French Planning - new planning laws from 1st January 2012

A guide to the changes made to planning permission in France in January 2012

Planning permission in France relaxed in January 2012

President Nicholas Sarkozy announced his plans to increase housing in France at the end of January, 2012. With a keen eye on his re-election campaign, Sarkozy has proposed the changes in the hope of revitalising the French property market. These changes include a relaxing of planning permission for expansion on private residences.

French planning changes will benefit property owners

The new rules state that homeowners in France can now increase the size of their home by up to 30% without having to apply for planning permission (House Renovations in France). The property also needs to be within a designated building area to be exempt from the need for French planning permission. This will obviously benefit property owners in France, who can go ahead with building extensions without the long wait and bureaucratic red tape for which France is so infamous. (Building or extending property in France.)

French planning laws also depend on size

But, the overall size of the building once the planned extension is added, must not exceed 170sq metres. If it does, or if the original property is over this size before the additions, planning permission and all the usual rules apply.

Benefits for the building industry

It isn't just the home owner who will be happy with this move. It has clear benefits for the building industry too, and will certainly create more work and possibly increase the availability of jobs in the building trade. (Jobs in France.)

Planning permission in France - when is it needed?

Planning permission is still required for completely new buildings, ie; those where a building does not yet exist. The new measures only apply to the extension of existing buildings. So a new free standing building, such as a detached workshop or garage cannot be built without consent.

Declaration of works

It is important to note that you will still have to submit a Declaration of Works for approval even when planning permission does not need to be sought. A plan of the work must be submitted and approval given before you can continue. Be aware that approval is not guaranteed, even within the more relaxed new regime.

French planning permission changes and the French property market

Sarkozy hopes that such changes will help revitalise the French property market. He also wants to create many more homes and regularise property prices. He has stated that he hopes to sell off an amount of state land to further this cause (The Sale of State Owned Property in France). The creation of the 100,000 new homes is envisaged too, by the end of 2016. So prices are likely to become more competitive as a result, making the next two or three years a great time to buy an affordable property in France.

Additional articles which may be of interest:


French Tax on Holiday Homes Dropped
Green and eco friendly building in France
Capital Gains Tax in France on Property

your questions...

1. A question about whether planning permission must be sought (added 7/6/12)...

We have a CU for a house & four gites on our land. We are at the stage of applying for a permis de construire. Can you advise us if the 170 m2 applies to each property individually or collectively please?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I can't find a definitive answer to your question, but I understand that if the buildings are existing, and independent as in detached, the exemption should apply to each building.

However, I would suggest you go to the Mairie, as they deal with all these issues. And, that said, if they are not helpful (some are, some aren't), you could ask further afield, say the prefecture? Or you could use our Business Directory and contact some architects/builders who may be able to help.

2. Questions about permissions needed (added 13/6/12)...

Hi, I have just purchased a property with nearly two acres of flat land in Charente. One acre of which I would like get CU permission and sell on. It also has mains drainage and the land is flat with elec and tel, etc. Properties are being built along the lane. How do I go about separating this plot from my property and obtaining CU permission, who do I contact? I also have a 90m2 building and not sure whether to keep that with my property or sell it with the one acre I would like to get permssion for. It could be turned in to gite additional to a house on the land. I am not resident in France.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would suggest you contact your Mairie as the people there deal with planning permission and should be able to advise you.

3. A question about planning permission and developing land (added 4/10/12)...

We bought a property last year which has two cadastral plots, one classified U which the house is built on (quite small) and the other classified N (much larger)which is in front of the house and runs down to a EDF lake front road. We have planning permission to renovate and extend the house but would like to develop the N land a bit to create a garden area. How far can one go? So far we have put in a greenhouse, shed, BBQ area and veg garden, all just in front of the house and half on the N land and half on the U land. We would like to carry on but don't want to push our luck. We didn't specifically ask to develop what we have but it was all in place when the mayor came round to discuss our plans for extending the house. Please advise.

Jo Rhodes, editor of French Property Links replies...

Thanks for contacting us. My colleague Joanna says she can't really advise on this as the rules will be quite specific to where you are. She thinks you may have to bite the bullet and ask at the Mairie, or take pot luck and carry on in the hope that there are no objections. She knows many who have done exactly that, and many get away with it, but there's always a risk.

4. A question about building a carport (added 28/2/13)....

Hi - I would like to erect small carport. Do I need any planning permission? Also how close to my neighbour's house can it be built? We live in small hamlet of five houses in the country.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would think that you shouldn't need planning permission for this, if once built your property does not exceed 170sq metres, but as I am no expert in these matters I would suggest you contact your Mairie for advice. They should also be able to answer your question about the distance you need to be from your neighbour. You could also try our Business Directory and ask some architects/builders.

5. A question about building and how close to neighbours' boundaries can you go (added 25/3/13)...

Hi - I wonder if you can give me any advice on building a garage in one's garden, specifically distance from a neighour's boundary. We understand there is a 50 cm boundary.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand that if a garage is built separately to your house, and the external area is greater than 20 square metres, then planning permission is required. Otherwise a works declaration is needed. However I am not sure of the legal distance from neighbours' boundaries. I have read that if plants/trees are more than two metres high, they have to be at least two metres from the boundary, and if under two metres high, they need to be at least 50cm from the boundary. So this may also apply to buildings. Certainly if there are to be windows in your garage, this would affect matters.

So as I am no expert in these matters, as above, I would suggest you go to the Mairie, as they deal with all these issues and there may be local laws which need to be taken into consideration. Or you could use our Business Directory and contact some architects/builders who may be able to help.

