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Family house in France must be demolished despite planning permission

The owners say the issue has cost them €400,000

An aerial view of the beach at Saint-Efflam (Brittany)

The building was on the beach at Saint-Efflam (Brittany), but must now be demolished Pic: Natoe / Shutterstock

The owners of a partially-built wooden house in western France have been ordered to demolish the building after a 10-year-fight, despite the work having all the necessary permissions in place.

The building was intended to be a ‘bioclimatic’ holiday home on a piece of land that overlooks the beach at Saint-Efflam in Plestin-les-Grèves (Brittany), and which had been owned by the family for 130 years.

The owners - the families Bourdin, Cassin, and Jamois - had obtained all the correct building and property permits for the work.

However, three environmental associations - Plestin Environnement, Sauvegarde du Trégor, and Fapel 22 - mounted cases against the build, saying that it contravened coastal law (the loi littoral). 

The law is intended to prevent the French coastline from ‘excesses’ of construction and public access, to prevent damage and encourage environmentally-sound, sustainable practices.

The courts ruled in favour of the associations, and said that the area (in Saint-Efflam), and said that the mairie’s building permit was void and should not have been issued.

This means that the building must be demolished. 

The ruling has been criticised by the families amid claims the court representatives did not visit the site, and the area already has a number of edifices on it, including several public buildings and a place of worship. 

They say they are in favour of protecting the coast, but do not believe that the home should be demolished.

Fabien Bourdin, one of the house owners, said the families were distraught at the decision, which had cost an estimated €400,000, including the cost of building and then demolishing the property, the legal costs, and damages for the land, which is now not suitable for any construction under the loi littoral.

“Now that our planning permission, approved by the Côtes-d'Armor prefecture, has been cancelled retroactively, our only recourse is to turn against the town council to compensate us for the damage we have suffered,” he told Le Figaro.

Now, representatives from the mairie are set to meet the families in court to decide on the compensation due (the mairie has already accepted that it will pay, but the amount is yet to be finalised).

“Even if the case goes to court, there's nothing to stop us negotiating directly before the judgement," said Mr Bourdin.

The issue is becoming increasingly prevalent; the commune of Plestin has even said that due to its location on the coast, it sets aside money every year in anticipation of these kinds of cases.

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How does planning permission work in France?

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