GOUSSAINVILLE-VIEUX-PAYS, France (Reuters) - Five decades ago Goussainville-Vieux-Pays was a pretty French village where church bells rang out over the primary school courtyard and farmers sold their produce in the local market.
Today it resembles a ghost town: dozens of its houses are boarded up, their walls daubed in graffiti and hollowed interiors invaded by creeping vines.
Goussainville-Vieux-Pays lies some 20 km (12 miles) from Paris and should be prime commuter-belt real estate.
But it sits at the end of one of Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport’s four runways. Throughout the day low-flying aircraft thunder overhead.
Airport operator Aeroports de Paris bought out willing homeowners when the transport hub opened in the mid 1970s, causing the population to drop to 300 from over 1,000.
A group of holdouts who refused to leave, however, are now trying to regenerate the village.
“We’ve thought of all sorts of solutions, even bringing deaf and mute people because, poor them, they wouldn’t have been bothered by the planes,” Philippe Vielliard, one of the group, said.
Handling 69 million passengers a year, Paris Roissy is the world’s 10th busiest airport.
Goussainville’s mayor in 2009 bought back the houses from ADP for the symbolic sum of one euro ($1.18). But it will cost millions to renovate them.
The population has crept higher, to 350, but remains far below its original level.
One lifelong resident, who identified herself as Veronique, scoffed at the suggestion the plane noise was a nuisance to would-be buyers.
“You get used to it,” Veronique said. “Some say the planes wake them up, others say it’s the cockerel. Some people will always be bothered by something!”
Reporting by Reuters TV; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Robin Pomeroy