The preparation of a full scale Plan Local d’Urbanisme - PLU is frequently disproportionate to the needs of smaller rural communes.
Accordingly, the smaller councils are permitted the option of preparing a more limited local plan called a carte communale.
The main purpose of a carte communale is to identify those areas on which development is permitted and those where no development can take place. Unlike the PLU no specific planning rules can be established. It is a far less operational document than the PLU.
Where development is not permitted then only extensions or changes to existing buildings will be permitted, although there is exemption for agricultural buildings.
The preparation of a plan thereby avoids the need for ‘in principle’ deliberation of individual applications on a case by case basis, as the plan will determine whether or not new development will be permitted.
In the absence of a local plan there is a presumption that only new development within or adjacent to existing development areas, and with access to water and electricity services, will be granted planning permission for new buildings.
As a general rule, it would nevertheless be possible to obtain planning permission for enlargement, modification or change of use of existing buildings.
The plan may not necessarily cover the whole of the area, but merely that to which priority is being given, or which may be particularly sensitive.
Where a plan is in place the commune has the right of pre-emption on the purchase of private properties that may be offered for sale within designated zones. This is a power that is used infrequently.
Contrary to PLU the carte communale carries no binding legal force. In the absence of detailed planning rules set out in a PLU then the Règlement National d’Urbanisme (RNU) apply.
Whilst there are no particular procedural formalities for the preparation of a carte communale, the plan is prepared in consultation with departmental and regional officials, and is subject to a local public enquiry.
The plan remains valid and in force until otherwise altered by the local council.
Where a carte communale is in place planning permission can be granted by the mairie, otherwise all planning applications would need to be determined by the Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement - DREAL (formerly Direction Départementale d’Equipement - DDE), in consultation with the mairie.
Notwithstanding this power, some smaller local councils are not able to offer a planning service, so continue to rely on the DREAL to determine applications.