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Languedoc Property:   Planning Permission and other Permissions

If the property you hope to buy is in the countryside and comes with substantial land, then neighbouring farmers will have a pre-emptive right to buy on the same terms that the purchaser and vendor have agreed. This right is not merely theoretical. It can be, and is, exercised. So you might see your dream home in the countryside being snapped up by your prospective neighbour and there is nothing you can do about it. Even if the right is not exercised, the farmers have an extended time to think about it, which can delay your completion date.

Apart from that, the system is not very different from that in the UK or Ireland. If you are planning any substantial work you should check with your mairie. (As a matter of courtesy you should go and introduce yourself to the maire in any case). If you do need planning permission for new work or for change of use then you will need a certificate d'urbanism, corresponding to Outline Permission in the UK. This can be obtained before a compris de vente has been signed, and is valid for twelve months.

Do not take for granted your right to a new swimming pool, or even to a new septic tank.

For major works you will need a permis de construire ("permit to build"). You can obtain a form from the mairie, which you, or your architect, will need to complete. Generally you will not encounter problems if you your proposals are in keeping with the local style, or if you happen to like those bright pink cement boxes that are becoming ever more common in the Languedoc. In some communes, you will get permission for almost anything. These are easy enough to identify as they are full of Spanish villas, Mexican ranches, Baroque monstrosities, log cabins, and so on. In other communes the only way to get permission is to marry into the maire's family, or at least have des bras longes.

It is becoming ever more common, especially in towns, for the local authority to lay down what colours may be used for walls and external woodwork - a rare case of officialdom doing something useful, or it would be if they weren't so keen on bright pink.


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