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Can you have solar panels on homes in historic areas of France?

We look into when planning permission can be refused, what you can do and an example of a successful appeal

Permission to install solar panels on houses can be turned down if they are located in certain areas of historic, architectural or natural importance Pic: AlyoshinE, ldgfr photos / Shutterstock

There are very specific situations in which local authorities can refuse permission for residents to place solar panels on a property due to it being in a protected heritage area or located very close to a protected historic monument. 

Any refusal must be justified and backed up by evidence and legal provisions. 

Certain areas of France are classified as being zones protégées, a classification granted by the ministry of culture and communication. 

There are four types of protected areas that are all subtly different: sites patrimoniaux remarquables, a site classé, a site inscrit and le périmètre de monuments historiques (the area around historical monuments). 

To find out if your home is in one of these areas, you should consult the local building development plan called the plan local d’urbanisme (PLU), which should be available at your local mairie

Read more: Make sense of local rules governing planning permission around France

The PLU should contain information about regulations on solar panels in your area, including what colour they should be. 

If you live in one of these zones protégées, then you may need permission from the Architectes des Bâtiments de France (ABF) before installing solar panels.  

If you are in the situation where you live close to a historic monument, you may not need the permission of the ABF if the solar panels you plan to install are not visible from the historic monument site. In this case, you will only need permission from the mairie. 

France’s culture ministry has very specifically said that refusals should be justified and that the construction of solar panels is a key element of France’s green transition. 

If your request for planning permission is refused you can appeal to your local prefecture or mairie by writing a letter. 

Connexion reader’s successful appeal to get solar panels

One Connexion reader, a retiree who lives in Gard (Occitanie) with her husband, described how she successfully appealed against a decision by her local mairie to deny her the right to install solar panels on her house. 

She said that after many delays, her planning permission request to build solar panels was rejected on the grounds that she lives near La Tour Carbonnière, a 13th-century watchtower (pictured). 

After reading that an MP, Christophe Blanchet (La République en Marche - Calvados ), raised the question of solar panel refusals in parliament and that the minister for territorial cohesion and relations with local authorities said refusals should only happen in rare circumstances, she decided to appeal to her mairie.

She sent a letter outlining the minister’s response and within a few weeks the mayor phoned her to say he had reversed his decision and would allow the solar panels. 

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