The laws “Solidarity and Urban Renewal” (2000), the Voynet law on the environment (2000) as well as the law “Democracy of proximity” (2001), advocate in France systematic involvement and as far upstream as possible, residents and associations in the development of projects that concern their living environment. These texts evoke not only the duty of “information” and “consultation” of the population, but are now referring to the need for “consultation” or even “participation”. At the same time, a number of local elected representatives and planning and construction professionals have been considering for some time that it is no longer possible to design projects without involving residents, users or users, suggesting that Ownership, the quality of management of spaces created and the effective implementation of operations depend more and more.The question of the implication of the inhabitants in projects of development or construction seems in fact today all the more unavoidable that the territories of intervention are not virgins anymore. They are already inhabited, “lived”; It is therefore difficult to envisage “remaking the city on the city”, without taking into account the social and spatial practices and representations that have marked and still mark the identity of the places. Although the intention to involve residents in project approaches is increasingly expressed in France as in other European countries, it is often treated as an ancillary issue and has difficulty to be truly integrated. operational procedures.
Skeptical attitudes or even resistance remain, and assert themselves for example in:- the idea shared by some elected representatives and inhabitants that the exercise of democracy can only be strictly representative: the former giving a crucial importance to the power of delegation granted to them by the vote; the latter believing that they do not have the skills to take the place of the latter whom they have just designated to act and decide on their behalf;- a recurrent and persistent doubt among a large number of elected officials and technicians about what can really bring the involvement of residents or users in project approaches: it is for many a loss time, money, even legitimacy;- a fear of having to respond to excessive desires or to be confronted with the famous principle of NIMBY;- a tendency to discredit the truly democratic and open nature of participatory approaches, because of the “unrepresentative” nature of the groups involved, a kind of alibi allowing to better justify the fact that one prefers, ultimately solicit no one.