6. A question about whether planning permission will be necessary (added 19/6/13)...

Please can you tell me if I need to get planning permission or building regulations permission to convert my attic into habitable space? It will add about 20 square metres to about 80 square metres. I am completing the CERFA "declaration prealable" as I want to install dormers into a house where I have to get Batiments de France permission as the house can be seen from the town's ramparts, so I will be "in the system". Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I wouldn't think you would need planning permission, but would have to submit a Declaration of Works for approval. However, as I am no expert in these matters, I would suggest you check with your Mairie, as the people there deal with planning permission and should be able to advise you. Or you could use our Business Directory and contact some architects/builders who may be able to help.

7. A question about the rules on Park Homes and lotissements (added 1/9/13)...

We are hoping to buy a plot of land on a lotissement. We have a Park Home which looks like a bungalow. The Maire has looked at it and said yes it is ok, went to the DDT in Confolens 16 and the secretary looked at the pictures and said the windows might not be excepted by architect as they have to be longer than they are wide. Six of ours are wider than longer - would you know if infill panels would be excepted?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I'm afraid I can only suggest you go to the Mairie and check with them (even though you say the Maire said your Park Home would be ok), as they deal with all these issues. Or you could use our Business Directory and contact some architects/builders who may be able to advise. Or indeed ask the DDT in Confolens if this could be a solution.

8. A question about whether planning permission is needed or not (added 3/10/13)...

I want to build a canopy (auvent) over an existing terrace which is 30m2. This will be a wooden structure with four posts and a tiled roof. It is not a solid structure but adjoins the house and is effectivly an open on three sides, overhanging roof. Do I need any planning permission or a declaration of works? I have read all the French regulations and can find nothing about auvent or overhanging roof structures. Can you advise please? I am reluctant to ask the Mairie just now as there are other "jars of worms" relating to fosse septics that I would prefer to leave undisturbed for the moment! Thank you for your help.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would think your best bet, if you don't want to contact your Mairie yet, is to ask some architects/builders who work in France. Perhaps you can contact some of those listed in our Business Directory? I'm sorry not to be of much help.

9. A question about objections to retrospective planning permission (added 7/5/14)...

Hi - I would like to know how to object to retrospective planning permission. The house across from us has made her window twice the size it was, she did the work and several months later applied for the permission. Thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would suggest you contact your Mairie about this. The people there should be able to point you in the right direction.

10. A question about privacy rules (added 2/12/14)...

I am looking for some advice. We are buying a property in the Charente and there is a small area next door where their terrace looks directly on to our garden. There is a garden at the other side of their house but this terrace just looks straight in to our property. There is a perfectly adequate metal rail fence on the property. It is currently on the market and has been for five years. What are our options for erecting a solid fence or hedge to stop them looking directly in to our property should it ever sell? Many thanks.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. The people to ask would be those at your Mairie or prefecture, as they decide what is and what isn't allowed. Although I understand that generally, if a wall/fence is under two metres high, no permission is necessarily needed, if it is over this, a works declaration needs to be applied for. This however may be superseded by local laws, so I would suggest you check with your Mairie.

11. A question about poly tunnel type greenhouses (added 7/1/15)...

Can you tell me if you need planning permission to erect a poly tunnel type greenhouse in your garden?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us, though I'm afraid I can only suggest you contact your Mairie for advice about this.

12. A question about giving consent to neighbours (added 3/2/15)...

Our neighbour wishes to install a French Drain around their maison des amis which stands on the boundary with our Garage, both are of random rubble construction. They have asked for our consent to undertake these works. Is it reasonable for us to deny consent until we have photographic evidence of the condition of our Garage before they commence works, so that we can compare the condition of our Garage wall before and after works are effected?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I would think it is perfectly reasonable to take before and after photos, but not sure why this should hold things up particularly. Can you not take the photos yourself? If you are having someone else take them, then as long as you are seen to be getting this sorted, I don't see why your neighbours should object.

It may be worth checking with your Mairie if any issue does arise, as they are the ones who will know what can be done and what can't.

13. Questions about what building work needs planning permission (added 8/9/15)...

I remember reading somewhere that it is possible to build anything without permission if it was under 2m sq. I am thinking along the lines of shed type buildings, composting toilets etc. Can you clarify for me? I am also interested if there are any types of construction I can build without permission, such as an open-sided roofed shelter, or two-sided shelter. I am interested for the purpose of livestock shelters, either in open land or in some woodland on my land. None of theses structures would have grid linked utilities. Any ideas?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I understand that new structures/buildings that are under 20 square metres require a works declaration to be submitted, but not planning permission, though I am not sure if this would apply to all of what you are describing. So as I am no expert in these matters, I would think the best place to ask about this would be your Mairie.

Should anyone reading this be able to help, please do get in touch.

14. A question about new laws regarding the provision of parking places (added 3/6/16)...

We are renovating in the French Alps. We were told two years ago that a new law was coming in to force regarding the amount of parking places we have to provide per sq metre. Does anyone know if this is in place yet?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I am not aware of this law coming into effect, but if it has, I strongly suspect the implementation of it may differ from place to place. I would suggest you check with your Mairie, for up to date advice for your area.

Should anyone reading this be able to help, please do get in touch.

15. A question about an outbuilding with no planning permission (added 4/3/17)...

If an outbuilding has been erected without permission and has been there for over ten years, can it stay?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. The best place to check the rules on this would be your Mairie.

Should anyone reading this be able to offer advice, please do get in touch.

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