What’s happening? OK, I’ll go on to explain, but before I do I’ll explain what’s been happening to bring about the quite major changes that are going to be happening in my life over the coming weeks and months.

A short way to the rear of my house is a patch of open land, quite a big patch actually if you also include the part of it that extends right the way up to Le Bos de Plazac. Over several years, the landowner, like many others in this area, has been cashing in on the demand for building land and has sold off several plots that my neighbours have built their homes on. This has never created any problems, quite the opposite actually, as the houses are not on top of each other but are close enough for us all to be in quite a tight-knit little community in which we all know each other.

In the last year, however, the landowner has put the patch I’m now referring to up for sale, which is a slightly different kettle of fish. The access onto it is down the narrow track that runs alongside my garden and forms the entrance to my house and that of my neighbour directly in the rear. Technically the track is a public ‘chemin rural’ but in reality for the most part it is quite a lot narrower than the legal requirement of 4 metres and is also bordered by trees in my garden and that of my neighbour.

In anticipation of wangling a way to sell the land with planning permission, some time before I arrived the owner created an entrance into it and laid down stone to make it suitable to carry light vehicles. However, two problems remained. Firstly the boundary of my neighbour at the rear’s land terminated slap-bang in the middle of the ‘entrance’ leaving only a distance of 2.6 metres available, much less than the required 4 metres and therefore disqualifying the land from being ‘constructable’. The second problem, of course, was that the ‘chemin rural’ leading to it was also less than the legal requirement of 4 metres in width, thus compounding the issues.

However, although the land is classified as ‘agricultural’ and not ‘constructable’ on the local regional plan, I recently heard that the land was being offered for sale in two plots with building permission. And not only that, but this was with the support of the local Mairie at Plazac. The ramifications of this soon became clear to me, but not to my neighbours apparently, and I launched myself into a stiff opposition as I had nothing to lose by doing so.

It soon became obvious that this would be an uphill task, not just because I was an ‘outsider’ fighting against vested interests but also because those same interests knew their way around the system and ways of getting around obstacles. The first shock that I got was that the Mairie at Plazac has refused to respond to any of my letters despite being legally obliged to do so, not the least because I am a resident of the commune, and although the local regional planning office has been tacitly supportive of my efforts, it has repeatedly advised me that I should seek a resolution of the problems through the local Mairie. So not much help there, then.

Things moved on at the end of October when, presumably in response to my complaints, a surveyor was sent to confirm the boundaries in question and place markers, know as ‘bornes’, on the ground. He was supposed to do this with reference to the official government map (called ‘le Cadastre’) that is available on the internet and clearly shows all of the boundary markers across the whole of France together with precise positions and measurements

However, to my astonishment the ‘borne’ at the boundary of my neighbour at the rear’s land that should have been placed slap-bang in the middle of the disputed entrance was omitted and not only that, the ‘borne’ on the other side was moved more than a metre from where it should have been, taking land belonging to my other neighbour and by so doing, widening the ‘chemin rurale’ to more than the required 4 metres.

It was now time to take stock of the situation and I therefore contacted both of the neighbours whose land had been affected by the above and here’s when I was gobsmacked. Neither could be bothered about it, even though each of them would be affected more than I would if the land was sold and built on. And not only would the one with their property on the other side of the ‘chemin rural’ to me be giving up a part of their land, they might also face the possibility once it had happened of being asked to cut down the trees along the side of their garden as they would then be less than 1 metre beyond the edge of the new ‘public’ right of way.

I soon realised that in the light of the above, the chance of my opposition succeeding was more or less zero, the more so when my neighbour at the rear said that they had ‘given’ the land to the Mairie that it required. So it was time for me to come up with a new strategy. Subsequent conversations have shown that my neighbours care far less about such matters than I do, but although it clearly wouldn’t be a total disaster, I didn’t much like the idea of the changes that might happen at some time in the future and it made me start to think a bit more about what I want out of the rest of my life here in France.

And when I did, I realised that having lost two years when I was ill and while I recovered, my original ideas for my house were in tatters. When I came here I had both the energy and enthusiasm to tackle the project and the work that it entailed but now, although I still had the enthusiasm, I no longer had the energy or the time ahead of me to do so. So that made me consider what alternatives were open to me and finally I came to look at the nuclear option of selling up and moving on.

This would be an enormous move at my time of life but the closer I looked at it the more I realised that not only could I do it but that if I did it right, it would afford not only some amazing opportunities but also a much more comfortable lifestyle in these latter stages of my life.

I was initially worried that my house would be difficult to sell because I haven’t finished all of the jobs I had lined-up to improve it but my friends and family have all said that I shouldn’t care about that as it will sell as it is anyway. It was certainly in far worse a condition when I bought it than it is now, so I have to admit that they’re almost certainly right. It also turns out that I had a somewhat pessimistic view of its value and with everything considered, after putting all of the numbers in the equation, it turned out that I could afford to buy a parcel of land (referred to as a ‘terrain’) myself and have a brand-new little house built on it.

I have a somewhat philosophical outlook on life and I’m a firm believer that ‘things happen for a reason’. I’m convinced that what is happening now conforms to this philosophy and even more so by what I’ll now go on to explain. When I told my friends Victor and Madeleine what was going on and what I was thinking about doing, they asked me whether I knew of a certain ‘terrain’ that was up for sale not far from where they live in Fleurac. I did know of it but thought that it would be beyond my price range, but Victor said that I should go and see the seller, who he and Madeleine know, anyway.

