Building a house without planning permission


I'm an avid lurker on here for quite a while now but now I need to ask for a bit of advice please. (apols for no picture - for job reasons I would rather not post one).

So here is my problem, I'll keep it short. We moved to France in 2006. In 2007 our neighbour ripped out a hedge between the properties while we were out, leaving our horses able to get on the road. Fortunately they didn't. This in itself isn't important now, but it sets the scene. A old torchis barn was also ripped down and a massive structure (garage), very badly built was put up. Way over the limits for building something without planning. Then a shabbily built house started to be built within 50 cm of the boundary. Being newbies in France, we thought that this was fine, who would build without planning? We finally went to see our Mayor. He was horrified and there was much puffing a blowing and visits to the property and it all went quiet for a while, a few years actually. Meantime the field at the back has been filled with rusting scrap cars (not one or two, I am talking dozens here).

In recent weeks, work has started up again. The roof is on, a chimney has been installed on the wall adjacent to the boundary, much lower than our house, (this is my main concern). This man burns tyres and I don't know what. A black plume of smoke is not an uncommon sight. So it is fair to say I am a little concerned.

I emailed the Mayor. He replied saying "they are GOING to submit a planning application". Meanwhile work continues. Don't we have a right to know what is being built next door? And shouldn't someone be making sure it conforms to various laws and building regulations? I am finding the whole thing really stressful, never knowing what I am coming home to. Talking with them I am afraid, not an option. They just become verbally abusive as I have tried previously.

I don't know how I can raise an objection to the building, when planing doesn't exists, and my mayor seems ok with it.

Any thoughts or advice would be greatly appreciated.

best wishes and thanks in advance,


It's a bit less straightforward then you might think. First of all, when you say that there was a hedge between the properties then it means that they are adjacent without any separating features like a ditch? What would you say is the square mtr size of the ground plan of that new building? less then 20? more then 20? Are there specific local rules with respect to construction?

The law (Code d'urbanism) states in section 2, article R111-18 that If your properties are adjacent, without any distinct separation,the rule of thumb is, that the distance between the new building and your property should be half of the buildings total height. It is possible to apply another, shorter distance, but not without good and proper argumentation from the local authorities.

As for the permission, any building, larger than 20 m2 needs a building permission. The mairie can't change the POS (plan d'occupation des sols) or the PLU (plan lucal d'urbanisation) retro-active to suit someone. Therefore the building is illegal.

As for the chimney, the norms specified in art 18 of Arrêté 22 10 1969, state that height of it should be 40 cm more then the height of all the buildings within an 8 meter perimeter. For some more recent, more efficient equipments this perimeter is reduced to a perimeter of 6 meters from a neighboring window.

Given the fact that this has been going on for some time now I would advise you to constitute a file of the events and get into contact with an "hussier" (bailiff?) to get a formal appreciation of the situation.

If your neighbours will file a planning permission and eventually obtain one, this needs to be advertised on the bulletin board of the mairie. Your neighbour will have to place a panel on the roadside of his property indicating the nature of the work to be done etc. (you see them now and then at the roadside). Officially you have 2 months to oppose this permit and in that case the aforementioned file comes in handy. This procedure can go a long way in courts, it's up to you to decide but youare in now way without any rights here.

Good luck, and keep us informed

lol, true.

My goodness, it could be Ireland :-)

Don't worry Collette. Poor Alex's situation is the exception.

Except that I don't want it. One reason for coming to France was to escape things like this. Why it had to be an English developer with attitude annoys me, but it was an advantage because the Maire was clearly prejudiced and the two nearby French houses more his concern. With what is going on healthwise and so on at present I could do without excitement in any form.

What an exciting life you lead, Brian :-)

We've just had a mayoral visit after his office hours. He hmm-ed and ha-ed and says that he has the option of calling in a demolition team and charging the man for that. If he won't do it, he will be liable for it for the rest of his life and if ever found herein France...

We have just rubbed hands and said tee-hee-hee

It seems to be more and more true that all planning matters are dealt with by the Department who just don't know the local communes that well. Therefore there's a disconnect. Also bear in mind that the Mayor is a butcher, baker etc and whilst he may be the most important person locally they just don't know more complicated areas of the law. Our Mairie was absolutely hopeless on Carte de Sejour matters and they were way out of date with the law. Another Mairie I know didn't reply to one of eight urgent letters about a pothole that caused significant damage to my car. I never got the money but they repaired the road (I sent photos). The secretary in that Marie was a total w****r. Local councillors are just not interested in potholes on a Departmental as it's for the Department and they do nothing other than attend long lunches. Maybe if you sent photos to the local paper? They don't publish letters here mind you.

No pain no gain!

I am keeping my fingers crossed that officialdom has started on the right track for you.

