Change of use -agricultural land

Hello. We have made a verbal offer on a converted water mill in the Dordogne, having discussed a ‘clause suspensive’ that we would receive planning permission to erect a holiday home on the land surrounding the mill. After initially accepting this condition, the owner has come back and said they will not accept the clause, and more information has come to light. Turns out the land is largely agricultural land and they may not have planning permission for the existing swimming pool. Anyone got experience of change of use of land from agricultural to tourism or agro-tourism? How about retrospective planning permission for swimming pools in agricultural land. Anyone know an expert in the Bergerac area - a notaries, and architect, anyone who could advise? Thanks in advance

Planning permission in rural areas is almost unheard of now unless it is within an established village.

When you buy a house with agricultural land it is offered through SAFER to any other farmers first.
We have a hectare and a half, but no one was interested in taking our land.
We created a gite out of half of our buildings and took some of the field and turned it into a garden with a swimming pool.
It might be that the land has not through the SAFER process so that it may still classed as agricultural land.

It is not difficult to have change of use of land that is near to a dwelling, ours was done by our notaries when buying the property, but it can become difficult if you want to put change of use on large areas of agricultural land if it is not in a development zone, if you go on the web site of the community of the area it should tell you which area the mill is in, it will be either agricultural or development zone.
Looks like the swimming pool was put in without planning permission so please tread carefully.

Hello Hefin… sounds like the Sellers have got themselves in a bit of a mess… and are now pressing you to take that on board.

For you… the most important thing is to stick to your guns… if the Sellers insist otherwise, it might be better to walk away …

Do not agree to buy at this moment… UNLESS … you are prepared to take a lot of trouble on your own shoulders and perhaps end up with a property that does fit your future plans… as well as bearing the financial costs of removing the pool and/or any fines etc. (worst scene)

The Sellers must sort out the Pool situation… that can take time (2-3 months)… but a chat with the Mairie might well enlighten you on how things are likely to pan out.

Agricultural land… that is a difficult one. It all depends on how the land has been designated by your Commune in their future “Global Building Plan” …

It is becoming more and more difficult to construct in the countryside. . If the Agricultural land is not already “identified” for possible future development, you can more or less forget it.

Also, you must be very clear that Building Permission is not only given for the land (or a part of it)… but that this Permission will remain for a number of years. I can’t remember the exact phrasing, but this cropped up recently with some new Brits… and the Mairie helped get it “set in stone”. I can check tomorrow and let you know.

most importantly…better to take your time… do not be pushed… :relaxed:

If you are using an immobilier, get them to sort it out - It’s their job and you will be paying them a whole load of commission. Make sure everything is in writing though and if necessary included in the "compromis de vente "

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I agree that Immobiliers should earn every centime… but Hefin needs to be very wary…

It is clear that the Sellers have not done things correctly in the past and this must be sorted (by them) before any further steps can be taken to Sell…

Too often I hear tales of how the Immobilier has made all sorts of verbal promises…in an attempt to “sort things”… and not until it is too late, does the Buyer discover the truth of the matter… I would not want Hefin to fall into a similar pit… :relaxed:


I hate to say it but this sounds like “walk away” time.

If the sellers are refusing to agree to a clause suspensive they probably know that, with it in, the sale will fall through. Knowing this anyway you might as well walk away now as try to do so later and find that you are stuck.

New regulations with regards to the selling of property were brought in recently by the French government.
We made the decision to downsize from our farm to something smaller so we instructed a local agent to put it on the market a few months a go and we had to provide them with all planning permits for any work done by us and documentation regarding the fosse and electric work before they would market the farm to make sure that what they were selling was legal and within the law.
So if the mill is new to the market and is being sold by an agent then I would seriously question their integrity.

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Have been through the same thing with a client recently who wanted to put up a garage and or swimming pool on a meadow opposite his house. He was told categorically by the Mairie that no construction of any kind was allowed because the meadow is classed as ‘agricultural land’ and it would take a change to the commune ‘zoning’ before a construction application of any kind could be considered.

To the OP, please walk away now to avoid wasting any more of your time.

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Getting change of use permission from agricultural to constructible land can be easy, or can be impossible. It depends so much on local planning and on local attitides. We have a local farmer here who is deliberately buying every scrap of land he can that comes up through the SAFER process. You won’t know until you try. The fact you plan tourism is neither here or there -it’s construction.

But if the sellers are refusing a clause suspensive that’s a huge red flag. Walk away. Now.

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Plenty of advice from people who know more than me, my only offering is there is no law I know of stopping you from swimming in your agricultural reservoir :smirk:

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Yep, got one of those it is called the river Lot.:grinning:

I agree with all the others on here, it’s time to walk away and save yourself a load of grief later.
Also one little thought, if the river that feeds the mill is classed as category A then there could be many problems too. A French friend has a mill, parts of which date to the Middle Ages, there are seven rivers that feed his gorgeous lake and then onto his mill. Within the last few years one of them has been classed category A ( means he has to put in new digs so salmon can pass, although no one has ever seen a salmon here) and he has had huge problems and it’s cost him thousands of euros to try to overturn the decision. Briefly he has tried to sell his mill and will give away his gorgeous lake free, guess what…no takers !


We stayed in a gite in Provence 4 years ago. The owner applied to put in a pool. It was refused on the grounds it was agricultural land. Afterwards the mayor told her, you should have just done it without asking. Seems like this is what these sellers did but it all unravels when you come to sell. I agree with the others listen to your head and not your heart. There’s always a better house round the corner.

Unfortunately while one does pay the immobilier a hefty commission they are not working for you but for the seller so they are not an unbiased party. If you do decide to proceed make sure everything is to your satisfaction in writing and in a contract (it sounds as though this will not be the case though).

They are solely working for themselves.

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Officially perhaps but colour me a little sceptical here :wink:

They are chosen by the seller, if a sale falls through they will not earn their commission so it is in their interest to mollify the buyer with whatever gets the job done. They also need to keep the seller - who can, after all drop them and go with someone else if they do lose the sale. In short I don’t believe that even the “fairest” estate agent is truly impartial between buyer and there are any number of tales of woe where the agent was anything but fair and unbiased.