6. Making a Planning Application in France

  1. Who Decides?
  2. Getting Planning Advice
  3. Submitting the Planning Application
  4. Procedural Timescales
  5. Public Notice Requirements
  6. Extension of Planning Consent

6.4. Procedural Timescales on a Planning Application

The decision process is governed by maximum timescales within which the planning authority must determine the application.

To begin the process they are obliged to confirm in writing receipt of your application, which they will do with a formal receipt and registration number.

The mairie are also obliged to place a notice of the planning application outside of the town hall, within 15 days of receipt.

If the application has been incorrectly submitted then they must write to you within one month of receipt, requesting new or correct information. You then have three months in which to submit the additional information.

Once the planning authority have received a correctly completed application, they must make a decision within a specific timescale, which depends on the type or location of the project.

Table: Planning Decision Timescales

Nature of Works Time Limit
Individual New House Two Months
Other Development Three Months
Conservation Areas/Listed Building Four Months

These timescales include the month during which the planning authority can request additional information.

So if you hear nothing about your application for (say) an extension within one month, then the planning authority have a further two months in which to make their decision.

Conversely, if they have requested additional information from you within a month, then the clock does not start until all the information is received.

Where the local authority are in the process of introducing a local plan (PLU) they are also entitled to defer consideration of a planning application, in a process called 'sursis à statuer'. The delay can be as long as two years, in some cases, three years. It is possible to legally contest a decision to defer an application.

There are particular procedures in relation to historic buildings, properties located with 500 metres of an historic building, or properties located within a conservation area. In such cases the departmental or regional préfet will have a significant role, and sometimes the right of final decision.

In all such cases consultation must take place with the Architectes des Bâtiments de France (ABF) who will be located in each préfecture. The mairie are also entitled to consult with the ABF in other circumstances if they deem it desirable to do so.

The procedures in relation to the ABF are complex and you are advised to take appropriate professional advice if your application will need to be considered by them.

They have prescribed timescales by which they are required to respond, and their involvement (often actually very positive) can lead to several months delay in consideration of the planning application.

If there is a difference of view between the ABF and the local council or the applicant, then the local prefecture (Commission Régionale du Patrimoine et des Sites - CRPS) will intervene. They can substitute their view over that of the ABF, although if they make no decision within two months then the view of the ABF is deemed to apply.

If a decision on a planning application is not received within the allotted timescale then the law states that consent is said to have been granted tacitly.

This tacit consent operated equally in relation to historic monuments and conservation areas, where the application was under consideration by the Architectes des Bâtiments de France (ABF).

If the application is approved it is likely that planning conditions (accord avec prescriptions) will be attached, if only the usual administrative ones. It is therefore important that you closely read and understand the decision notice.

The decision notice will be accompanied by forms you will need to complete and return as the building works start and as they are completed.

These forms are the Déclaration d’Ouverture de Chantier (DOC) and the Déclaration attestant l'achèvement et la conformité des travaux.

If the application is refused, or conditions are imposed which you find unacceptable, then you have a right of appeal back to the planning authority, the préfet or the Tribunal Administratif within two months of the decision having been made.

There are two types of planning refusal, one relating to the particular aspects of the project (refus conservatoire), and one of outright refusal on the grounds that no development would be permitted on the site (refus définitif).

In the former case, you might be able to resubmit your application in a different form and gain consent. In the later case there is little prospect of the decision being overturned, although cases do occur, notably where due procedure has not been followed.

Next: Public Notice Requirements

Back: Submitting a French Planning Application

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