2. National Land Planning Framework in France

  1. National Regulations
  2. Regional/County Plans

2.1. National French Planning Regulations

The main body of national rules governing new development and changes to existing buildings are called Les dispositions impératives du règlement national d’urbanisme (RNU).

Whilst a small number of RNU have national authority and apply in all circumstances, where a local plan is in place then the local rules take precedence.

As a general rule, in the absence of local plan the RNU forbids new building outside built-up areas, except those relating to changes to existing buildings or agricultural nature.

There are particular national rules called Les Lois d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme (LAU) which apply in coastal areas and in mountain regions.

The LAU are the most powerful of the planning regulations and cannot be overruled in any circumstances, including local plans.

Next down the league table are regional directives called Les directives territoriales d’aménagement (DTA).

Since 2010 the nomeculature of the DTA has been changed to Directive Territoriale d'Aménagement et de Développement Durables (DTADD). Although they may be regionally based, these directives are more often determined by central government. They have a long term timescale.

The final set of national regulations are called Les directives paysages or Directives de protection et de mise en valeur des paysages.

The regulations concern Mainly planting requirements, the volume and height of buildings and external aspects of the development. They have influential authority in the determination of planning applications.

2.2. Regional/Departmental Plans in France

At a regional and county level the most significant planning regime is that of the Schémas de cohérence territoriale (SCOT).

The purpose of the SCOT is to delineate the major spatial development priorities for the area under examination over the medium to long-term. There are normally several SCOT for particular areas within a department.

The whole process is carried out on a collaborative basis involving the various level of government in the region or the département (county).

The plan is subject to a public enquiry but, once approved, is valid for a period of ten years.

The level of preparation of SCOTs is very variable across the country as they were only introduced through a law in 2000.

If a SCOT is not in place in your area then the applicable regional/county plan will be the Schéma directeur d'aménagement et d'urbanisme (SDAU), the predecessor of the SCOT.

If you want to find out more you should contact your préfecture.

In coastal areas you may also come across Schéma de mise en valeur de la mer (SMVM), whose purpose is to give specific protection to the coastline.

Although not stricly speaking part of the land planning system, there are also a range of other plans focussing mainly on investment and regeneration.

Perhaps the most interesting of these plans are the Schéma Régional de Développement Economique (SRDE). They also include contrats d’agglomération, which focus predominantly on city centres and larger towns, and contrat de pays, which are widespread across the country.

You may also come across Zones de revitalisation rurale (ZRR) and Zones de redynamisation urbaine (ZRU), both of which are development areas offering a range of tax breaks and grants.

Once again, if you want to know if there is such a plan in your region, and the details of that plan, you should contact your préfecture or Conseil Général.

Next: Local Plans

Back: Introduction to the Planning System in France

The Guides to France are published for general information only.
Please visit our Disclaimer for full details.