French Planning Rules


(Simon Roxburgh) #1

Just need some advice and guidance from knowledgeable persons regarding garden structures.


yes i will be seeing the maire to get consent etc.


but first i plan on building a small workshop/store for grass cutter, hay and general storage. i plan on having it 4x5 metres but is this the footprint of the walls or as someone said includes the over hang of the roof.


this leads on to a pergola covering seating area of the patio for the BBQ, as it will have no roof does it need planning.



home some one knows.


(David Rosemont) #2

I'm in the Monts d'Arree in 29. When I was still working clients often used to ask me to take risks for them but it's asking too much of a professional. One architect in the UK was fined £20k for doing unbauthorised works to a listed building. He had obtained a general consent but as the works proceeded it was decided that more invasive work was necessary. The authorities were not informed and hey presto. Thing is you get a bad name withthe authorities and succeeding applications on new projects become much more difficult. The officers love revenge!


(Brian Milne) #3

As soon as work begins, go to the DDTM to ask whether permission has been given because the mairie is refusing to give you information. It does not matter whether that is true or not since they will deny it, so what the heck. If the maire is making decisions he/she is not entitled to make, then they will usually act. Our previous maire did that several times too often, amongst other dodgy dealings, and had to resign when it went higher up. Several of his 'planning permissions' were rescinded including one demolition because of non-conform work that could not be permitted retrospectively. The name of the game is that functionaries are all also in competition with each other to be the top dog and when somebody of the lower order is caught, all of the people who probably least expect it get their comeuppance.


(Simon Roxburgh) #4

who likes plastic windows, they are not very environmentally friendly where as bois is the most friendly thing in the world, both windows last the same amount of time, just that people have been sold on low maintenance aspect of pvc


(Tim Bowman) #5

Just a note to all who are interested - There is a bill going through the French parlement at this very moment to reduce the 170m2 to 150m2 when any permis application must be submitted by a member of the Ordre des Architectes.


(Tim Bowman) #6

Could not agree more, an early discussion with them can save a great deal of time and expense. Even more helpful if one can get them to sign off draft proposals as this shortens the approval period dramatically.


(David Rosemont) #7

Les Architectes des Batiments de France will give free pre application advice which is a very good idea. Don't go down a long route if the basic principles are wrong. I have found them to be very approachable, and actually they enjoy talking with other architects as the approach is similar. I did a great deal of Conservation Area and Listed Building work in the UK so I found I was talking the same language. They don't like plastic windows and I don't either!


(Brian Milne) #8

That's right, but locally it is far more common for people to talk about the PLU as if it that was actually the DDTM. If it is a simple matter, the AdB need not get involved fortunately. They take forever. We have three 'UNESCO villages' in the immediate vicinity and there I almost do not exaggerate if I say changing curtains, if people must have them, has led to complaints about their colour that has had AdB on the case. Sheer madness unbridled.


(Tim Bowman) #9

Hi David,

Do not know where you are in France but the authorities up here in Brittany are using google earth and aerial photography to catch people who have built anything without permission. Fines are being levied.


(Tim Bowman) #10

Hi Brian,

The office you are refering to is the Direction Départementale des Territoires et de la Mer , DDTM - roughly equivalent to the Department of the Environment in the UK.

The Communal council draw up the PLU - Plan Local d'Urbanisme under the supervision of the DDTM. If what you are proposing is not allowed in the PLU or POS - Plan d'Occupation du Sol then the Mairie should be able to tell you but the DDTM will have the last word unless the Architectes des Bâtiments de France get involved when they have the final say.


(David Rosemont) #11

I agree with Brian that the application of such rules as do exist is very loose especially if you are on good terms with the Maire and off the beaten track. In England now people in local authorities track satellite images to determine if unapproved construction has taken pace and that include infra red imagery to prove occupation. In France you can to an extent still live the live of an outlaw an get away with it.


(Brian Milne) #12

PLU, le plan local d'urbanisme, always look for that and it is all you need. Mairies should now send applications on to their district PLU office, our one does, many do not. Permissions retained by communes are not necessarily legal nor valid and higher authority can tell you after the event. It is chaos.


(David Rosemont) #13

An English friend told me yesterday that his neighbour (a member of the local chasse) has just erected a large kennels for the hunt dogs right next door to his house (about 3 metres from his house) without either a permis or declaration. The are of the kennels when added to the chasse members's adjoining house takes it over 170 sq metres as well. There are chasse members on the council as well of course and the Maire has been making anti English remarks recently such as "life was easy here before you English arrived". You certainly can't rely on the Maire for impartiality. I've suggested that the best way forward would be for my English friend to send his wife in as a first step. There are obviously potential environmental pollution issues including noise and sanitation as well. Of course the neighbour made no contact at all with his English neighbour before works started. As an architect in the UK we always entered into dialogue with neighbours before commencing work and indeed consultation with neighbours and others is now a fundamental part of the UK planning process. Here it still seems to be back in the dark ages and advantage may well be taken of those unfamilar with the local rules and indeed whether or not the rules are applied.


