By a judgment of July 4, 2023, the administrative judges of Bordeaux struck hard on the budget of the administration, by ordering the liquidation of a penalty imposed against the department of Dordogne.
In January 2018, the community had obtained an environmental authorization, issued by the prefect, to carry out a project to bypass the town of Beynac-et-Cazenac. According to the President of the county council, the creation of this new road was intended to connect two county roads and thus promote traffic. However, several environmental protection associations as well as individuals had appealed to the Administrative Court of Bordeaux. The latter had canceled the authorization on April 9, 2019, on the grounds that the project risked harming the fauna and flora, and that no reason of serious public utility justified a derogation from the environmental code.
The Dordogne department, which had invested more than 32 million euros in the project and had already started the work, had appealed the judgment rendered at first instance. But by a decision dated December 10, 2019, the Court confirmed the first judgment and condemned the department to demolish the works already built, subject to the payment of a penalty of 3,000 euros per day of delay in the execution of the judgment.
Persuaded to be in its right, the administration appealed to the Council of State, the highest court of the administrative order. The latter considered on June 29, 2020 that the judgment of the Bordeaux Court of Appeal was regular. While the procedure seemed to be coming to an end, the department filed a new authorization request with the prefecture while refusing to carry out the demolition obligation.
Consequently, the applicant associations again seized the Administrative Court of Appeal of Bordeaux for it to rule on the liquidation of the penalty payment which it had provided for in its judgment. Noting that no demolition work had started and that no reason for force majeure had prevented the department from performing its obligation, there is a penalty payment of 489,000 euros (3,000 euros multiplied by the number of days late) which will have to be paid to several associations and individuals.
This solution is the proof of the increasing efficiency of the administrative judge to enforce his decisions; but also an unfortunate example of the fact that the relentlessness of a few local elected officials can have serious consequences on the state of public finances.
Cour administrative d’appel de Bordeaux, 4 juillet 2023, n°21BX02843
R. Bizeul, “Déviation de Beynac : le département de la Dordogne condamné à 489 000 euros d’astreintes”, France 3, 4 juillet 2023 ;
“Contournement de Beynac (24) : la justice annule le projet et demande la démolition”, Sudouest, 10 décembre 2019 ;
N. Ladde, “Dordogne. Déviation de Beynac : les dates-clés et le plan d’un projet imaginé en 1985 et définitivement annulé”, Sudouest, 20 juin 2023