What Planning Permission do I Need? Building a Gite in France

What Planning Permission do I Need? Building a Gite in France

Whether you’re planning a gîte business, or something a little more unusual as accommodation for paying guests, Arthur Cutler explains the nuts and bolts of planning and disabled access.

What disabled access laws do we need to follow when constructing a gite in France?

We are currently at the planning stage for our new gîte complex in the Dordogne. Can you tell us what the French law requires in terms of disabled access within the proposed accommodation?

The original idea of a gîte was for a local farmer to rent out spare accommodation on an occasional basis as a secondary income. As such, laws were never originally drawn up to cater specifically for them. However, there is a general law in France that states that any premises that is “open to the public” must also be open and accessible to disabled people. That said, B&Bs, gîtes and small hotels that have no more than five letting rooms and a maximum number of 15 guests are exempt from the requirement.

Much like B&Bs, gîtes are, in principle, considered to be part of the owner’s accommodation, and his or her private use of that accommodation is not subject to disabled regulations. The crux is how many letting units you have and the maximum number of people that can be accommodated within them. If you have a gîte complex, it suggests that you have several individual units, and that may well mean you have to conform to disabled regulations. ERP (établissements recevant du public) regulations for B&Bs and gîtes start when the number of people present exceeds 15. There’s a grey area concerning whether this number is the maximum in any one building, or in total, but the accepted rule is that if you can accommodate between 16 and 99 people in total, you become subject to the regulations.

It should be noted that the regulations do not just relate to disabled access, but also to fire safety (there are also regulations about swimming pool safety if you have one). The actual rules and regulations are lengthy and complex, and you should seek professional help to ensure that you understand them fully.

Individual applications and approvals for fire safety and disabled access need to be prepared and submitted, if necessary, before you proceed too far with renovations or conversions.

What planning permission do we need for a tree house?

We live in a remote part of the Limousin and within our grounds is a forested area, in which we intend to build a tree house to rent out to paying guests. What do we need to know about the law regarding planning permission?

Planning permission is required for any construction that is placed on a property. A tree house is considered to be accommodation and planning consent is needed.

The fact that your property is in a rural area suggests that it is likely to be located in an agricultural zone (the local planning regulations will need to be consulted to verify this). If so, then as a general rule, new construction is not possible, though there are usually exceptions for ’annexes’ to an existing dwelling that fall below a certain size – usually around 30m².

The only way to be certain about this is to consult the local regulations, and if necessary, an outline application (certificat d’urbanisme, or CU) can be submitted initially to verify whether the project is feasible. If a positive CU is achieved, then full consent is much more likely to be granted. A CU application takes around two months to be processed by the planning authority.

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. 

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