(Tim Bowman) #14

Hi Simon,

If you go to vosdroits.service-public.fr look in the particuliers section under urbanisme - autorisations d'urbanisme you will find a list of all the different types of official applications - certificat d'urbanisme - permis de démolir etc. Click on the one you want , a list of what it applies to should appear and you can take it from there. Any problems come back to me


(Simon Roxburgh) #15

Thanks for your advice Tim, what you have said is very similar to what i have researched but not being used to the planning rules i was getting lost with all the different what you can and cannot do as described by various other people,

secondly what is the name of the official french planning rules and regulations, i did have a copy on my computer but it seems to have disappeared.

thanks again for the advice.


(Tim Bowman) #16

Please, please , please listen folks,

Whilst France has a set of national planning regulations( which regularly change without notice ) some Mairies are still operating on the ' c'est comme ca ' mode. This is quickly dying out as younger maires are being elected who are very aware of how they can raise money for their communes and what their liabilities are - so beware.

The actual regulations state that ANY structure which is bigger than 2 square metres requires either a déclaration préalable or a permis de construire.

When people joyfully state that you do not need permission for a shed under 20m2 what they are actually meaning is that you do not need a permis de construire. You will still need to submit a déclaration préalable informing the commune of the works that you are intending to carry out the same way you would if you were intending to install rooflights or put a porch on the front of your house !

Please be aware that your garage/shed area footprint( emprise au sol) or floor area,( surface de plancher) , whichever is the larger, ( measured from a line dropped vertically from the edge of the roof overhang in all directions ) is now added to the footprint/floor area of your house and other annexes. If the sum of these is over 170 m2 then no matter that the garage/shed is under 20m2 the situation will change from a simple déclaration préalable to a permis de construire and you will have to have a member of the ordre des architectes to submit your application.

The only thing on wheels that you are allowed to store on your property permenantly ( other than cars,motorcycles etc ) is a caravan that you use for your holidays which moves for periods of the year. Mobile homes are only allowed on sites that are specifically registered for them although some mairies may turn a blind eye to one being lived in during a renovation project.

If you want to see a list of what permissions you need for what proposal please go to www.brittanyarchitecturalservices.fr and look in the planning section. We have been dealing with the vaguries of the french planning system since 1985. If you have a question please email us or give us a ring - it is much easier to help you do the right thing than to fish you out of a hole afterwards - advice is free !


(Simon Roxburgh) #17

so if it has wheels and can be moved it is ok, i have the possibility of getting the remains of an old style gypsy caravan and parking in my garden to restore then possibly use as accommodation.


(Brian Milne) #18

If it is fixed to a base or footings then that is so. Therefore people have those dreadful metal ones that they bolt on to the hard base. That remains a temporary structure and a concrete base in the ground is of no concern. It is a bit strange how it goes. Again, my OH warns about going to the mairie to ask because it attracts attention. They may then come along and say that because it is fixed to the base it is permanent, take it down, remove the base and then come on bended knees for the permission that will not be given. Fortunately, as more and more maires pass on all planning matters to the district PLU people this will die away. Anyway, she who has found out properly says anything that can be removed again without demolition is temporary and the law does not include it in planning permissions. Of course, near historic buildings, in protected areas or a UNESCO site you don't dare open your window without permission...


(David Rosemont) #19

I recommend that people are very careful. There is a general crackdown for the reason that additional taxes are often payable after erection of what Brits call "just a shed". Therefore councils have a financial incentive to enforce the rules. This has just happened in our commune which is admittedly in a Parc Naturel and therefore protected by additional planning controls. Additionally if a site is within a certain distance of a protected building then restrictions are even tougher. Some Brits in our village erected a timber summerhouse this spring and were requested to make a retrospective application. This was then refused after adverse comments from Les Architectes de France who have English Heritage type poweres except that while an British council sometimes ignore English Heritage a French one seems to have to accept the objection. It seems likely that the summerhouse will have to be moved to another part of the relevant garden, in a location in fact would provide no actual benefit to the owners. There doesn't seem to be any possibility of an appeal. Therefore I recommend an early vist with the Maire to determine the applicable constraints and maybe a pre application approach to Les Architectes de France. Despite all this we all know about structures that have been built without consent or flagrant breaches of planning rules.


(Brian Milne) #20

We all have polytunnels here and around. No planning necessary. They are temporary movable structures and come under horticulture or agriculture depending on use. A maire-adjoint help me put ours up, so he would have said (well, maybe) if any kind of permission is required.