In Nièvre, a village regains its vitality by attracting new inhabitants thanks to social ties and its quality of life

In Nièvre, a village regains its vitality by attracting new inhabitants thanks to social ties and its quality of life

In Nièvre, hit by the decline of its population, Dornes has resisted and gained inhabitants for fifteen years. Recipe ? The culture of social connection and quality of life.

The sun timidly breaks through the clouds as the church bells ring nine times in the town hall square. In the process, around ten women gathered in front of the town hall, the rallying point for their morning walk. Big smile on his face in front of the facade, Jean-Luc Gauthier, mayor (without label) of Dornes since 2020, tips his hat to greet the members of the Sport pour tous association, and exchanges some information on the paths recently reopened by the municipality . “This associative fabric constitutes our local industry,” jokes the 67-year-old man as he watches the group of walkers, retired or active, leave across the fields. Social ties are essential to the attractiveness of our municipality. »

The village, which had 1,321 inhabitants in 2009, will have 1,504 in 2024. “I am proud of it, it reflects a certain quality of life,” smiles Jean-Luc Gauthier. This lasting increase is an exception in Nièvre, the leading figure in the French diagonal of the void, the third metropolitan department to have lost the most inhabitants between 2015 and 2021, behind the Meuse and Haute-Marne. Nestled north of Moulins (Allier) and south of Nevers (Nièvre), Dornes does not have any remarkable heritage and only benefits from the relative economic attractiveness of these two prefectures. So, to attract new residents, the town capitalized on inexpensive land, a peaceful living environment, multiple shops and public services and, above all, an educational offering.

Play intergenerational

The epicenter of the educational grouping of the surrounding communities, the village welcomes 162 students from kindergarten to primary school and 115 middle school students. To combine its desire to see toddlers roaming its streets and to offer a peaceful living environment to its elders, the town hall is banking on intergenerational investments. It had a 75-bed nursing home built in 2018, renovated the kindergarten in 2021 and the primary school in 2023. As a result, for ten years, the proportion of children and adolescents and that of retirees have increased in similar proportions.

Another notable fact, unlike other towns whose demographics are jumping with the arrival of neo-rural residents and teleworking in the countryside, Dornes mainly welcomes “local people who are looking for quality of life close to their work”, underlines Jean-Luc Gauthier. According to him, the town only has “two second homes”, far from the trend of withdrawal into the countryside that sociologists have called “the Covid effect”.

Behind his counter, Christophe prepares his dish of the day and serves a few customers “who are trimming the fat” between two glasses of rosé. Managing, with his wife, the village inn, he is one of those Nivernais who chose Dornes to launch a business in 2016. Around the square, the same logic of proximity drives the businesses: hardware store, hairdresser, beautician, pizzeria, pharmacy, bakery. “This village is alive because, quite simply, we did not let it die,” says Nicole Naty, second deputy, who evokes the construction of a family housing estate in 2012, the inventiveness of the municipal team in finding funding, and above all the voluntary commitments of residents.

Maintain public services

Another decisive step for the village: the creation of a France services house in 2020, for which the mayor claims to have “gone above and beyond”. Installed in La Poste premises, this structure, which combines physical reception and digital support for citizens, brings together several public services in the same place. Reception agents are overwhelmed with appointments. “It’s sensational,” proclaims Stéphanie in the queue, a blue folder full of paperwork in her hands. This mother comes to find Brigitte, her advisor, for the second time this week. After taxes, the registration application for his new Kangoo poses problems. “On the Internet, it’s a headache, here at least we have someone in front of us, people sometimes travel 40 kilometers to get help. » According to INSEE projections, seniors could represent 38% of the population of Nièvre in 2040. To best support them in the dematerialization of administrative procedures, Dornes is doing well by focusing on proximity and connection social.

Recipes for success

  • The associative fabric 22 associations (basketball, football, judo, pétanque, heritage, tai chi, folk dance) are active. The municipality subsidizes licenses in order to attract young people and offer a maximum price of 60 euros per year.
  • The care offer Dornes is home to a healthcare home and two general practitioners, a major asset in a department classified as a medical desert.
  • Autonomy With its local shops, its supermarket, its services and its administrations, the village offers local autonomy to its inhabitants.

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