So after I’d taken a look at the land, he and I went along and I subsequently made an offer for it. You can probably guess what’s coming next. Everyone’s been telling me that following the Covid scare, there’s a great demand for property and land in our area from people looking to move to the countryside. Victor said that he has seen lots of cars with people looking at the very piece of land in question, but I decided to make an offer below the asking price anyway. And after a couple of minutes haggling, I got it.

I’m in the fortunate position of being able to acquire the land before selling my house, so the purchase is now in the hands of the Notaire. If necessary, I can wait for a few weeks, or months even, to sell my house, although I hope that I won’t have to. Within a day of putting up the ‘A Vendre’ sign outside it, I had a call from someone who’s interested and they’re coming next week to view it. I’ve also got an agent biting my arm off to handle a sale for me saying that they urgently require properties like mine and that it’ll sell very quickly, so I’m cautiously olptimistic.

So what about my future plans? I’m very excited and can’t wait to start putting them into effect. First the ‘terrain’ that I’m buying. It’s fantastic, about 30% larger than what I’ve got now in an excellent position on a local road that’s no busier than the one my present house is on, mainly farm traffic and local residents. I’m not going to say where it is until things have been wrapped up even more than they are except that it is clear on all sides, with an adjoining ‘terrain’ that may or may not be sold for another house in the future but would not be too close to mine anyway. In fact if I’m as lucky as I am with my neighbours now, it’d be nice to have someone next door.

The plot is about 100 yards long of a width that will allow an excellent entrance and is about 30 yards in width at its widest point, which is at the other/far end. It slopes downwards very gently from the road and the slope increases slightly from about its mid-point. Here’s what the plan looks like.

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There are trees running alongside the road on the adjacent strip at the western (road) end and due to special circumstances, they will always remain there. That will be great because I love having trees close by my house, as I have at present. There are also trees at the bottom of the plot beyond which it says that there’s a ‘chemin rural’, but even if there was once, there’s nothing there now. So there should never be any threat in the future of my new home facing problems such as encroachment or loss of privacy, which will be a great relief.

So what of my ideas for the new house itself, which I’ve indicated on the plan above? I’ve already been asked whether, having gone for a traditional stone French house I’ll do the same again, and the answer is ‘No’. I’ll be going for a brand new, modern little single-storey house that will require little or no further effort or input from me when I move in and will allow me to concentrate on the more pleasurable things in life, like flying and enjoying time with my friends.

There are many house builders in south-west France offering a wide portfolio of ‘off-the-peg’ house designs making it easy for people like me who can search and browse the internet. I’ve already chosen what I think will be the design that I’ll go for – it’s called the ‘Floride’ and its availabe in several alternative sizes and layouts. The following picture gives a very good idea of its style but is of either the 95 or 104 sq metre model, I’m not sure which, rather than the 102 sq metre one that I want.

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The plan shows my original thinking for how it will fit on the ‘terrain’, with a long commanding entrance and front parking area all in rolled stone. Water and electricity are conveniently available at the top-most corner next to the road so they will be easy (and cheap!) to run.

As usual for this area, there will be no mains sewerage and I’m thinking that rather than have a septic tank (‘fosse septique’) I’ll go for the more environmentally friendly, natural Aquatiris system that I was going to install in my current house when I did the extension. This uses special flower beds to biologically filter and purify the waste water and is totally maintenance free once it’s running. It also has the advantage of not needing to split the ‘clean’ waste water (kitchen, bath etc) from the ‘dirty’ water from the toilet and as the ‘terrain’ slopes away from the house, it will be a perfect fit.

To finish off, although I don’t yet have a proper image of the 102 sq metre ‘Floride’ design, here’s a plan of its layout, which I doubt I’d want to change even though you can customise it within reason.

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So there you have it. There’ll be much, much more to come over the coming weeks and months and I’m super excited. Things like this don’t happen quickly in France and for now I’m just going to be concentrating on doing things in my present house and making it better until its sold. I’ll need to respond to requests made by the Notaire regarding my land purchase as the process proceeds and make a non-refundable 10% payment when the ‘Compromis de Vente’ is raised. It’d be very nice if my house sale is also underway by then so here’s keeping my fingers crossed 😉

2 thoughts on “So…

  1. Hi Joel, yup, I told you it might be a bit of a surprise. You’re right about the French system – but it also suffers from petty corruption. Not so petty actually – ex-President Sarkozy is in the dock right now and several high profile politicians have been convicted in recent years over similar things to him. But that’s France – you need to take these things into account before you come to live here and usually as an ex-pat you know that they’ll probably not affect you. However, on this occasion I’m not happy about the way ‘the system’ is working but it can only affect me if I let it. It’s made me think about the future and I’ve decided that the best thing to do is take action before things escalate. I came here to ‘follow my bliss’, not waste my time fighting against petty bureaucracy and as soon as I made the decision to move on I knew immediately it was the right one. It’s going to make for an exciting 2021. And just in case this is the last message before Christmas, I hope that you and yours have a good one despite the shadow that’s hanging over us all.

  2. hi roger – well that wasn’t what I expected!! Good for you, and good attitude too. It’s perfectly possible to succeed with opposition to administrative abuse – the French system is highly codified and eventually, if you quote enough codes and laws, things will fall into line – however… it’s a rabbit-hole that can drive you mad in the meantime! Much better to side-step and as you say, apply a more philosophical reasoning. Like the new house ideas and will be following along with much interest.

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