3. Getting Free Architectural/Planning Advice in France
Before you proceed to appoint an architect, you might want to consider approaching one or more of a number of publicly available free sources of planning, architectural and construction advice.
There are three main sources of advice:
- Conseil Architecte
3.1. Conseil d’Architecture d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement (CAUE)
The Conseil d’Architecture d’Urbanisme et de l’Environnement (CAUE) offers a useful and FREE planning and architectural advice service and there is one based in every département (county) of the country.
The CAUE is a federated body established by the government to provide advice to local councils, public officials and private applicants in matters of planning and architecture.
Some CAUE have full time architects, but others use those who work in the private sector who spend some of their time working in the CAUE. Their fees are paid by the regional council and the CAUE is funded by a tax on planning consents!
The CAUE cannot be used to prepare and submit a planning application, but they can be a most useful source of preliminary advice for those contemplating a building project.
You can find the contact details of the CAUE in your area by visiting CAUE.
3.2. 'Conseil Architecte'
Your local mairie (if they offer a planning service) or the local office of the Direction Départementale d’Équipement (county planning and highways department) also offer free planning and architectural advice through an advisor called a conseil architecte.
This is a person appointed in each planning authority to provide technical advice to planning applicants.
The conseil architecte may also have the names of local architects who are competent to deal with your application, although they are unlikely to be willing to make a recommendation.
If the property is in a sensitive or protected area, or it is a listed building, then specific advice should be available from the Service Départemental de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine (SDAP), who are also located in the prefecture.
Contact your local mairie in the first instance to ask how you can meet with them.
3.3. L’Agence Nationale pour Information sur Logement (ANIL)
ANIL – L’Agence Nationale pour Information sur Logement – is the government housing information agency.
There are local offices of ANIL in all départements, staffed by civil servants whose responsibility it is to provide guidance and assistance to those seeking to buy, rent, refurbish or construct a property.
ANIL is also a useful source of advice in the event of a dispute with your architect or builder, although the quality of the advice is very variable.
You can find out the location of your nearest ANIL office by visiting ANIL.
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