5. Do I Need Planning Permission in France?

  1. Planning Permission or Works Declaration?
  2. Building Works to Main Property
  3. New/External Building Works
  4. Creating Openings in Buildings

5.3. New/External Building Works

In relation to external works, the main rules in relation to planning consent are set out below, although this section needs to be read in conjunction with Section 5.1. for a broader explanation.

5.3.1. Extensions

Generally speaking, it is possible to construct an extension to an existing property.

In particular, since 2018 a change in law allows existing home-owners in agricultural or natural zones the right to build 'annexes'.

The law states that permitted development (subject to the usual administrative consent) is: 'De l'adaptation, du changement de destination, de la réfection ou de l'extension des constructions existantes ainsi que de l'édification d'annexes à proximité d'un bâtiment existant.'

No definition of an 'annex' is given in the legislation, but it is generally restricted to an extension that is smaller than the existing building, attached to it, and with an opening between them.

Thus, in response to a parliamentary question the government have stated that: 'lI est rappelé qu'une annexe est une construction secondaire, de dimensions réduites et inférieures à la construction principale, qui apporte un complément aux fonctionnalités de la construction principale. Elle doit être implantée selon un éloignement restreint par rapport à la construction principale afin de marquer un lien d'usage. Elle peut être accolée ou non à la construction principale avec qui elle entretient un lien fonctionnel, sans disposer nécessairement d'accès direct depuis la construction principale. Il conviendra de porter une attention particulière à ce qui peut être qualifié d'annexe et aux règles qui s'y attachent dans le cadre de la délivrance des autorisations de construire.'

In all cases, development will remain subject to not infringing third-party rights, such as overlooking or proximity to the perimeter of the property.

5.3.2. Garage/Outbuilding

A planning application is required if the external surface area is greater than 20m², although in urban areas if it is attached to the house you may be entitled to up to 40m² before a planning application is required. Otherwise a works declaration is all that is necessary. Be aware, however, that if the building is being constructed near the boundary of your property, you may not be able to do so, due to controls on 'overlooking'.

5.3.3. Conservatory

A planning application is required where the conservatory is greater than 20m², although in urban areas if it is attached to the property you may be entitled to up to 40m² before a planning application is required. Otherwise it is a works declaration. The rule above regarding building at the perimeter of your property applies as much to conservatories to other buildings and extensions.

The same rule applies to pergolas, which are generally independant, open structures.

5.3.4. External Swimming Pool

The requirements depend on the size of the pool.

If the pool exceeds 10m², but under 100m², then a works declaration is required.

If the pool is over 100m² or has a cover above ground that exceeds 1.80m in height, then a planning application is required.

Below 10m² surface and 1m height no consent at all is required.

Above ground pools do not need any consent, unless they are greater than 10m² or higher than 1.m, and they are installed for a period in excess of three months. In which case they need a works declaration.

Once again, as above, be aware of constraints on constructing near the perimeter of your property.

5.3.5. Caravan/Mobile Home

If you are proposing to live in a caravan/mobile home in the grounds of the property whilst you undertake renovation works, then you are likely to need planning consent if you propose to live in it longer than three months. If the mairie deem no planning consent is required, you would be wise to get written dispensation. A caravan parked in the grounds only for occasional holiday use needs no consent of any kind.

You can read more in our comprehensive guide to Mobile Homes in France.

5.3.6. Boundary Walls/Fences

The local council have discretion to decide whether they wish to adopt a control procedure. If they have not done so then, provided the new wall/fence is under 2 metres in height, no procedure is required. Equal to or above 2 metres in height then a works declaration is required. There are particular controls in conservation areas and in proximity to historic buildings.

5.3.7. Leisure/Camping/Caravan Sites

If you wish to establish a camping site or leisure facility, then you will need to submit a rather particular type of planning application called a Permis d'Aménager.

5.3.8. Wood Cabins/Log Houses

If you wish to construct an informal wooden building in your grounds, then you will need to submit a works declaration if under 20m² surface area, or a planning application if greater than this amount. The planning laws are silent of the rules governing 'tree houses', presumably because the rules are only applicable to the control and occupation of land. You would be best to discuss with your local council.

5.3.9. Solar Panels

The rules concerning the installation of solar panels depend on where they are installed, their capacity and whether or not it is in a conservation area.

Within a conservation area the installation of solar panels on the roof requires a planning application; the same applies if they are installed on the ground with a power capacity equal to or greater than 3KW.

Outside of a conservation area you are required to submit a works declaration for their installation on the roof; the same applies to their installation on the ground if they have a height greater than 1.80m and a power capacity less than 3KW.

If they are less than 1.80m in height, but with a power capacity greater than 3KW, then a works declaration is also necessary.

If the installation is less than 3KW power capacity and a height less than 1.80m, then any installation on the ground requires no consent, unless it is located within a conservation area.

5.3.9. Terrace

No formalities required provided if it is at ground level. However, if the terrace is raised in a significant manner, then either a works declaration or a planning permission may be required.

The planning regulations state:

'Sont dispensées de toute formalité au titre du présent code, en raison de leur nature ou de leur très faible importance, sauf lorsqu'ils sont implantés dans le périmètre d'un site patrimonial remarquable, dans les abords des monuments historiques ou dans un site classé ou en instance de classement :

a) Les constructions nouvelles répondant aux critères cumulatifs suivants :

-une hauteur au-dessus du sol inférieure ou égale à douze mètres ;

-une emprise au sol inférieure ou égale à cinq mètres carrés ;

-une surface de plancher inférieure ou égale à cinq mètres carrés.'

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