In French villages, the address obligation threatens the ancestral memory of places

In French villages, the address obligation threatens the ancestral memory of places

Anonymous leaflets, petitions, resignation of the municipal council: the legal obligation to give a name to roads and a number to homes that do not have one – what is called addressing – has caused a crisis lasting several months in Passavant -sur-Layon (127 inhabitants), in Maine-et-Loire. The mayor’s choice to remove the signs indicating the localities of the town was fatal to him. He had to resign last June in front of the village bronca.

If nothing required such a revolution, it must be admitted that the stakes are not small. The update of addresses, defined by the law of February 2022 known as “3DS” (relating to differentiation, decentralization, deconcentration and simplification) has indeed serious practical consequences.

Essential for GPS

Without this correct naming of all roads and without the numbering of homes, the proper functioning of delivery and rescue services (firefighters, police) is disrupted, the GPS is not informed, the deployment of fiber is impossible, and Pilgrim risks being poorly distributed in mailboxes the day a new attendant discovers his tour.

Except that changing the name of places, which conveys a precious ancestral memory, is risky and cumbersome to implement; particularly in small towns where there is a shortage of workers. Since January 1, municipalities with more than 2,000 inhabitants (1) are supposed to have transmitted their “local address base” to the “national address base”. As of January 17, 44% of municipalities with less than 2,000 inhabitants and 60% of municipalities with more than 2,000 inhabitants had complied. The movement is progressing: every week, thirty to sixty town hall employees or elected officials learn online the tool for editing local address databases to launch that of their municipality.

Preserved localities

In Loir-en-Vallée – a grouping of four municipalities in Sarthe (2,100 inhabitants) – the mayor took up the matter herself. The tool provided by the administration allows you to retrieve existing addresses in a few clicks, modify them if necessary, and create new ones if necessary (2). “It’s long, but simple and flexible,” says Galiène Cohu. I was lucky, I was able to rely on the address base that the departmental joint union for digital had established for the deployment of fiber. » The councilor kept the names of the places. For residents, the change simply consists of seeing a number appear associated with the name, sometimes ancestral, of their house or hamlet.

The risk of a loss of memory is real, however, underlines Frédéric Giraut, geographer at the University of Geneva: “Microtoponyms disappear in addressing operations, and the reasons which motivated the selection are rarely explained. It would be interesting to take advantage of the process to bring out the memory linked to these names. »

(1) Those with less than 2,000 inhabitants have until June 24 to transmit their local address base.

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