jointly by the central government, the regions and the EU, specific brownfield reclamation
programmes have been developed. It was important to create a new economic base and modernize urban
and infrastructure structures that had previously been geared exclusively to industrial use. Altogether,
3,350 ha of derelict industrial land had to be reclaimed between 1987 and 1998. Due to the regional
predominance of derelict land, a joint intervention of national, regional, and local actors was
necessary. As it was clear from the beginning that it would not be possible to immediately find new
uses for all of these sites, the strategy developed in 1986 concentrated on the rapid improvement
of ecological conditions by means of large-scale landscape treatment projects. Preparation of
the land for new uses, which is much more costly, will be a medium- and long-term task. Therefore, all
efforts were focussed on overcoming the negative image created by brownfields. The programme priorities
were based on:
• first and foremost – the rapid identification of brownfields
• the creation of a regional development agency
• a clear and comprehensive methodology - Basic Landscape Restoration
• adequate and regular funding
• a partnership of all stakeholders
• support for the preparation and development of derelict land for the implementation of leading
projects with regard to the development of the urban area. Basic landscape restoration (requalification
sommaire) is clearly preferred if no after-use project has been planned.
The derelict land strategy known as 'Remise en état' (site restoration) involves:
• demolition and clearing
• earthwork and landscaping, fencing or screen planting
• construction of recreational paths
• where necessary, treatment of contamination using all available legal instruments to make the
Subsequently, the land is to be managed on a regional level and in individual cases is left to the
open real estate market. The executive body of this part of the programme is the regional Public Land
Management Authority (Establishment Public Foncier de la Métropole Lorraine EPML, 1996). An example
of the French policy can be found on the EPFL web site. EPML was entrusted with carrying out this strategy.
Since 1970, EPML, which was created by the French government to implement land policies with local
authorities, has been undertaking planning and development tasks.
Similar bodies exist in other regions: Nord-Pas de Calais, Basse Seine, Ouest Rhône-Alpes, etc.
Others initiatives have been developed in the regions. For example, MBM (Mission Bassin Minier http://www.missionbassinminier.org)
contributed to the implementation of management tools based on citizen participation in Nord-Pas
de Calais. Existing tools (e.g. Urban Workshops, Permanent conferences, Inhabitants participation
fund) have therefore been tested by MBM at a European level within the framework of the European Commission's
5th Framework Programme RESCUE (http://www.rescue-europe.com). Many 'Good practices' (methodological
guidelines and references) have been compiled by MBM in a 'Citizen participation' manual within
the RESCUE partnership.
Legal aspects will be covered by:
• Law on environmental permits for industrial sites
• Mining Code, for former mines (Mining Code recently modified to take into account the cessation
of mining activity and the closure of mines)
• Civil Law Code (liability of property owners for harm caused), Urban Planning Act for the redevelopment
of brownfield sites, in the urban context
• specific regulations concerning historical building preservation and new qualification
The Law of February 2, 1995 created a tax on special industrial waste to finance the remediation
of 'orphan' sites or sites whose owners are insolvent.
Nevertheless, it is important to note the existence of decrees for the institution of the Public
Land Management Authorities or EPF (e.g. Institution Decree of the Lorraine EPFL no. 73-250 of March
7, 1973). These agencies are delegated to carry out French policy. This transfer of responsibility
is demonstrated by the fact that all EPF are set up and their missions fixed by decrees (for instance,
Lorraine EPFL: no. 73-250, 07/03/1973).
The Circular concerning the Siting of establishments that accommodate sensitive populations
was signed on February 8, 2007. It recommends that such buildings not be built on contaminated land,
especially when the latter are former industrial sites. The actions to be undertaken by the site owner
However, urban planning documents or social constraints might rule out any alternative and an
uncontaminated site can be chosen. Such a decision must be backed by a cost-benefit assessment for
each location. In this case, the circular provides owners with a list of strongly recommended actions
in order to be suitable for such a project.
Other legal texts came into effect on February 8, 2007:
•Circular BPSPR/2005-371/LO concerning the Closure of Classified Installations - Chain of liability
- Defaulting of responsible parties. This circular emphasizes and updates directives concerning
the management of industrial sites whose owners fail to fulfil their obligation to remediate and
can lead, as a last resort, to government intervention to protect the population and the environment.
Beyond this action toward liable parties, the role of the government is limited to ensuring the safety
of Classified Installations. A strict limitation of the scope of public action and the upholding
of the highly exceptional character of ADEME intervention to ensure the safety of sites alone guarantees
that the system is not perceived by liable parties who might not wish to comply with requirements to
remediate as an opportunity for non-compliance or even a right.
•Circular BPSPR/2006-77/LO concerning Classified Installations - Application procedure for
the detention of funds as mentioned in Environmental Code no. 514-1
Site Project Funding
With financial support provided by the French government, regional councils, the Public Land Management
Authority itself and the European Regional Development Fund, 120 million € were spent, between 1986
and 1997, to implement the new derelict land policy. By 1997, 3.350 ha of brownfields had been treated.
Two thirds of the money came from the Lorraine Region, the French government and the EPML. One third
came from EU structural funds.
The strategy used was exemplary as it succeeded in bringing together the interests of private property
owners, the community and other actors within the framework of a coordinated regional master plan.
The regional stakeholders are working together with research activities and international services
in a joint network.
No further funding information available on the EUGRIS system
In all, 97 sites in 109 towns have been treated. Thirty percent of these sites have been re-used for
economic purposes, 22 % are still available, 17 % are used for parks, 27 % have been designated nature
reserves and 4 % have been developed for housing. Thanks to the strong position of EPF, the industrial
land owners were persuaded to sell their property at favourable prices. At the same time, partial
sales of attractive and unencumbered land directly by the owners has been prevented.
4: Management tools / decision support and guidance
No further information available
Brownfields and Redevelopment of Urban Areas Rapport CLARINET - Contaminated Land rehabilitation
Network for Environmental Technologies
- August 2002 - Federal Environment Agency - Austria.
Co-author for France : E. NORMANT (Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development)
Programmes Européens. Quoi de neuf du côté de RESCUE ?
Magazine de la Mission Bassin Minier Nord-Pas de Calais n°3 - Janvier Février Mars 2005.
Web Portal about Contaminated soils and sites of the French Ministry for Ecology, Energy, Sustainable
Development and the Sea