Problem with Neighbours Building Construction - Advice Sought

Today we noticed a couple of men taking photos of our house from the bottom of our garden accompanied by the son of our neighbour. The son does not live with his mother who is in her late 70’s to early 80’s but he keeps machinery in her existing barn. My wife and I went to chat to the men who identified themselves as being from ERDF. There is a pylon that cuts over our land.

Slighty detached to our house a dividing garden wall is a two storey barn in the neighbour's garden and extends 10.5 metres down our wall and in front of our house. It is unsightly but it was here when we moved in so we accepted it.

As a result of talking to the ERDF men and the neighbour we learnt for the first time that he was building a 11 metre extension to the two storey barn. This will restrict our light and view considerably as well as the metal structure looking unsightly.

My wife and I attended the Marie office to be informed that planning permission had been granted. We explained that no one had informed us of the plans and the neighbour's son (who does not live here) had not had the courtesy to speak to us regarding the plans. We looked at the file to see that the son (applicant) had stated "Il n'y a aucun vis-a-vis avec le voisinage." Clearly, this is not true. Our view and the shade and less light from the sun etc will be changed considerably and changed drastically from each front facing room in our house.

We have since spoken to the Mayor and the Planning Department who tell us that despite the above comment on the signed application (apparently it would not be relevant anyway for an agricultural building), it has been approved and there is nothing that can be done about it from their perspective because the papers have been submitted correctly.

We have now been told that the only way forward is to contact a Mediator to try and mediate.

My questions are to the forum are;

1) I would have thought the applicant should have sought the neighbours views before submitting the application. Is that my common courtesy just kicking in or is it a requirement?

2) Does the Mayor and the Planning Dept not have to check with the neighbours and come and actually look at the proposal on site?

3) Has anyone got any advice as to the way forward now please?

It is a real shame because everyone has been so very friendly since we have been here (July 2014)

I don't know whether it would in fact affect the sale if you sell to French. My impression is that the French are not particularly bothered about the "view" from a house, they're more concerned with the house itself. Where I live there's been a fair amount of development in the last 10 years, buildings have been pulled down and others have gone up, and I've been quite surprised at how everybody has shrugged off the changes to their surroundings. They seem to accept that outside the perimeter of their own property, they have no control over what other people do on their property, or what the commune does with public land, providing no laws are being broken. I don't think a French buyer would pay extra for a house with a view for that reason, because they know the view isn't guaranteed to be there for ever. So I don't think you necessarily need to worry about losing value or becoming unsaleable.

Hello John

Apologies if what I say has already been said but there is legislation about distance between agricultural buildings and homes. If you have a shed which will be used for rearing animals it canot be closer than 50m to a home. (I think). What the legislation is for the extension to an existing building is I do not know but you may need to find out if the building itself is registered as an agricultural building. If it is not then they will have to have applied for change of use as well. Are they a farmers?

My knowledge is sketchy but you may find that your local chambre d'agriculture will have the legislation and there advice may even be free.

So blow the dust off that protection juridique insurance policy! Good luck.


I obviously cannot comment on the detail, not knowing the site and the implications. The law I have quoted is sound. But, English, French or Kenyan you are entitled to protect your interests your views and your investment, and the law makes provision for just that. I doubt your neighbours would hesitate if the boot was on the other foot. Bear in mind that french law also says (rough translation) "that he who causes a prejudice to another shall indemnify him for the effects of that prejudice". The relevant law is in:

article 1382 of the Code Cilvil - see here


Dear Tim,

Thank you for the detail. I am in Charente Maritime, Ste. Lheurine. As stated before hopefully we can reach an acceptable solution as so far everyone has been very pleasant and helpful and we do not want to be seen as the moaning English family. That being said, it would have an effect on our property if we came to sell (which we do not intend to do) and I suspect local people, if the same happened to them would have something to say about it regardless of the fact we live in a rural agricultural area.


Hi John,

The simple answer to your question is YES, it apples to ANY planning application so the requirement for the "notice" is just as valid. Questions of strategy and tactics aside, you must at some point make the Mayors and planning authorities aware. Failure to comply with the requirement can invalidate a planning permission and can lead to the demolition of the building thus "illegaly" constructed. (Rare but happens)

In fact, an application for an agricultural building (over 20m2 footprint) is MORE COMPLEX than a private dwelling for the simple reason that the application is most likely to apply to what, in the UK, we would call green belt land, as opposed to building land: Terrain agricole ou Terrain constructible. There are many further requirements for agricultural buildings depending on their intended use - AS DECLARED IN THE APPLICATION.

