Protection of property by local authorities

(Brian Milne) #1

I have just had somebody contact me to ask if I know the answer to the question I shall ask in a moment. I do not know the answer and am hoping somebody here does. The problem with it is that the people in question have an appointment at a mairie to see the maire and somebody else who might be responsible for this question. The notaire they have just seen has advised them to go to the mairie but he has no actual answer rather than to suggest that it is all possible. For them that is all too vague. So here, with the explanation, is the question:

Background: Some people are looking at a quite large property with considerable grounds. It is on a quite busy road, the property is narrowish but long. There is also a water treatment plant at the end of the field, quite some distance from the building itself but sometimes, usually in the hottest weather, it is said to smell a bit. The place is a chambre d'hôte with gîtes and short term furnished flats but it could easily become a small hotel with restaurant. Everything is in place, pool, gardens and so on for it to be a successful business being in a place where more accommodation is needed.

The question: Is there any way in which the local administration has a duty to help protect the property, that is to say from noise pollution from the road by planting trees and likewise with the water treatment plant that is the property of the local services publics d'eau potable et d'assainissement to reduce the possibility of smell?

Any answers in French, links or whatever would be welcomed since we will have to translate if English anyway. What we need is substantiated information rather than opinions because the maire they are seeing is likely to know the answers but if there is any kind of obligation not admit it in order to save the commune's money.

A big question at short notice I think, but just perhaps some of you know the answers.

(Brian Milne) #2

For many years university based research and some teaching until I became mainly 'freelance', an anthropologist working mainly in the rights field, often UN or NGO based and hired as a consultant. Otherwise I kept my allotment, bees, dogs cats, ferrets and occasionally did something really useful.

(Anthony Murphy) #3

Very interesting! After reading all that, I better go back to the complicated job of making pizzas! Phew! Many thanks. Tell me Brian, what did you do back in the old world that was England when you lived there?

(Brian Milne) #4

Facetiousness will get you everywhere.

However, no comparison with Leylandii here. Indeed it is the opposite. The services d'eau man was complaining bitterly that his people had to cut the ones there back because they (wait for this) cast shadows over 'his' processing plant. Anyway, the maire became unavailable so the person responsible for the environment was wheeled in instead, she called the tourism man who in turn got the water man. So, three members of the council and a complete farce. They ended up arguing among themselves. The tourism man eventually forced the others to make concessions, so the service d'eau is going to part finance planting fast growing trees but deciduous and not coniferous because the environment woman is only willing to permit those (buyers can choose what they wish though), the water service also has to physically help planting by making their digger available. The water man who arrived negative went away as miserable as sin.

The tourism councillor then convinced the environment woman to agree to a tennis court (will be two) despite being only a km from a local sports centre (which would not be the hotel's where guests could play, so I did not see the problem). She suddenly got enthusiastic when it was made clear that as it stands it can soon be an 18 room hotel with potential for expansion to up to 30 and that (drum roll) because the wife is a botanist she intends to plant out an ornamental garden open to non-guests and hold courses and seminars on garden planning. The tourism man got €€s before his eyes with people coming to the town.

I think they scored a victory. Why I had to be there is another question, but they insisted. Time wasted but amusing. Anyway, Antonio, the husband is a human rights lawyer and academic, living in Argenteuil should be a clue. He works at a Paris university, she at another. Both are French, but he is a colleague of many years which is why I got dragged in. Being a lawyer he only really knows his terrirtory in the legal world so relies on others. Plus the fact that the gîte they are staying at is a dead spot for either's tablets, so I did the on line work for them. What the heck are they buying a hotel for? Their son is a chef with Michelin stars to his reputation and daughter-in-law has a degree in business studies and diploma in hotel management. So, for their retirement they are buying the hotel, as it will be, there are two small house on the plot that the two couples can live in, a four stall stable for when the grandchildren are old enough to have ponies and muggins close at hand (mind you once the restaurant is up and running I shall NOT be paying to eat there... or else!). Tomorrow, despite the holiday, they are going to the notaire to get it all sorted out, then back to Argenteuil where being a lawyer all of the company registration business will be sort post haste (by a colleague who knows that stuff I gather).