These things happen everywhere in the world. In sarf London where you and I were near neighbours I had a rogue landlord who owned a block opposite my house. We were all in a conservation area. He always planned unspeakable things for bank holiday weekends so the council's enforcement team were unavailable. So this August bank holiday a bunch of ruffians arrived with chain saws etc and commenced to cut down a protected tree. I remonstrated and was met with a torrent of abuse. I called the police who warned the guy as it was in fact a criminal offence but the officer left and they immediately started again. I recorded the whole scene on my camera from the street but I had to withdraw onto my property when he attacked me with an iron bar. After the holiday I sent the pics to the council who prosecuted with me as witness. He was fined £3k in about 1990 I think. It was a record fine for the time and made the front page of The Times! He didn't pay the fine and after years of legal action the council compulsory purchased the freehold of the block and sold shares to the flat leaseholders. The whole thing took more than 5 years!!!!!

We went to see our maire about the work potentially beginning opposite us this morning. He said he is going to leave it a while and if builders move in then he will act, at least pass on the information to the planning people. It seems that if he starts building without permission and is forced to demolish it/dig it up, that the chances of him then getting permission are more or less zero. He will also get it in the neck because the ruins which are on both sides of the road are dangerous and he has so far ignored notices to either make them safe or seek permission to demolish. The woman who lives directly in front of the site and would lose her stunning view is local and has a lot of support, so perhaps we are in a more advantageous position than you.

Re the tyre burning, thus is definitely not allowed. We are not allowed to have a bonfire! If you speak to the Mairie about this they will have to investigate, you need pictures with time and date.
If this gets you nowhere, you should go higher as this definitely illegal and a health hazard.

Personally I would get a job and flatten it …as it doesn’t exist they can’t complain to the mayor…

As a retired architect who practiced in the UK the correct advice must be to take proper qualified advice- which has to be paid for of course. With similar events in the UK we were often appointed as expert witnesses to prove non compliance with planning, building regulations or common law (such as boundary disputes). In one case i remember we proved that a French guy had built his extension just a few inches onto our client's land and not in accordance with the planning consent. It was demolished eventually. On other cases substantial compensation was paid. One client got paid a lot because a builder's crane flew over her land without permission. I know of one case in London (current) where a top floor has to be knocked off a block of flats because it was built too tall. These things are frequent and invariably very expensive. I have seen some people literally worry themselves into a complete frazzle and ending up "under the doctor". I think you need an avocat and then maybe an architect or similar to make a detailed case. If you don't then it will be the thin end of a large wedge. Re the cars that is an environmental issue and maybe your local rivers board would be interested. They did take action against a scrap yard in our village but there is another one starting up now.

If the mayor is taking brown envelopes, or overlooking things as personal favours, his feather should well and truly be ruffled.
Our mayor does similar, blocks planning when his friends object, yet gives outrageous planning permissions to his drinking buddies.

A mayor needs to be reminded that he was put there by the people, and is there to listen to them.

Consent should be appiled for change of use of an existing building.

Retrospective permission should not normally be allowed.

Is the offender a pal of the mayor???

You need to go higher as has been advised.

Dear Alex

I had a problem with a neighbour too who had an extension built on the limit of our plot. He had the right to do so.

But in between our plots there is an old hedge with old trees that he intended to cut down. An article in the "Code Civil" protected the hedge as it had been planted more than 30 years ago.

In your case, there are different problems : limit of property, Burning tyres (forbidden) they should get rid of scrap at the "déchetterie". What do they do with the scrap cars ? there's a specific regulation for this kind of activity, oil, dangerous parts and components etc..

Did he have the right to cut the hedge down too ?

Do you have a conciliator in your village ?

In some cases, when the planning regulations have not been respected, the offender can be badly fined.

If you can read legal french, this website can help :

Are your neighbours also complaining about the toxic smoke. A petition can be started in the village.

I hope this will come to a happy end.

Kind Regards

Jean Guy Merlaud

We needed planning permission for installing 6 Velux windows in a new roof. It was referred to the Bâtiment de France because we were within sight of an ancient monument, our small local church. All was OK in the end, but it seems some communes and their Mayors, can be sticklers!

Well Alex - I am not sure where you live in France, but when I wanted to renew the roof and doors on a very small outbuilding, approximately 3.5 metres x 4 metres I firstly went to my local Mayor and told him, and he looked up the regulations - and yes - I required planning permission from the town hall. I had to submit photos, a floor plan etc., I waited, and then planning permission was granted, so I went ahead.

I can only suggest that as your mayor appears to be somewhat laid back about the problem, you visit the local town hall with photos of the new buildings, and present your case to them. After all - planning permission is granted by them, and not your local mayor.

I hope this suggestion helps you.