Couple build house in south-west France - then court cancels permit

Neighbours complained that the built property blocked their countryside views. Couple may now have to pay a fine or may even see home demolished

The fate of the property is still unknown. Photo for illustration only
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A couple who built a new home will have to pay a fine – or even see the property demolished – after complaints from their neighbours saw their building permit revoked.

However, the permit was only revoked after the home was built.

The couple gained planning permission to build their home in the Dordogne area in south-west France in December 2022, with construction beginning in January.

However, once completed, neighbours complained that it ruined their views of the countryside.

Complaint lodged but construction continued

The neighbours lodged an appeal against the property’s construction with the local court.

An appeal does not prevent work continuing, however, with the couple choosing to continue building their home.

“Appeals have no suspensive effect and last about two years,” said Julien Guégan, a lawyer specialising in the subject, to Le Figaro.

“There is no way of avoiding this appeal,” he added, unless you find out from your neighbours directly, which may be easier said than done in such circumstances.

To speed up the process, the neighbours launched an emergency procedure (procédure d’urgence), with the court.

It made its ruling in September on the issue, much quicker than the two years or so cases like this can take – however, even with this fast-tracked appeal, the property had already been constructed before the ruling was made.

Read more: Renovating a French property: be aware of planning rules before buying

Court invalidated permit

Bordeaux’s Administrative Court ruled the permit was to be revoked, as it went against the local planning codes in Bergerac’s community of rural communes (Communauté des communes).

Specifically, it said the building went against the code’s aims to “preserve agricultural areas" and "limit urban residential development.”

This was despite the planning permission originally being given not citing these as potential issues.

If you are looking to start a large property renovation and are worried about a similar outcome, “you can limit the risk of your planning permission being revoked by enlisting the help of an architect and, if necessary, a lawyer,” said Mr Guégan.

What happens next?

The decision on what to do with the property has not yet been made, although there are two likely outcomes.

“The cancellation does not mean that the house will have to be demolished,” said Mr Guégan, however it is a possibility if the plaintiffs want to take the matter further.

To do so, the case will have to go to court once more, and the neighbours who complained have ten years from September’s ruling to bring the issue forward.

The alternative is a compensation payout for ruining the neighbour’s view.

“We have already asked our families for money and put our wedding and baby plans on hold… we just want it to stop,” said the couple.

Paying compensation will still not remove the ability for the neighbours to ask for the building to be demolished however, leaving them in a precarious situation no matter what.

Their only other recourse is to sue the local mairie who gave the initial planning permission.

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