Your pong link does not include water treatment, so would not have helped but good of you anyway. That was a morning of work lost for friends, now back to the drudge...

(Anthony Murphy) #5

For example, and that is just a start ...

(Anthony Murphy) #6

I think that the answer may lie in Jurisprudence (case law), i.e. to see if anyone has successfully compelled the town hall and / or a utilities ‘company’ to reduce nuisance.

In order to claim nuisance in terms of smell and noise, the bar has to be quite high. So sorry for the opinion (which you didn’t necessary want), but I doubt whether they will be successful in claiming financial relief for simple smell and road noise, especially given the nature of those nuisances: their private profit motives vs. the public good of roads and water processing.

It does not follow that because a state of affairs pre-dates the enactment of a law that that law cannot be invoked against the pre-existing state of affairs; I know it is the UK, but Part 8 of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 did just that, allowing homeowners to take action against their neighbours and their famous Leylandii high hedges, which all pre-dated the enactment of the Act. I once tried to ask a neighbour to reduce the height of their ‘Wall of Mordor’ 6m Leylandii, based on this law. The neighbour said: ‘my hedge existed before they bought the house, they knew it was there’. Wrong! Hence the ASBA 2003 – people are ignorant of the law and have fixed pre-conceptions. (My friends moved in the end. Mr. High Hedge got to keep his 6m high Leylandii).

My advice to your friends and potential property buyers: hire an environmental lawyer and / or do a ‘desk’ Internet search themselves assuming they speak fluent French (and legal French).

Let me (us) know if you have no satisfactory answer to their conundrum.

(Anthony Murphy) #7

No "i" in cadastral, Brian. Just letting you know.

(Anthony Murphy) #8

Brian Milne says "I do not know the answer" ??? OMG! Recall Parliament! Call the Army! Ask Stephen Hawking, convene the Emergency Committee! Brian Milne does not know the answer!!! Well, that makes a change doesn't it? Instead of telling everyone else, everday, the answer to everything ... I must read on to see what this grave issue is!

(Brian Milne) #9

Thanks Claire and Nick. As you can imagine I looked everywhere I could through environmental regulations and so on. I asked in case there was anything the people should know but suspected what you are confirming. I have no idea what they should ask off the price but I suppose they should negotiate. As for the maire, well they will just have to try to persuade him that any help from the commune would help them to get in tourists who will put far more back into the economy in the long run. They haven't said, but when they were showing me the cadastrial and ground plans there were pencil marks on both that I suspect would be an extension for more hotel space and enlarging the small dining room to restaurant size. They should discuss that I think, see if any compromise can be reached about planting trees or something like that to reduce road noise but as for the smell, well that's life. They cannot expect the things they take for granted in wealthy Argenteuil here. They are coming for breakfast in a while, I'll be able to 'cheer them up' no end ;-)

(Nick Ord) #10

Tend to agree with Claire Brian.
You buy as you see and all that.
If any works are carried out to either, then they will have to comply with current normes, but I’m not at all suggesting the current regs will overcome the existing problems.
All the best

(Claire Morris) #11

I wouldn't expect the Mairie to intervene at all as the road and treatment plant are preexisting, perhaps the buyers should be taking any necessary works/improvements into account in their offer

(Brian Milne) #12

I believe it is very expensive, don't know how much though. The commune has plenty of tourists passing through but too little accommodation or places to eat to keep them, therefore for the local economy should be worth if. IF, big if, they have the common sense to see it as part of the solution. However they need a nudge. I do not think it is actually especially noisy and if the pong is a few days in July then it is hardly a big thing, however these people want to know whether anything can be done about it as is the case in the big, rich city they live in.

(Claire Morris) #13

presumably it's sale price reflects that it's noisy and smelly?