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French risk plans could have impact on property purchases

Throughout the country regional and local risk plans – Plan de Prévention des Risques – are being drawn up but not all local officials are making prospective property buyers aware that they exist.

This has already had a catastrophic effect for one French couple who bought land on a building plot in the village of Marenla in the Pas de Calais, north France. They received planning permission but did not know that the plot lies in an area prone to flooding.

They now face having to demolish the property that they have started to build after a local environmental group protested against the planning permission because of the flood risk.

Local officials, including the Notaire, a lawyer who handles the property transaction for seller and buyer, did not alert them to the existence of the risk plan when they bought the land. Even worse, the local planning authority granted planning permission despite the existence of the plan.

It has now degenerated into a row between officials. The local mayor says there are no records of the area ever flooding. County officials have declared that the planning permission should stand and the protest group is now threatening to take the matter to the courts.

'It is quite clear that anyone buying building plots in France should make sure they have a copy of the risk plan for the area. Unfortunately local officials seem to be ignorant of the rules,' said a spokeswoman for the Chambres des Notaires de Paris.