6. Making a Planning Application in France
- Who Decides?
- Getting Planning Advice
- Submitting the Planning Application
- Procedural Timescales
- Public Notice Requirements
- Extension of Planning Consent
6.1. Who Decides Your Planning Application?
Although it is generally assumed to be the local council (in particular the mayor) who are responsible for determining planning applications, in fact, this is not always the case in rural areas.
If the mairie do not have a local plan in place, or they are a small commune (under 10,000 inhabitants) and do not feel competent to deal with planning applications, then the process is normally managed by the préfecture.
The offices dealing with it in the préfecture are called the Direction Régionale de l’Environnement, de l’Aménagement et du Logement (DREAL) (DRIEE in the Paris area).
The DREAL is the county planning and highways department and it has a network of local offices throughout each department.
Accordingly, unlike in the UK, it is potentially civil servants who decide your planning application and not the local politicians.
The mayor will formally sign the consent (or refusal) on behalf of the public authorities, but they will not always make the decision.
It is not entirely unusual for the préfecture to make a decision with which the mayor is at odds. If the mayor/local council disagrees with the opinion of the préfecture, and the council are not the planning authority, then they themselves can make an appeal to the préfet within two months of the decision.
Accordingly, do not always assume that all you need to do is get the mayor to support your application and that consent will be forthcoming.
The mayor will always be influential (and sometimes very influential with officials), but their point of view will not always be the determining voice.
At a minimum, you need to find out whether the local mairie has planning responsibility and, if they do not, the existence of any local plan.
Conversely, if the local council is the planning authority, then you could find the mayor making a decision that conflicts with the advise given to them by the DDE. They mayor is not obliged to accept the advice of the DDE (except in very particular circumstances). In which case, if you are unhappy with the decision you need to make an appeal to the prefecture, provided you feel there are planning grounds on which to do so.
In some cases small local councils have come together in an inter-commununal body (Etablissement Public de Coopération Intercommunale (EPCI)), to whom they have transferred responsibility for planning and certain other matters. In these cases, it is the Chairman of the inter-communal body who will have primary responsibility for planning decisions.
If you happen to own a property that is a listed building (monument historique), or you live in proximity to such a building, or within a conservation area, then things can get a lot more complicated. In such cases matters may well be taken out of the hands of the local council and the decision taken by the departmental or regional préfet, or even at Ministerial level, depending on the location and nature of the project.
Accordingly, you do need to establish just how the planning process operates in your local area, as there are various approaches that may be adopted.
Next: Getting Planning Advice
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