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22 Sep 2015

Here is Sean O'Connor's very brief overview.  The detail is a lot more complicated. The Planning Code runs to more than 3,500 pages!

If you want to make significant alterations to your French property, for example to put on a new extension, you will need, in your Purchase Contract a Suspensive Condition as to Outline Planning Permission for what you want to do. This in French is called a Certificat d'Urbanisme Positif or CU for short. Normally the Notaire or the Estate Agent will lodge the Application for you. The CU is valid for 18 months and thereafter renewable for one year at a time provided that the Planning Rules have not meanwhile changed. Quite often they do change. Applications for renewal must be lodged at least two months before the expiry of the validity period. A Building Permission is valid for two years, renewable for a third year, but not more. You will need an Architect if the floor surface area including the footprint exceeds 70m².

You probably, but here you need to be advised on a case by case basis, do not need a Suspensive Condition in your Contract for minor changes to the premises. In most instances, a prior declaration at the Town Hall [Mairie] will be required. The Mairie will then have one month within which to oppose the proposed works, but only on planning grounds, not arbitrarily. Certain very minor changes do not require any declaration at all. 

A Commune may or may not have a Land Development Plan. If it does not, a number of rather loose and easy general planning rules apply. There are two sorts of Land Development Plan in France. These are : a Plan d'Occupation des Sols or POS for short or a Plan Local d'Urbanisme or PLU for short. The POS are being phased out in favour of the PLU. The PLU is more detailed. You can usually form a fairly reliable expectation as to whether what you want to do will be permitted or not by ascertaining what zone on the POS or PLU your property is located in.