The detail can be complicated, so this is not the place to enlarge, suffice it to say that, as I previously indicated, the applicant MUST put up the "notice" and you have then 2 months to object. You will have then to formulate your objection(s) carefully and there is no guarantee you will win, BUT, the mere fact that you put in a proper legal objection may lead to an acceptable negotiated settlement.

My suggestions to you in the first instance:

1. Go to your Mairie and obtain a copy of the "arrêté" sent to the applicant granting the planing permission. Make sure it has the Mairie date stamp on, should be in the form "reçu le DD MM YYYY " or similar. You DO NOT have to tell them WHY you want it, and at this stage I would not.

Even better will be to obtain copy of the entire planning application at the same time. You will eventually need this and you are entitled to this under French law since the Mairie and the planners have now made a decision on the application. Your Mairie may charge you for the photocopies if they wish, but they cannot refuse your demand.

Once you have got all that I would go to my Notaire or Avocat, not the same Notaire used by the applicant, and seek their help based the application, your objections and on what I have already told you.

EDITED 15.16pm: John, if your household insurance includes legal cover (assurance juridique) then you could start there at no extra cost to yourself, up to the policy limit. Tim

This will alms certainly involve you in costs, but, you are trying to protect your asset.

Hope that helps further. Which Department/commune are you in?

Best regards,


Hi Tim,

Thank you for this. Does your advice include the continuation of a agricultural barn please as opposed to a dwelling. The barn will be over 2 storeys high and extra 11 metres long and 15 metres wide.

For your information there has been no such notice erected. I pass the front gate at least twice a day and would have easily seen it.

Thanks in anticipation.




I will answer your 3 questions directly. All may not be lost!

1) No there is no legal requirement to seek the neighbours views.

2) No they do not.

3) Yes, I have some advice for you below, based on French law, which is fortunately written in the various codes;

A planning permission once approved does not become DEFINITIVE until 2 months after the advertising of the approval by the positioning of a notification panel detailing the proposed approval (minimum size 80cms x 80cms) which panel must be visible form the public road nearest to the site.

This panel must be put up by the applicant immediately from the date they receive the planning approval notice. The 2 month period, which is precisely to allow contestation of the approval, only starts from the day the panel is erected in due and proper form. This panel has to remain on site during the entire objection period and build period, and until the certificate of completion - déclaration d'achèvement de travaux - is lodged with the authorities. The specific articles of law covering this are:

Code de l'urbanisme article R424-5 and

Code de l'urbanisme articles A424-15 to A424-19

So, if this notification panel has not been erected in due and proper form, you have at least two months to officially object. If this is the case you should get the Mairie or a Huissier de Justice to do a "Constat" to this effect. You can find fuller details here;

Within this 2 month period, and as a neighbour directly affected, you are officially able to contest this planning permission - "Contester une autorisation d'urbanisme". Your Notaire or an Avocat should be able to do this for you. The relevant articles of law covering this are:

Code de l'urbanisme articles L600-1 to L600-12.

See here for more details:

You must do this within the 2 month timeframe, which runs form the day the notification panel is put up so as to be readable from the public highway.

I am guessing and hoping, of course, that the notice has not been erected, since you say you only became aware of the problem when you spoke to the ERDF people and the neighbour?

I hope that information will be useful and enable you to resolve your problem.

I used to be professionally involved in the development industry in the U and that is where most of my experience was. In dozens of cases our projects involved Party Wall negotiations and also Rights of Light. UK practice is no doubt different to French practice, but it is important to separate the various considerations.

Firstly you have planning law. In the UK it is indeed required now that you consult properly with neighbours before making an application, and you need to be able to prove that you have done so, and give details when making the application. Planning officers always visit site before making a delegated powers decision or before submitting a committee report. Therefore in the UK the possible effects of a proposal are fully evaluated before a decision is made.

If a scheme is approved it's quite possible that the proposal might have an adverse effect on light received within an adjoining site, but more particularly within an adjoining building. Only existing windows which have acquired a right to light may be considered and there are methods of calculating what is sufficient light. It might be possible to prevent a new building being built, or to extract a payment for the loss of light. It's a very specialised area of law. It is dealt with under common law, not planning law.

A common misconception is that people in the UK have rights to views. That is only true in fact in very specific cases. Equally a garden will not normally have a Right of Light, it is only habitable rooms, not bathrooms, utility rooms, staircases etc.

