When and why do you need one? Country houseWhen you are considering a conversion project in France, or even a plot of land to build on, a piece of legislation you will need to be familiar with is the certificat d’urbanisme. This document has been roughly compared to outline planning permission but its application and use in the planning context are not exactly the same. Certificat d’urbanisme forms used to be poorly written with the result that many requests were not actually what the beneficiary required. In an attempt to rectify any confusion, the format has changed. Since 2007 there are now two forms for a certificat d’urbanisme:

  • Form A – informative (certificat d’information générale)
  • Form B – operational (certificat opérationnel)An informative request is one that establishes the existing planning status of a building or piece of land. Whether it is viabilisé or non viabilisé (serviced or not). It can also be used if, in the case of a derelict cottage, the applicant wants to know if in planning terms it is still classed as a cottage or if it has been declassified. If it has been declassified, a permit is required to change the use (changement de destination) of the building to habitation. Planning in France goes with the building and not with the land. If the building is classed as agricultural – even though it clearly was, and looks like, a cottage – then it is agricultural. An operational request is a request to “perform an operation on a building” such as changing an agricultural barn to habitation (house). Careful consideration must be given to the form of words and description. A common mistake is to request the “renovation of an existing building, barn” when what the beneficiary really needed was the “change of use (transformation) of an agricultural building to habitation”. The former allows the renovation of a barn into a better barn; the latter allows the barn to be converted to a house. This is particularly important to note for those who are in the process of purchasing a property for conversion. There is an additional note descriptive succinct du projet that accompanies each operational request. It requires a short written description of the project and enables the applicant to add maps and photographs to support the request. If there is more than one building on a site it is imperative to mark on the plan which is the building affected. Ensure that transformation de bâtiment agricole en bâtiment d’habitation is clearly written if the intention is to convert a building for use as habitation. Another consideration is the length of time the CU is valid for.
  • If buying a property or a building plot with an existing CU, check the expiry date. The buying process takes time and it may be prudent to apply for an extension to ensure conditions that apply at the agreement stage will apply at the acte de ventestage. This is especially important if buying a parcel of land for building on, as the terms of the local planning regime may have changed during the existing CU’s lifetime and may no longer allow the proposed development in its original form. A dossier normally consists of:
  • Plan Cadastral 1:2000/1000
  • A written submission explaining the project
  • Photos optionala) Informative:
  • 2 copies of the application form delivered to the mairieResponse to application: 1 month from application b) Operational:
  • 4 copies of the application form
  • 4 copies of the dossier (plan cadastre, photos etc) delivered to the mairieResponse to application: 2 months from application Note: A certificat d’urbanisme is an approval “in principle” subject to the granting of a building permit (permis de construire).

 


Stephen Davies works full time as a designer planner and project manager for renovation, conversion and new build projects.

16 Responses to “Certificat d’urbanisme (CU)”

  1. Avatar

    casey12

    need some advise on Certificat d’urbanisme, •Form B – operational (certificat opérationnel) prices? for a one bedroom in town barn renovation

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  2. stevedavies

    stevedavies

    Hi Casey12,
    A CU operationnel is the pre planning requirement to see if your intended works would be allowed. As you are changing useage from a barn (agricultural) to habitation (bedroom) you will need a Permis Construire to follow an “accord” for the change of use as defined form the CU application.
    Further help required feel free to get in touch
    All the best
    Steve Davies

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  3. Avatar

    kazzi

    I purchased a parcel of beautiful land with CU? Then was immediately hit by financial crash. CU expired. Been 4 yrs and thinking of re-applying. How do I go about finding where the water is? On the map there is something called a borne d’eau one the edge of the land. Is there some kind of water search I can do? And if so who do I contact? Kind regards Karen

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  4. stevedavies

    stevedavies

    Hi “sarah30”,
    as Sylvia correctly says (as usual) the PLU is the locally prepared document that lays out which zones of the commune can be built on for habitation , commercial or remain as agricultural. A Certificate d’Urbanisme is the document that informs the applicant what the land is classified as; in it’s simplest form a CU Informative. Or what the land or existing building on it can be used as for development; a CU operationelle. Think Outine Planning Permission, which, if you decide to go to the next step, is a pre-cursor to a full Permis Construire.
    Hi “kazzi.”
    Re-applying for the CU is the way to go as it will inform you if there are any services, water, electric at the plot or nearby. the “borne d’eau” may indeed be a water supply. In which case a chat with the local water company will clarify that for you
    Hope this helps, further help required feel free to holler,
    Wish you well with your project(s)
    All the best
    Steve Davies

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  5. Avatar

    handy andy

    Hi Steve,
    wonder if i could pick your brains please. I have found a piece of land for sale with CU in place but has run out, the agent has said as a condition of sale will be reinstated. I wish to self build a log cabin on it, approx 150m2. At this stage how could i find out if the would be ok with Marie to build a eco home out of wood ?
    Also are you aware of legalities regarding the farmers union right to buy land off me once i’ve just purchased it.
    Regards
    Andy

