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Rhone producers ‘will block roads’ to stop new TV mast

Rhone producers including Michel Chapoutier are threatening direct action to stop the building of an 18m antenna on Hermitage hill.

An impression of how the antenna will look

The beauty of the renowned vineyard of Hermitage La Chapelle is being threatened by construction of the TV antenna, which is to be operated by the media company ITAS TIM.

This will be the second TV antenna on the Hermitage hill: the first is just under 10m high, and has been there for several decades. This second one, for which planning permission has been granted, is 50m from the chapel of Saint Christophe, which gives La Chapelle vineyard its name, and is itself an historic monument.

The surrounding Hermitage hill is in the process of applying for a national protected status, the step before UNESCO heritage status; protesters oppose the antenna on aesthetic grounds, believing it will compromise the application, and damage tourism in the area.

Caroline Frey, owner of Paul Jaboulet Ainé and the La Chapelle vineyard, told Decanter.com they were not made aware of the planning request until it was too late.

‘The piece of land is in AOC Crozes Hermitage, and the local mayor signed the permission, although she has now joined us in protesting against it. Next week we are formally lodging a complaint at the court in Grenoble.

‘If that doesn’t work, we are fully prepared to block the roads to the building site. Every year, thousands of visitors from all over the world come to the famous La Hermitage hill, and the tourism it brings is a major part of the local economy.’

Other protesters include the Syndicate d’Hermitage, whose president is Michel Chapoutier, together with Maison Chapoutier which owns vines around La Chapelle. They are also requesting an injunction to overturn the planning consent.

‘Hermitage is the birthplace of Syrah,’ Chapoutier said. ‘And this hill is the only place in France to have all geological eras represented in the terroir in such a small geographic area. It is the oldest vineyard in the Rhone Valley, and it is unthinkable not to protect it.’

ITAS TIM, in contrast, says that the two month legal objection period passed on May 9, 2012, and they expect to begin construction of the pylon by the end of the year.

The company’s CEO Jean-Claude Duffaud told Decanter.com that new pylons are going up at 200 sites across France as a result of a government initiative to deregulate the telecommunications industry, to ensure high speed internet and digital television.

He pointed out that 18m is a modest height when the average for an antenna is between 30 to 42m, ‘I respect the winemakers, but there is nothing to discuss with them here. I am the owner of the land I want to build on. I have the planning permission to do so. I don’t see exactly what I should be changing.’

Written by Jane Anson in Bordeaux

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