Association Flainoise

The future of Flaine is at stake: your opinion is important

Friday 15 March 2024 by Regis Lardennois

The public enquiry into the new PLU (Plan Local d’Urbanisme) for the commune of Arâches-la Frasse is currently under way and will close on March 22. This is an important moment: it gives everyone an opportunity to find out about and express their views on the town’s land-use planning and development project. Once validated, the rules of the new PLU (local urbanization planning) will be applicable for many years (on average 10 years, the current PLU was validated in 2005).

The consultation file (over 400 pages, with appendices) can be consulted on the Arâches town hall website. We have analysed it in detail in order to extract what we consider to be the most important points for Flaine, namely :

• a plan to develop the Pierre Carrée area and extend the Flaine ski area
• an unjustified extension of the urban development at Les Gérats
• the absence of any concrete plans, or even guidelines, to enable the tourist industry to adapt to the consequences of climate change.

None of these three points are conducive to the harmonious development of Flaine, quite the contrary.

 A development project for the Pierre Carrée area

The new PLU includes a cablecar link between Les Carroz centre and the middle of the Pierre Carrée golf course and Nordic area, with a stopover at Les Molliets. Like the Funiflaine project, this cable car link is associated with a local extension of the Flaine ski area, with a reception structure on the Pierre Carrée site and downhill ski slopes leading back down to Les Molliets, Vernant and Flaine.

This project is not detailed, its justification is not given and an analysis of its environmental impact is not provided. However, it is clear that this impact will be major (soil artificialisation, earthworks, deforestation, destruction of flora, disturbance of fauna, increased need for water for artificial snow, etc.). We believe that this project should not be included in the PLU as it stands, but should be reclassified as a UTN (Unité Touristique Nouvelle - New Tourist Unit) so that it can be assessed in detail.
Basically, the Pierre Carrée site is currently an example of how to diversify tourist activities in the mountains, with an 18-hole golf course in the summer and facilities for Nordic skiing, sliding, walking and snowshoeing in the winter. These are activities for everyone, which consume little water and energy (apart the one of the spotspeople…!). What will be left if the development project goes ahead? Yet these are the activities that need to be maintained and developed. The organisation of the French cross-country skiing championships at Pierre Carrée in 2023 has certainly boosted Flaine’s image.
Establishing downhill ski slopes at Pierre Carrée, potentially at the expense of diversified activities, means persevering with the doomed long-term model of “all-skiing” and turning its back on the necessary evolution of the tourism offering in the face of climate change.

Over and above the development project, the PLU proposes on page 54 “The development and redevelopment of the high altitude sectors at the Col de Pierre Carrée and Les Molliets”. What does this ambiguous wording mean? Is it an open door to a new urbanisation project on Arbaron?

Finally, on page 23, the PLU presents the Pierre Carrée site as a “Sector with strong landscape issues justifying protection”. Indeed, with its 360° panorama, this is a remarkable site that must be protected and must not suffer from the addition of a ski lift and ski slopes.
We are not opposed to cable transport between Les Carroz and Pierre Carrée (and even as far as Flaine). However, the impact on the Pierre Carrée area must be limited to the area around the main road RD60. This is entirely possible, and we have drawn up a preliminary project with this in mind.
If developments are carried out in the Pierre Carrée area, we believe that winter access should be modelled on that of high-altitude restaurants, i.e. without road access or parking.
We also believe that such a project should significantly improve pedestrian access to Montsoleil, the Hameau and the Col de Pierre Carrée, which are currently very undersized.
If such a cable car project goes ahead, access to the ski area will have to be regulated to avoid saturation, by giving priority to tourists staying in the communes of Arâches and Magland.

 An unjustified extension of urban development at Les Gérats

The PLU presentation file presents Flaine as an integrated resort whose urbanisation is complete. In fact, all of the building programmes authorised in 2003 and 2009 have now been completed, or are in the process of being completed. And yet, the PLU includes a development project to extend the Portes du Grand Massif, at the Hameau de Flaine. This project is problematic for several reasons:

