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Architects and Planning Applications in France

An architect has a legal obligation to submit a planning application that complies with planning regulations, a French court has ruled.

In a case heard recently in the French Supreme Court, the Cour de Cassation, an architect was commissioned to prepare plans and oversee the construction of a house in a mountain area of France.

The area was one that was subject to particular planning constraints arising from the 'Loi montagne' 1985.

One of the principal aims of this law was to prevent urban sprawl, by forbidding development outside of existing built-up areas.

The plans submitted by the architect were for a house in an area that was zoned for development in the local plan, the Plan d'Occupation des Sols (POS).

Accordingly, as the development complied with the local plan the council granted planning permission.

The decision was challenged by opponents of the development on the grounds that it lay outside an existing built-up area.

This objection was upheld by the lower courts, but the case was appealed to the Cour de Cassation by the architect on the grounds that he submitted a planning application that was in conformity with the local plan.

The judges ruled that an architect had an obligation, not only to ensure that the planning application complied with the local plan, but that the local plan itself was legal!

They also had an obligation to inform their client if the plan did not conform to the law and that if it did not, and a planning consent was annulled by a court, they were potentially liable to refund their fees to their client.

In the view of the judges, the plan was irregular, as the area zoned for development did not comply with the requirements of the 'Loi montagne' 1985.

As a result, the planning permission was annulled by the court although no ruling was made on the repayment of fees, as this was not a matter being considered by the court.

This ruling is unlikely to be the last word on this issue.

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This article was featured in our Newsletter dated 04/11/2015

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