French planning permission regulations are notoriously complex and can vary considerably depending on the type and location of the property you own, and the local regulations in place. However, there are still many myths surrounding planning permission in France and they all-too-often lead to problems for unsuspecting property owners.
Here, we put to rest six of the most common and offer advice to avoid these pitfalls and set your French property renovation up for success.
Myth #1: You can make minor changes to your home’s appearance without planning permission
The Truth: Any change to the external appearance of a property usually requires permission. This includes (but is by no means limited to!) change of paint colour, the addition of Velux windows, the construction of a porch (whether enclosed or not), and any change of materials, such as fitting new PVC windows in place of wooden ones, or changing a corrugated roof to slate or tile.
Myth #2: You don’t need planning permission for a simple garden shed
The Truth: Any change in the footprint of the property requires permission. That includes an extension, as well as the construction of a garage, garden shed, greenhouse, or pergola. The rules apply whether the structure is enclosed or not – an open pergola is still considered as footprint in France and depending on the dimensions, may require a full permis de construire!
Myth #3: You don’t need permission if you’re converting an existing building
The Truth: Any change in the habitable floor area requires permission. That means an extension, but also the conversion of a barn (whether attached or not), garage, and possibly attic. It also includes raising a roof level, adding dormer windows, or adding a mezzanine.
Myth #4: Camping for up to six tents is possible without permission
The Truth: Using land for any form of camping use – irrespective of the number of tents/caravans/yurts/glamping pods – requires planning permission. People often believe that up to 6 pitches can be created without planning permission, but that is not correct. The only difference between having more than 6 pitches, or fewer, is the type of application required, not the requirement to obtain permission.
Myth #5: The Mayor Can Approve Planning Permission Applications
The Truth: The Mayor (Maire) of a commune does not make planning decisions. Please read that again – the Maire of the commune does not make planning decisions. Time and again people think (and are often told by supposed experts) that they can pop into the local town hall (Mairie), have a chat, and if the Maire tells them it will be fine, then that’s it, job done.
Please note this is not the case, and despite Maires themselves often promoting the idea that they can say yes or no to applications, they cannot. There is a simple acid test for this: if a Maire, or any other employee at the town hall for that matter tells you that a) permission is not needed, or b) gives a verbal planning approval during a meeting, then simply ask for that to be put in writing. I guarantee that will not happen without a detailed application being submitted and accepted by the relevant planning officer.
Myth #6: Planning permission is only required for in-ground swimming pools
The Truth: The installation of any swimming pool over 10 m² surface area, whether in-ground, above ground, or semi in-ground, requires permission. The only exception is a temporary summertime pool of the plastic, “blow-up” variety which is taken away at the end of the season.
Building or Renovating Your French Property?
Whether you’re building an extension, renovating an old farmhouse, or designing a new build property, FrenchEntrée is here to help! Check out our Essential Reading articles for everything you need to know about planning permissions, building regulations, and renovation projects. Or, for professional help, advice and assistance at all stages of your building or renovation project, get in touch with our partners at French Plans.
Article by Arthur Cutler at French Plans.