French News Archive

Building & Renovation

Building a Home in France in Risk Zones

Tuesday 02 December 2008

A couple who purchased land with planning permission may have to demolish the house they have started to build, as it is in an area prone to flooding.

The French couple purchased a building plot located in the village of Marenla in the Pas de Calais region, in an area zoned for home building. They subsequently received planning consent from the local council for the construction of a new home.

However, a local environmental group have protested against the decision because the plot is located in a risk zone of France, prone to flooding.

The case illustrates the growing impact of new risk prevention plans that are being introduced in France, capable of overturning the decisions and plans of local councils.

The new plans are called Plan de Prévention des Risques (PPR) and are being drawn up by local préfectures in those areas where there is the risk of a natural disaster such as flooding, subsidence, avalanche or forest fires.

In this case, the couple did all that was required of them, but French officials seem to have been blind to the existence of the risk plan when issuing all the appropriate authorisations.

Even the notaire failed to signal to the couple that the land was in a risk zone when they purchased the property, it seems because the local council did not inform them of the fact when they carried out their local search.

Officials of the county planning and highways department (the Direction Départementale de l'Équipement (DDE) seem equally to blame, for they also issued them with an in principle planning consent (certificat d'urbanisme), despite the fact it was they that had drawn up the risk plan.

When officials at the DDE received the complaint about the planning consent, they immediately ordered that works be halted, with foundations to the building having been completed and external brick walls in the process of construction.

Clearly embarrassed by the negligence of his own officials, the local French préfet decided that good sense should prevail and that the planning permission should remain in place. Accordingly, building works have once again started on the house.

Nevertheless, it seems the local pressure group GDEAM are unwilling to let matters rest there, for they have indicated that they intend to bring the case before the courts.

The local mayor has expressed surprise that the areas should have been designated "a risk zone" by planning officials, for there is no existence of the area having ever been flooded.

Whilst it is clear this is an unusual case, for anyone seeking to buy a building plot in France, the lesson is a clear one. You would be wise to appoint your own notaire, and check the existence of any risk plan with the local council and préfecture.

You can read more in our guide to French Land Planning System.

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