Planning permission or prior declaration: what are the rules for a pergola in France?

Do you dream of adding a summery touch to your garden by installing a pergola? But before you get started, it's important to know whether you need to obtain planning permission or simply make a prior declaration. In this article, we'll explain the rules in force for a pergola and the administrative steps you need to take.

pergola adossée à une maison avec un petit mur en pierres

The modern aluminium pergola is a visually simple and airy exterior design element. Its lightweight structure supports adjustable aluminium louvers that allow you to adjust the light and natural ventilation as you wish, while protecting it from possible rain showers. Thus, the pergola is a source of freshness that allows you to enjoy the outside of the house in all circumstances, even in the hottest hours of the summer. The bioclimatic pergolas – thanks to their particularly careful interaction with the house – will also reduce the need for heating and air conditioning in the house. Under current legislation in France, a pergola is considered to be a light, open construction. But that doesn’t mean you can install it without any formalities. In some cases, you will need to obtain planning permission from your local council. If your pergola meets certain conditions, all you need to do is submit a preliminary works declaration. This is much simpler and quicker than applying for planning permission, but is still compulsory. To find out whether you need to obtain planning permission or make a prior declaration for your pergola, we recommend that you contact your local council or consult the planning regulations applicable in your commune after reading this article. Don’t let the administrative formalities hold you back in your project to install a pergola. Follow the rules in force and make the most of your outdoor space next summer.

Administrative Procedures for Freestanding Pergolas, or Independent Pergolas

When the pergola does not touch any construction, it is called a freestanding pergola, or an independent pergola. Pergolas of this kind are often used to protect a part of the garden, a swimming pool, or a terrace in the heart of the garden, and can be used for meals or as a relaxation area. The regulations related to the construction of such pergolas will depend on several factors.

In the first place, it is the size of the pergola that will determine the owner obligations. If the pergola is less than 5m2, there is no need for any specific permission or building permits. If the ground area covered by the pergola is between 5m2 and 8:2 pm, then it will be necessary to make a ‘preliminary declaration of works’ only. Beyond this limit, the pergola is generally considered as an annex of the house, or a garden shed. It is then necessary to apply for a building permit from the competent local authorities, usually the town hall or the town planning department of the commune.

Then, it is the location of the house that will affect the current regulations. Indeed, the legislation will vary according to the municipality and its urban planning policy. In municipalities managed by a PLU (Local Town Planning), which has massively replaced the POS (Land Use Plan), planning permission is no longer required from 8:2 pm onwards, but from 40m2 of ground area. Some municipalities that use the PLU apply this new limit to freestanding pergolas, but it is not yet systematic. In addition, municipalities managed by a municipal map and/or subject to the RNU (National Planning Regulation) still require a building permit from 8:2 pm.

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une pergola autoportée abritant des tables et chaises

What are the regulations for a pergola attached to the house?

pergola en alu adossée à une maison

A pergola attached to the house is an ideal interface between the house and the outdoor spaces. It is often used to make the terrace more welcoming throughout the year, especially in the middle of summer. But an attached pergola can change the appearance of the house, or the visual style. Depending on the municipality or district, it may be necessary to apply for permission from the municipal planning services. In some cases, building restrictions may only apply to projects visible from the roadway, allowing other solutions to be imagined on a different part of the house, for example.

From a technical point of view, the regulations that apply to attached pergolas are similar to those for independent pergolas. Below 8:2 pm, it is necessary to make a preliminary declaration of works, or to apply for a building permit beyond this dimension. For municipalities managed by a PLU, the distinction between preliminary declaration and building permit is defined at the limit of 40m2.

Nevertheless, a building permit is always compulsory between 20 and 40m2 if the construction of the pergola increases the gross floor area is beyond 150m2. In addition, it is necessary to use the services of an architect. For pergolas intended for a historic building, or located near one of them, the agreement of For pergolas intended for a historic building, or located near one of them, the agreement of the architectural review board (Architecte des Bâtiments de France) may be necessary, whatever the dimension of the pergola. the architectural review board (Architecte des Bâtiments de France) may be necessary, whatever the dimension of the pergola.

What are the risks if the regulations are not respected?

The multitude of factors and local regulations can lead some owners to circumvent the legislation, or to misinterpret it in such a way to find themselves in a situation of illegality. Failure to comply with building permit regulations is a criminal offence, which can lead to a minimum fine of €1,200 which can be increased to €300,000. Moreover, the demolition of the non-compliant building is systematically required.