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Contesting a planning application in France

Anyone can contest a planning application – permis de construire – as long as they can show they have good reason to do so.

This rules out contesting on the grounds that the building works will be a nuisance.

It must be solely on the grounds that the resulting project will directly affect the conditions, use or enjoyment of your property.

This could include blocking out the sun or the view, though these kinds of cases are often very difficult to fight.

Alternatively, it may be possible to show that the plan contravenes local regulations.

You can consult the details of the planning application you are contesting by asking at your local mairie.

For example, in Salignac-Eyvigues, a small town in Dordogne, old roofs in slate or lauze stone must be replaced with the same material, and the choice of roofing material for new houses is limited. Exterior shutters must all be in wood and roller blinds are forbidden. 

You can consult the local planning rules to see whether the application in question contravenes these rules.

The rules collectively form the Plan Local d’Urbanisme (PLU).

Such a plan is drawn up for most communes in France, though some small ones have a simplified document called a carte communale.

The commune will be divided into zones and there may be different rules for each zone.

You can ring up your local mairie to make an appointment to consult it. It is a good idea to take a camera and pen and paper to make notes.

Alternatively, check with your mairie’s website, as many now put their PLU online.

Maps will be accompanied by a detailed list of requirements covering all aspects of the building, which can be strict.

Complaints must be made within two months of the first day that the authorisation for the project is displayed on the relevant land.

If no notice is displayed, you have up to six months after completion of the project to lodge a complaint.

If a notice has not been set up correctly, you can challenge the application on those grounds as the notice must comply with set rules related to details listed on it, size and positioning and it must be in place for two months.

There are two ways to contest a planning application.

The first is a recours gracieux, in which you send a letter by registered post to the mairie, saying why you want the planning permission withdrawn.*

You must also inform the person named on the planning application that you have written to the mairie, by registered post, within 15 days of sending your letter to the mayor.

The mayor can decide whether to withdraw the permission. If you have had no reply within two months, your demand has been refused.

You can also go to an administrative court, either directly or after the mayor has turned down your request.

Once again, you must notify the person named on the planning application.

You will have to give proof that the project will affect the conditions, use or enjoyment of your property, which can be completed via written arguments, photos, reports by experts, calculations, etc.

You must also supply proof that you own or occupy the property affected. You cannot go on to the property you are complaining about to take photos without permission.

You do not have to employ a lawyer to represent you at the court but most people do. Urban planning law is complex and you may need someone who understands the ins and outs and to advise you whether you have a case and on what grounds to fight it.

If you want advice as to whether you need a lawyer or not, and whether you have a case to answer, you can get free advice on set days at set times from a trained legal expert, or avocat or notaire, in every department, usually by fixed rendez-vous only.

The advice sessions are organised by the Conseil Départemental d’Accès au Droit (CDAD). It is a legal obligation for every department to offer this service.

You can find your local one by putting CDAD plus your department name in your internet search engine or asking at your mairie.

You are advised to act quickly, though, as two months from the date the planning application is displayed does not give you long.

You can also get advice from your local Agence Départe­mentale d’Information sur le Logement (Adil).

This is a public body which gives information on every aspect of housing and an Adil gave information to Connexion for this article.


* Subscribers only: Find a sample letter with a translation on our website – search for “planning permission letter”, or click here

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