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Do we need permission to cut down a tree in our French garden?

We look into the rules covering getting rid of a tree in the case of building an extension

There are certain things to know before cutting down a tree in France Pic: Christine Bird / Shutterstock

Reader question: We are thinking about building an extension to our house and we would need to remove a tree to do that. Can we go ahead and do this or do we need to get some kind of permission?

It is always better to seek authorisation from your local mairie before cutting down a tree in your garden as it could be prohibited. 

If a tree is protected – for example because it is very old – then it could be forbidden to cut it down according to the local development plan – the Plan Local d’Urbanisme, and fines can be as high as €20,000.

This could also be the case if your garden is situated within a 500m radius of a listed monument. 

The legislation around cutting down trees can include other elements as well. For this reason, it is best to ask your mairie for permission.

You can find your mairie’s details at this site if you do not have them.

There are, however, far fewer rules regarding trimming trees in your garden. 

In fact, if you have a tree that is situated less than two metres away from your neighbour’s garden, you are obliged to keep it under two metres in height – unless your neighbour agrees to let it grow taller. 

Read more: Can I make my neighbour prune trees that overhang my garden in France?

There are also certain situations whereby you will be obliged to cut down a tree in your garden. 

For example, this may apply if it is interfering with power lines or other public utility infrastructures - or if the tree poses a safety danger to you or passers by or motorists. 

In this case, you could be contacted by relevant local authorities about removing the tree. 

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