It was once the archetypal French village. Weekend markets with farmers selling local fresh produce drew hundreds to Goussainville-Vieux Pays’ squares, as church bells rang, and shops and cafes did a roaring trade.
But seemingly overnight Goussainville-Vieux Pays was left virtually deserted – a mixture of tragedy and noise pollution compelling the village’s rustic residents to abandon their homes, leaving them overgrown and rotting.
The problems can be traced back to the mid-1960s when plans were drawn up for a new airport to be built in the suburbs north of Paris.
The area surrounding Goussainville-Vieux Pays, with its large expanses of green space and location just 12 miles from the capital, was seen as ideal for what would become one of the world’s major aviation centres.
But less than a year before the airport was finished, tragedy hit Goussainville-Vieux Pays when, during the Paris Air Show of 1973, a prototype of a Soviet supersonic aircraft named Tupolev TU-144 crashed in the village.
The plane, which is rumoured to have been built using stolen Concorde plans and eventually led to accusations of corporate espionage, smashed into a row of 15 houses and a school, causing the deaths of six crew and a further eight people on the ground.
The crash shook the village, with many residents choosing to leave immediately - some moving to neighbouring villages, others to Paris itself.
A year after the Tupolev crash, Charles de Gaulle Airport finally opened.
Built by architect Paul Andreu, the airport was always intended to be among Europe’s busiest, and overnight Goussainville-Vieux Pays went from a peaceful village to one blighted by noise pollution from the huge number of flights arriving and departing the hub every day.
Goussainville-Vieux Pays is so close to Charles de Gaulle Airport that it is considered part of the runway approach, and low-flying planes with their landing gears extended are a relentless sight and sound over the village.
Within a year of Charles de Gaulle Airport opening, the majority of Goussainville-Vieux Pays’ residents had left – many of them so upset by the collapse of their village that the couldn’t bear to sell their homes and businesses.
As a result, most of these building have falling into disrepair over the 40 years since villagers began to leave. Overgrown gardens, broken windows and deserted squares are now common sights in Goussainville-Vieux Pays.
Today the population is decimated – just a handful of people wander the once bustling streets, and only a small number of families call Goussainville-Vieux Pays home.
The only building to have withstood the neglect is the Church of St Peter and St Paul – a building erected in the 1300s and now classified as a historic monument that requires the protection of the state.
There is some hope for the future of Goussainville-Vieux Pays however – although a return to its pastoral, pre-1970s roots seems highly unlikely.
As with every major metropolis, Paris’ suburbs are rapidly expanding – sucking once-rural areas into the city and turning historically rustic streets into teeming urban neighbourhoods.
Located just 12 miles from Paris’ centre, it seems highly likely that the agricultural land separating Goussainville-Vieux Pays from the suburbs will soon be developed, potentially breathing fresh life – not to mention a new population - into this long-deserted village.
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