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How to add to the cost of renovation

Not getting the correct permission for renovation work can bring huge fines

A FILM director who was fined €5m for renovating an 11th-century chateau without the correct planning permission provides a cautionary tale for anyone in France with building plans, big or small.

From installing an air conditioning unit on the side of a house to Jon Acevski’s multi-million-euro renovation project in the Riviera, not following the strict set of rules on planning can prove very costly.

Mr Acevski rescued the imposing Château de la Gaude in Saint-Jeannet on the outskirts of Nice from disrepair when he bought it for €1.2m in 2003 following the death of its previous owner, the French actress Viviane Romance.

He launched a five-year project to restore the building to its former glory and make it a place that would welcome artists, film and music stars from the world over.

The painstaking work involved stone imported from Portugal and every last element of the design was carefully planned and overseen by the perfectionist owner.

Shortly after the work was completed, however, Mr Acevski was ordered to pay a e5m fine by a court in Grasse for extending the 395m2 chateau, with three hectares of ground and panoramic views over the Riviera, further than the planning permission allowed.

His case is one of the more extreme examples of planning fines, but even the smallest change to the outside appearance of your house needs to be declared.

Only very small construction work, with a surface area of less than 2m2 and a height of less than 2m, requires no formalities. Between 2m2 and 20m2, a simple déclaration préalable is necessary with the mairie where the property is located. The local adminstration can refuse the work within one month of receipt.

Bigger projects, such as increasing the surface area of a house or painting a chateau flame-red (see below) require a full application for planning permission. A change of use also requires permission – for example, turning a shop into a house or vice versa.

The service technique in your mairie should be aware of all the planning rules that apply to the commune. Most mairies will have a PLU (plan local d’urbanisme) and a POS (plan d’occupation des sols) which will include details of any rules applying to maximum heights and facade colours. In the absence of these two plans, the national code l’urbanisme takes precedence.

The application documents can be downloaded from (select Construction in the Logement section on the front page).

The application needs to be accompanied by plans and photos and it will take up to two months for a permis de construire to be granted.

Details of the application are displayed in the mairie and must also feature on a panel outside the property to inform neighbours of their right to challenge the plans. Works must begin within two years of the permit being granted.

Building without a permit, or making changes to the property that are not mentioned in the original application, comes with a fine of at least e1,200, rising by e6,000 for every square metre illegally built. Repeat offenders could be sentenced to between six months and two years in jail.

A judge can also order that any building constructed without permission be demolished by a set deadline. After this date, if the demolition is not completed, the mairie can intervene.

Mayor saw red over ‘common sense’ chateau

A BRITISH man who painted his 18th-century Norman chateau bright red has been ordered by his mairie to restore it to its original condition.

Mark Berridge bought the Château du Val in the Manche village of Chef-du-Pont in 2005, eight years after the local landmark was wrecked by fire.

He secretly painted it red one night last autumn and put it up for sale to raise funds for a political movement he has set up called the Common Sense Manifesto.

Local residents were shocked by what they said was an act of vandalism.

Mayor Marcel Jean, who was alerted to the change by a neighbour the following morning said: “I thought it was a hoax at first. I was shocked that he could do such a thing.

“I told him it was not a very good idea and that he should have contacted the local administration first.”

No buyer for the red chateau has come forward and, after many meetings with council officials and gendarmes, Mr Berridge has now agreed to repaint the building cream, a similar colour to its original stonework.

“It has upset a few people. Painting an 18th-century chateau might be considered by some to be sacrilege, but we felt it was worthwhile,” he said.

The chateau in Chef-du-Pont – a community of about 775 people some 25 miles south of Cherbourg – was previously home to a Parisian businessman. However during some major restoration work it caught fire and was totally gutted, leaving just its four imposing walls.

In a letter to the mayor of Chef-du-Pont and members of the local community, Mr Berridge wrote: “We were very sorry to have upset some of you who have written to object to our having painted the Chateau du Val at Chef-du-Pont.

“This is particularly painful because, believe it or not, we are very keen supporters of the heritage and beautiful architecture.”

Restoring the chateau to its original appearance proved more complicated than first thought.

“We used the best quality Dulux Weathershield paint, with a guarantee for 15 years,” Mr Berridge said. “We had no idea how we were going to get it off.”

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