What planning permission do I need? Building a gite in France
Whether you’re considering a B&B business or something a little more unusual like lodging for paying guests, Arthur Cutler explains the nuts and bolts of planning and disabled access.
What disabled access laws should we follow when building a gite in France?
We are currently in the planning stage for our new gite complex in the Dordogne. Can you tell us what French law imposes in terms of disabled access within the proposed accommodation?
The original idea for a gite was for a local farmer to occasionally rent out alternate accommodation as a secondary income. As such, the laws were never originally written to specifically address these needs. However, there is a general law in France which states that any place “open to the public” must also be open and accessible to people with disabilities. That said, bed and breakfasts, lodges and small hotels that have no more than five rental rooms and a maximum number of 15 people are exempt from the requirement.
Like bed and breakfasts, gîtes are, in principle, considered to be part of the owner’s home, and his private use of this accommodation is not subject to disability regulations. The crucial point is the number of rental units you have and the maximum number of people that can be accommodated there. If you have a gite complex this means that you have several individual units, and this may well mean that you have to comply with disability regulations. ERP (Establishments Receiving the Public) regulations for bed and breakfasts and gîtes begin when the number of people present exceeds 15. There is a gray area regarding whether this number is the maximum in a building, or in total, but the accepted rule is that if you can accommodate between 16 and 99 people in total, you become subject to regulation.
Note that the regulations do not only concern disabled access, but also fire safety (there are also regulations concerning swimming pool safety if you have one). The applicable rules and regulations are long and complex, and you should seek professional help to ensure you fully understand them.
Individual applications and approvals for fire safety and disabled access should be prepared and submitted, if necessary, before going overboard with renovations or conversions.
What building permit do we need for a treehouse?
We live in a remote part of Limousin and on our land is a wooded area, in which we intend to build a treehouse to rent to paying guests. What do we need to know about the planning permission law?
A building permit is required for any construction placed on a property. A treehouse is considered accommodation and a planning agreement is required.
The fact that your property is in a rural area suggests that it is likely to be located in an agricultural area (local town planning regulations should be consulted to verify this). If so, then as a general rule new construction is not possible, although there are usually exceptions for ‘additions’ to an existing dwelling which fall below a certain size – usually around 30 m².
The only way to be certain is to consult the local regulations, and if necessary, a dossier (urban planning certificate or CU) can be filed first to check the feasibility of the project. If a positive UC is obtained, full consent is much more likely to be granted. A CU application takes approximately two months to be processed by the planning authority.