In France the whole situation appears much more lax. I do agree with the comments made about the local mayor being a friend or relation of the neighbour wishing to build the new building. DO NOT EXPECT IMPARTIAL OR FAIR ADVICE. An applicant seems to have no duties to inform neighbours of a proposal, and the planning application consideration appears to be done on a desk top basis with no site visit. The decisions in our village are made by people in offices far away. There is however a need to put up a site notice describing the application and that has to be visible from the public highway. Approvals are TACIT approvals and may be challenged by objectors. You need to check that process but no doubt it takes time and is expensive. I do know of cases where construction has been started or even finished and then an objector wins his case and the building has to be demolished. That is especially true near the coast or in protected zones.

I did come across this note which describes Rights of Light cases in France

I would advise going to a specialist not a local as quite frequently you get fed with absolute rubbish by the locals. I was in dispute with my commune back in 1991 and they and the local notaire lied to me. I had the case investigated by a firm of lawyers from Paris (Jeantet et Associes) and they proved it. The commune much to their chagrin was obliged to pay me damages and my legal costs. Wilful lying to etrangers is not the only problem, it is frequently the case that the local Mairie just doesn't know the law and the local Mafia takes over. That is one of the reasons that councils are being amalgamated all over France.

In France most commune has rules about how close you can build to boundaries etc and that should be checked. I know of three current cases in our village where building work has been done that are now going to be the subject of demolition orders. I think that there is a bit of a crackdown going on; it also affects things like plastic windows and cladding etc. We are in a national park however and the rules are obviously tighter.

A few years ago there was a similar situation in a town called Larchamp (53). A local business erected a building very close to a house owned by English people and to cut a very long story short, they contested the permis de construire and eventually won, forcing the local business to buy there property at the market value plus compensation for their stress, expenses and the expenses relating to the purchase and house move. This was done through their insurance company as they had protection juridique. It did take years rather than months but they won and that was the main thing. I don't remember their names unfortunately.

John, I think you have said it all when you mention that it is an agricultural building. Different planning rules apply.

Thanks Helen,

Having now read the link posted by Paul above you are indeed correct. I suppose my only point now would be that a common courtesy visit from a neighbour or even the Mayor would have not gone amiss.

We live and learn.

The onus is on you to check for new planning permission dossiers that have been deposed and if necessary object, not on them to make you aware of them I'm afraid it's not obligatory for anyone to seek you out and ask. Most planning permission is granted solely on the paper dossier, no visits on site. It is not the maire that decides on the granting or not but the departement.

Way forward - mediation. There are free mediators avaialble via your local tribunal. Make an appointment and see what he can do although I think it may be tough going as the permission has already been granted. Doesn't hurt to make an intitial rdv and discuss though

Hi John.

Where I last lived, I recall some friends who wished to build a large party wall - for privacy - between their neighbour and themselves. As in your case (seemingly), the neighbour couldn't do anything about it (no windows) - except specify what material/finish he would eventually have to look at, namely, some lovely (expensive) local stone.

This was put in writing.

At least you may be able get something more aesthetically pleasing. Regardless, should it be me in your situation, I would not hesitate to push things as far as possible given the impact it may have on your home. There are people on this website far more qualified than I to offer advice on this subject - perhaps one of the several architects who are members of SFN may jump into the discussion if they see this? Best of luck.

Hi Pauline,

You are correct. Sadly our view etc is not a consideration and because there are no windows overlooking us he does not see why it is a problem. The fact you will now stare at it from our bedrooms and lounge is not a concern for him and as he pointed out, when you are in bed you will be asleep anyway!!!!

Hi Paul,

He said it was unfortunate but that it is for his business. He could not give a reason as to why it couldn’t be elsewhere on his land but only that building had to continue along the perimeter of the land as per the law and regulations. Having now read your link, in effect we are snookered. That being said he has agreed that he will not continue with a metal structure but build it in stone which should be more in keeping. I will speak with the Mayor tomorrow to see if he therefore has to make a further change in his planning application to ensure we have that in writing.

Thanks again.

Just to clarify the vis à vis thing, I always thought that referred to the rule that the proposed extension must not have a direct view of the neighbours. Nothing to do with the neighbour's view of the extension from their property. When they say they said there is no vis à vis, as I understand it that simply means that the building will not have any windows overlooking your property, which presumably it won't.

Hi John

And what did he say about your concerns re: shade/views etc?

Thanks Paul for the advice.

The staff in the Mayors office (the Mayor has been very helpful to us up until now) informed us that the son and the Mayor are good friends.

We have just spoken to the son who listened to our concerns and came into our house to see the effect it would have. He listened but believes that because there are no windows overlooking our land and it is a barn for agricultural purposes only then it is not a problem.

C'est la vie!