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    • stevedavies

      stevedavies

      Hi “handy andy”. Easy on the brain picking, I’m trying to conserve all I have left!
      The CU, that the immobilierre wants to “reinstate”, should be a new one. I suggest a CU Operationnelle specifically asking if you can build a log cabin on the parcel of land. This will give the Mairie the heads up that this is what you are wanting to do. You can get a general idea of waht is possible by driving around the local area and see waht type of houses have been built in the vicinity. Each application is judged on the criteria of the locality.
      As for the farmers union, by which I assume you mean SAFER, they will be consulted as part of the buying process fairly early on in the process and you can also make their decision, and how it affects your decison to purchase the plot, a condition of the sale.
      Hope this helps, further help required, feel free to get in touch.
      All the best
      Steve Davies

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  6. Avatar

    handy andy

    Thanks Steve,
    i got my m2 rate calculated wrong and have just posted more questions on site to which i would value your input on mon mia. dAlso do you get involved with the architectural element as well ?

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    • stevedavies

      stevedavies

      Hi handy any,
      just answered some of the points on the forum which will help the thought process.
      As for the second question a personal message has been sent. Check your inbox form “messages” on forum page. Steve Davies

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  7. Avatar

    Olliellis

    Hi. I have recently bought a small house in rural france. Aveyron. I was led to belive by the estate agents that it did not need a certificate u rbanisme as it was already existing. Is this correct.
    We have water. Electricity. Road. Postbox etc.
    Inspections were done prior to purchase by DDT. It states that it is a maison.
    I look forward to your reply

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  8. Avatar

    Stuart Gregory

    Hi Steve – firstly nice article with very useful advice – thank you. I need some additional clarification please. I am seeking permission to covert some agricultural land (no buildings) next to my house to a low density campsite. Different parts of the land are zoned N and A in the Plan d’Urbanism. I have been told I need to submit a CU part B to obtain outline permission. Firstly is that correct? and secondly is it possible to apply on both the N and A zoned land (and if so should I submit separate applications a single application for both). I look forward to your reply. Many thanks Stuart

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    • stevedavies

      stevedavies

      Thanks for the message and kind words re article. If, as you say the land is designated as being in Zones N and A you would be best advised to have a word with local Maire/ Mairie. Normally Zone A is classed as agricultural and limits as to what can and cannot be built revolve around what sort of agricultural activities are going to take place. Zone N are normally ”protected” by reference to their individual circumstances, and normally no building is permitted. They may be in a flood zone for example. A chat at the outset would reveal how the local community would view any developments, if they would be permitted and whether or not you would be allowed to develop the land as you want. In saying all that it may (stress the may here) for them to approve a campsite on a seasonal basis with limited number of pitches. I have known this to be the case and the number allowed was six. For this a CU(b) was the first part of the official process followed by a Declaration Prealable The client in fact wanted to install temporary ”pods”, solid tents for three months in the summer and we used various means to attract support from the Mairie. So there are ways and means, just need to be a bit subversive and canny. Hope this helps, anything further feel free to mail direct to stephen.davies@orange.fr.
      Looking forward to hearing from you
      All the best
      Steve Davies

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  9. Avatar

    Marycot

    Hi Steve

    Excellent article-thank you. I just need some advice.
    We bought our holiday home in the Lot-et-Garonne this year.
    The property consists of a small renovated house and a large barn.
    The property was sold to us with a CU for converting from an agricultural building to a
    residential building. This had been arranged by the previous owner.
    The CU expires in November and I am aware that it could be extended, however we are not in a position to do any work yet and probably wont be for a couple of years at least.
    We inherited some plans from the previous owners, that were drawn up a number of years back, but these will obviously need updating before we start any conversion.
    Question is do I let the present CU expire and just hope that we will be able to get planning permission when we are in a position to start? I believe the property has had a CU granted previously which had also expired.

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  10. stevedavies

    stevedavies

    Hi ” Marycot”
    CU can be extended once only by a year to lengthen from the 18 months originally allowed. the conditions relating to the plot and/or building need to be the same re classification of land etc. Normally done 2/3 months before expiry date, although it MAY be possible to do it via e-mail to the local Mairie. (note I said MAY!). If you go onto a Permis Construie this effectively “trumps” a CU and will enshrine the situation re classification of land/barn. Remember once agreed a planning accord in France is valid for two years, possible to extend by a year, to START the works by declaring the “Chantier Ouverte” using the forms provided in the planning accord correspondence.
    So it depends on how confident you are in the current situation re the classification/zonage of the land in Plan Local d’Urbanisme terms will remain the same into the future. Hope thi shelps
    ALL the best
    Steve Davies

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