3. Local Plans in France

  1. Overview of Local Plans
  2. Plan Local d’Urbanisme
  3. Carte Communale
  4. Risk Prevention Plan
  5. Conservation Areas

3.2. Plan Local d’Urbanisme

The purpose of the PLU is to determine a development plan for the commune (or the various communes who are party to the plan, when it is then a PLUI) and the general planning rules that will apply to the locality and to specific sites.

The preparation of a PLU takes place in consultation with all the relevant statutory bodies and must be subject to a local public enquiry before it can be adopted. Once adopted it has a legal and binding force.

Where a PLU is in place planning permission can be granted by the mairie (or inter-communal body).

Otherwise all planning applications would need to be determined by the county planning and highways department, called 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.

The PLU will establish planning zones for the area, the planning rules that will apply to new development, and information on major development constraints, all of which we can consider in a bit more detail below.

3.1.1. Zoning

The PLU will divide the commune into four zones:

  • Zone U – New construction permitted which are likely to be existing development areas and those adjacent to it where the infrastructure exists or can be provided to enable development.
  • Zone AU – Future development area, which will include either those where infrastructure is already available or where it is planned.
  • Zone A – Agricultural area and only agricultural related new construction permitted.
  • Zone N – Protected areas where no new construction permitted by virtue of their sensitive historical, ecological or environmental nature.

3.1.2. Planning Rules

This part of the plan will set out the general planning rules that will apply within each development area.

In particular, it will set out rules on change of use, permitted height of buildings, building arrangement, any architectural requirements, and public utility services and requirements.

It will also set out the maximum permitted density of development on a site for new and existing buildings. These rules are called the coefficient d’occupation des sols (COS).

Using these rules it is possible to calculate the density of permitted development on a particular site, e.g. on a 800m² site a COS of 0,25 allows construction of 200m² of net surface area, called surface hors oeuvre nette (SHON).

If the property is located on a lotissement (housing development) then in addition to the general planning rules there are specific rules that apply to the lotissement, which are set out in a cahier de charges.

If you are considering buying such a property then it is important you read and understand these rules as they govern the management of the whole development.

3.1.3. Development Constraints

This part of the plan will provide information on public spaces, public utilities, natural parks, major infrastructure project, historic sites and monuments.

The PLU should also identify major risk constraints.

In the light of increasing flooding problems across the country, as well as problems with ground movement, the local prefectures have been tasked with the preparation of risk prevention plans, called Plan de Prévention des Risques (PRR).

In the event of a conflict between a PLU and a PPR then it is the latter that takes precedence.

Next: Carte Communale

Back: Overview of Local Plans

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