Obtaining Planning Permission in France

It is important however to bear in mind that France is a country which abides by – and makes plenty of – rules and regulations and there are certain rules to bear in mind at the outset.

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The good news is that for any interior alterations, no planning permission at all is required in France: you can do what you like inside your property, unlike in the UK. Further, planning applications for any exterior alterations/additions or renovation work are normally looked at sympathetically and so, unless your plans are obviously not in keeping with what exists, you are more than likely to receive permission to carry out what you want to do.

So we are off to a good start! It is important however to bear in mind that France is a country which abides by – and makes plenty of – rules and regulations and there are certain rules to bear in mind at the outset:

• Any exterior alteration/addition/demolition will require a permit

• If you are simply renovating an existing building/barn/shed/garage you will still need to obtain permission

• Don’t assume that because a neighbour has received permission for something similar, that yours will be automatically granted. Your property may be in a slightly different setting or regulations may have changed or indeed the mayor may have changed!

• Close proximity to a Church means that the rules will be more stringent

• A trip at the outset to your local Mairie will pay dividends: you need to know what is required so that your application can be prepared properly

• Rules may differ from region to region and sometimes even from village to village so seek local advice

There are 3 different types of permission required for any exterior work:

• Permis de demolir (permission to demolish)

• Permis de construire (permission to construct)

• Declaration de travaux (declaration of works)

A permis de demolir will likely be required if you wish to demolish a building on your land, even if that building is in a dilapidated state.  My husband and I had to apply for just this to demolish a rather ugly tower and ancient balcony in our garden.  We prepared drawings of both existing and proposed views with measurements and elevations and had to wait 5 weeks for the permission to come through.

A permis de construire is required for any change to the exterior of the property which may affect its taxable value and will include items such as an extension of more than 20m2, change of use such as converting a barn to a habitable residence, construction of an outbuilding and enlarging or changing existing windows or doors.  It may also be required for changing the colour of external walls or shutters or creating a terrace or patio. 

NB some communes have a list of paint colours for the exterior of any property so again, ask for this at your local Mairie.

A declaration de travaux is a simpler form of building permit which is required for minor alterations including an extension of less than 20m2, replacing roof tiles, building a small swimming pool or adding or renewing external doors or windows.

For all of the above, detailed plans, drawings and photographs are required and it may be an advantage to employ the services of an architect or project manager to make sure that your application is correctly drawn up.

When you receive permission you are naturally entitled to go ahead with carrying out your plans and the local authority is at liberty to come and inspect at any time.  You must also submit a declaration confirming that the work has been carried out according to the permit application and local building regulations within 30 days of the work’s completion.

HOT TIP:  I cannot emphasise enough how important it is to get clued up on local rules and regulations.  France is a country which loves its paperwork and although you should not have difficulty in obtaining permission to carry out works which are in keeping with the existing style of your property and land, the procedure must be carried out properly from the outset.

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