As a general rule, formal authorisation is required for all new construction works, and works to existing buildings where the works either increase the external surface area, or create new surface levels. Consent is also required for certain alterations and change of use. The authorisation may require submission of either a planning application or a works declaration.
The definition of a ‘local plan’ excludes a Carte Communale, which are the plans generally used in rural areas. What this means, therefore, is that in most rural areas any extension greater than 20m² requires a planning permission, unless there is a formal local plan (either Plan d’Occupation des Sols (POS) or Plan Local d’Urbanisme (PLU)) in place.
You would need to make specific enquiries of your local planning authority. There are particular rules and processes governing building works in a conservation area, to a listed building, or within 500 metres of a listed building, so in all such cases you need to consult with your local mairie or préfecture as few, if any, dispensations are available.
In practice, whether a planning application or a works declaration, there is still a fair bit of documentation that has to be submitted to the planning authority.
Planning Application or Works Declaration?
Where a plot of land is being divided up for one or more new dwellings then a discussion with the planning authority will be necessary as particular rules apply. These rules have been made clearer with changes in planning regulations introduced in March 2012, but the issue still necessitates a discussion with the planners.
If you live within a lotissement there will also be rules (le cahier des charges) that apply. You need to have regard to these rules in making your planning application.
In preparing a local plan, the planning authority should also have regard to these lotissement rules, but they are not obliged to do so. Accordingly, it is possible for someone to receive planning consent for a project that is contrary to the cahier des charges. In these circumstances the syndicat and/or residents would need to bring a legal action for breach of the rules.
- Internal Renovation Works
Ordinarily, renovation and works of alteration to the interior of the property do not require authorisation of any kind. However, if the the property is a listed building (monument historique) then planning consent is required in all cases. If the property is in a conservation area, and the works modify the structure of the property, or affect an important architectural element of the property, then planning permission is also required.
- Attic Conversions
The rules that apply depend on the circumstances, not always capable of easy interpretation. No authorisation of any kind is required provided you are not creating any new openings, you are not altering the structure of the roof, and the new surface area is no greater than 5m². Areas less than 1.80m in height are not considered part of the habitable surface area.
If the new habitable space less than 20m² and/or you are proposing to create new openings in the roof-space and/or altering the roof structure, then a works declaration is required. If the surface area is greater than 20m²/40m² (depending on local authority area) it requires planning permission. Where also the new space takes the total floor area of the property over 150m² then you need to make a planning application and use an architect. You will also need to make a planning application if you are increasing the height of the external wall in order to create a window opening.
A planning application is required if the external surface area is greater than 20m², although in urban areas if it is attached to the house you may be entitled to up to 40m² before a planning application is required. Otherwise a works declaration is all that is necessary. Be aware, however, that if the building is being constructed near the boundary of your property, you may not be able to do so, due to controls on ‘overlooking’.
A planning application is required where the conservatory is greater than 20m², although in urban areas if it is attached to the property you may be entitled to up to 40m² before a planning application is required. Otherwise it is a works declaration. The rule above regarding building at the perimeter of your property applies as much to conservatories to other buildings and extensions.
- External Swimming Pool
If the pool exceeds 10m², but under 100m², then a works declaration is required. If the pool is over 100m² or has a cover above ground that exceeds 1.80m in height, then a planning application is required. Below 10m² surface and 1.80m height no consent at all is required. Above ground pools do not need any consent, unless they are greater than 10m² or higher than 1.80m, and they are installed for a period in excess of three months.
No formalities required provided if it is at ground level. However, if the terrace is raised in a significant manner, then either a works declaration or a planning permission may be required, depending on the surface area and the local planning regulations. You would need to consult the local planning authority.