“History”, ” never seen ” : professionals in the restoration of historical monuments are aware that they are experiencing an exceptional summer. The 260 million euros allocated by the State to the sector as part of the recovery plan must be committed before the end of 2022 and the effects of this unprecedented windfall are felt on the ground. “The recovery plan has clearly been a very nice gift for French monuments”, emphasizes Delphine Christophe, director of monument conservation at the Center des monuments nationaux (CMN), which manages around a hundred monuments. The CMN thus received 40 million euros, “when our annual endowment is 20-23 million”underlines the curator.
Thanks to these exceptional credits, 14 restoration operations have been launched or extended: restoration of the abbey of Beaulieu-en-Rouergue (Tarn-et-Garonne), of a wing of the castle of Bussy-Rabutin (Côte-d ‘Or), the coverings of the castle of La Montagne (Nièvre), the facades and the roof of the Merveille du Mont-Saint-Michel (Manche)… For the castle of Villers-Cotterêts (Aisne) which is to house the Cité internationale of the French language, the CMN received a special envelope of 100 million euros.
In the regions, the regional directorates of cultural affairs (Drac) have been able to allocate 80 million euros to cathedrals and 40 million euros to the restoration of historical monuments owned by municipalities or private individuals. Drac Bretagne has thus launched a dozen operations, thanks to an envelope of 10 million euros, which represents 70% of additional credits compared to its annual allocation. The Breton cathedrals are beneficiaries, such as that of Rennes (repair of exterior coatings) and Vannes (restoration of interior decorations). These credits also make it possible to encourage town halls to undertake restoration operations by sharing the costs, such as for the restoration of the ramparts of Dinan or that of the abbey church of Redon.
As for companies qualified to work on historic monuments, the order books are full. “We have never seen a year like this. We are even a little overheated, ” testifies Pierre Possémé of the company The associated building, in Muizon (Marne), which indicates that its turnover has jumped by more than 20%.
At least until 2024, this state spending will support an entire sector. “In the restoration of historical monuments, employment cannot be relocated. It is a French and virtuous ecosystem”, says Christine Jablonski, regional curator of historic monuments in Brittany and vice-president of the College of Historic Monuments. However, these credits will have little impact on employment. “Insofar as these are credits clearly displayed as exceptional, companies are not going to hire, analyzes Françoise Benhamou, heritage economist. This increased activity could even generate inflation due to labor pressures. » Already, many contracting authorities are noticing increases in construction costs, but they are also explained by the tensions on the markets for raw materials and materials, linked to the health crisis in Asia and the war in Ukraine. Supply difficulties and price increases are frequent for wood, roofing, certain electrical equipment, metals – in particular lead, copper, zinc widely used during restorations – with costs that can rise by 10 to 30% .
This is not the only downside, because the philosophy of the recovery plan is sometimes questioned. “Many operations were launched at the same time and this favored large companies that could respond to calls for tenders, testifies a regional curator of historical monuments. There is also a lack of human resources to follow up and monitor fast-moving construction sites. » In the heritage sector, we know the virtues of long time and long-term commitment…