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Photo : New planning  
  • New rules governing planning applications in France came into effect on the 1st October 2007.

  • The event was hailed as a ‘simplification' of the required procedures, and has generated a considerable amount of press not least in this magazine.

  • In this, the first of a three-part series on the subject, James Latter, of Surveyors-en-France and member of La Compagnie Nationale des Experts Immobiliers, examines how these modifications to the ‘Code de l'Urbanisme' are likely to affect British buyers/owners of French property wishing to submit planning applications  - and whether it really is as simple as they would like us to believe....

  • The simplification process refers mainly to the number of different types of planning applications hitherto in place.  It has effectively merged eleven different authorisations and five categories into three permit applications (permis de construire, permis d'aménager, permis de démolir), and one preliminary declaration, (a ‘declaration préalable, previously known as a ‘Déclaration de Travaux' (D.T.). - So, now only four categories, though the majority of the old ones rarely affected British buyers.

  • The most common issues with which British owners are concerned are new-build, conversions of attics and barns, extensions, and new swimming pools.  These (now) fall under the category of ‘Permis de construire' (P.C.) or ‘Declaration préalable' (D.P.) - not forgetting that when the project involves any demolition of an existing structure, this must also be declared.

  • By far the most frequent ‘demande' will be the new ‘declaration préalable'.  The old D.T. was a one page (four copy) form submitted to the Mairie with the briefest of information and was required for any changes in the exterior appearance of an existing building or a small extension adding not more than 20 sq. metres to the ‘habitable surface area'.

  • It has been suggested that any works you intend to carry out to an existing building no longer needs any such authorisation.  This is quite incorrect.  You need to submit a D.P. for any change to the exterior appearance of the building  (such as the introduction of Velux type windows in a roof, the modification of window sizes, or the creation of new openings), or for any change of use (‘changement de destination').  For example, if you want to convert a garage into a play room, and change the doors into ‘portes-fenêtres', then provided the space is less than 20 sq. metres you need to submit a D.P.  However, if your proposals increase the size of the building to more than 170 sq. metres, you will need to apply for a P.C. and the application must be submitted by a registered French architect.

  • As for swimming pools, a pool of less than 50 sq. metres is dealt with under a déclaration préalable, whereas one exceeding this will fall within the scope of a P.C.

  • The new rules now dictate that the (D.P.) authorisation will be processed within one month of the acknowledgement of submission (récépissé) from the local Mairie.  This is known as ‘le delai d'instruction'.  A full list of the various documents that you have to submit with the D.P. is given on the ‘help' page attached to the new form.  Oh yes, a new form, which now consists of seven pages (in quadruplet) instead of one!  Plus simple, n'est-ce pas?

  • The Mairie will be able to advise you whether your property falls within a radius of 500m from a ‘Monument Historique' and, if it does, the office of ‘L'Architecte des Bâtiments de France' will be consulted, adding no more than one month to the ‘delai d'instruction'.

  • The most important new feature to have emerged from the change in rules is that the decision of the D.D.E. (Direction Departmentale de l'Equipement) to whom the Mairie will send your D.P., can now be challenged by third parties.  This was not the case before and the implications of this measure to protect third party rights have yet to be revealed.  Given that a third party will now have two months to register an objection, it would be prudent to delay the works for at least two months after the date the application was granted.  The D.D.E. and the Mairie will not be responsible for any financial loss incurred by a reversal or a refusal following an objection.

  • What has really happened in respect of these changes to the old D.T. is that it is now closer to the old ‘demande de permis de construire'.  I will be examining the implications of the new P.C. in next month's issue.

  • James Latter