  • The project is not consistent with the guidelines set out in the PLU. The PADD (Sustainable Planning and Development Plan), an essential element of the PLU, states on page 17 that, for Flaine: “The PLU therefore does not provide for any new urbanisations for tourist accommodation, with the exception of one or two small tourist accommodation developments in the hollow spaces of the resort, provided that they offer additional commercial accommodation that provides genuine added value for tourism in the resort”.
  • However, the project at Hameau de Flaine is not in a hollow tooth, but in an area classified as a Natural Agricultural and Forestry Area. No details are given of the type of accommodation that would be proposed and how it would add “real” value for tourism. In fact, the PLU presentation document does not even mention the requirement for added value for tourism. This is troubling, and ultimately looks like a blank cheque to build a few more chalets for the benefit of the commune’s finances...
  • In terms of environmental impact, the project will artificialise an area of high-altitude grassland with a biodiversity sensitivity that has not been assessed, but which the PLU (page 206) describes as potentially “moderate to strong”, with “the possible presence of protected species and flora”. On this point, the Mission Régionale d’Autorité Environnementale Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (MRAe) clearly states in its deliberated opinion of October,16 2023 (*) that “the environmental assessment of a PLU cannot refer to subsequent ecological studies while indicating that the area has protected species”. In conclusion, the analysis of the project’s impact on biodiversity is not carried out in a way that is appropriate for a PLU and must therefore be repeated. Obviously, the simplest way to reduce the project’s impact on biodiversity is not to carry it out at all.
  • As far as the impact on the landscape is concerned, the project will significantly impair the view of the Arbaron ridges from Flaine resort. This view is already partially obstructed by the highest building in the Portes du Grand Massif. The project will only make the situation worse. It should be noted that the PLU, which is not at all inconsistent, presents on page 24 the Arbaron ridgeline as part of “a micro-sector with a high landscape value”...

Finally, the Gérats sector is currently served by an inadequate shuttle service, which has not been strengthened despite the massive addition of tourist beds. Nothing is mentioned in the PLU in the chapter on mobility to remedy this. Adding new tourist beds will only worsen the situation.

  The absence of any concrete plans, or even guidelines, to enable the tourist economy to adapt to the consequences of climate change

Climate change over the last 20 years or so has resulted in warmer temperatures and less rainfall, which reduces the skiable area, particularly off-piste.
The first consequence is the need to secure the ski area with more artificial snow.
A second consequence is that Flaine is becoming a reservoir for alpine skiers from neighbouring mid-altitude resorts, overloading the ski area.
A third consequence, which has been observed for several years, is that guests staying at Flaine spend part of their time on activities other than downhill skiing. It is now common for not all members of the same family to ski downhill. This makes it possible to attract skiers from other resorts, and diversified winter activities need to be developed for this clientele.

However, what the PLU proposes to address the climate issue in Flaine is very inadequate. Only one chapter covers this issue (“Optimise and diversify the range of leisure activities to make it possible to de-season and extend the tourist season”, pages 168 and 169) and Flaine is the poor relation, very poor indeed, with two projects mentioned, only for the summer season:

• a project for an ornamental lake on the cascade site, in the area of Flaine’s last tennis courts.
• reducing the size of the golf course from 18 to 9 holes. No justification is given for this surprising proposal, which translates “diversify” into “reduce”! Is this reduction imposed by the cable link?

In our opinion, the Pierre Carrée golf course, with its 18 holes and exceptional views, is a major element in the diversification of the summer tourist offer, provided that it is showcased and promoted commercially. The same applies in winter for the Nordical skiing area, where visitor numbers have been rising for several years.
In this respect, just as it is proposed to replace the prefabricated buildings on the ski slopes, it is time to replace the prefabricated buildings of the golf club house and restaurant with a permanent building that will also support the Nordic area in winter.
Finally, contrary to what is stated in the PLU, the Pierre Carrée golf course is not the “Flaine” course, but the “Flaine-Les Carroz” course, and the Pierre Carrée area is an asset that should be promoted by both resorts.

In conclusion, it seems to us that the new PLU for the commune of Arâches-la Frasse needs to be revised, at least on the following three points concerning Flaine: development of the Pierre Carrée area, unjustified extension of urban development at Les Gérats and the absence of a concrete project to adapt to climate change.

 How to give your opinion:

In order to have the maximum impact on the outcome of the public enquiry, we would like all friends of Flaine to express their views on the above points (and possibly others).
As indicated on the Arâches Town Hall website, until 22 March you can submit your comments and observations (which must be personal, in your own words and, in principle, in French):
> On paper at the Town Hall
> In digital form on
> By e-mail to
> By post to the attention of Monsieur le commissaire-enquêteur, mairie, 64 route de Frévuard, 74300 Arâches-la-Frasse.

Unless you are using the digital version, you can use the attached format as a guide for writing your contribution.

(*) link to the deliberated opinion of 16 October 2023 on the revision of the PLU of the commune of Arâches from the Mission Régionale d’Autorité Environnementale Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (MRAe):

(This article was prepared by the members of the board of the Association Flainoise)

Attached documents


14 March 2024
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