The government has recently issued a series of 25 decrees, including one “on the extension of time limits during the period of health emergency and the adaptation of procedures during the same period” (Decree of 25 March 2020 No. 2020-306).
This decree revisits the administrative and judicial procedural time limits applicable during the period of the state of health emergency of Covid 19.
Some of these articles deal specifically with the new time limits applicable to construction, development and town planning.
These are as follows:
The duration concerned is that which expires between 12 March 2020 and the expiry of a period of one month from the date of cessation of the state of health emergency (Article 1 of the Decree).
For the record, under the terms of Article 4 of the Law of 22 March 2020 “the state of health emergency is declared for a period of two months from the entry into force of this Law“, i.e. until 24 May 2020.
The date to be taken into account for the expiry of the above-mentioned duration is therefore that of 24 June 2020.
B. Terms and conditions
- Periods of validity of authorisations (Article 3)
The text provides in particular for the automatic extension of “authorisations, permits and approvals” whose term expired during the period between 12 March 2020 and 24 June 2020.
- Time limits for processing authorisations (Article 7)
The investigation periods are suspended or postponed depending on whether they began before 12 March (suspension and postponement of outstanding amounts) or after that date (full postponement).
This text applies in particular, for instructions in progress on 12 March 2020, to town planning authorisations, authorisations required in environmental matters, preventive archaeology requirements, requests for additional documents, verification of the completeness of the application file, but also to declarations submitted to the administrative authorities (e.g. declaration of intention to alienate).
In practice, this means that :
for authorisations lodged before 12 March, the unexpired periods of investigation which began before 12 March 2020 shall be suspended until the expiry of the one-month period from the date of cessation of the state of public health emergency, i.e. until 24 June 2020.
for authorisations submitted after 12 March, planning applications submitted since 12 March 2020 shall have their starting point postponed. The period of investigation will only start one month after the date of cessation of the state of health emergency, i.e. until 24 June 2020.
- Time limits for checking the conformity of authorisations (Article 8)
The time limits imposed by the Administration, in accordance with the law and regulations, on any person to carry out inspections and work or to comply with requirements of any kind shall, on that date, be suspended until the expiry of the period of one month following the date of cessation of the state of health emergency, i.e. until 24 June 2020.
This text refers to the declaration of completion and conformity of the works prescribed by a development permit or a building permit and the eventual request for a rescheduling by the Administration.
- Time limits for appeals against authorisations (Article 2)
The time limits for appealing against administrative acts that expire during the period of the state of health emergency and the one-month time limit shall be extended. They shall start again from the date of the end of the state of health emergency and the one-month period.
This means that permits issued, even before the state of public health emergency is in place, will not be “purged of appeal until 25 October 2020“.
In application of these provisions, it appears that the instructing services have the option not to instruct and/or issue planning authorisations before 25 June 2020.
If the instructing services are reassured by the taking of these measures (cf. MAIREinfo article), construction professionals have already expressed their strong dissatisfaction with the planning of these deadlines which are in total contradiction with government directives aimed at a resumption of activity in the construction sector (cf. Bactiactu article).
In this context, it should be noted that the text of this ordinance does not, however, prohibit, a priori, the continuation of the instruction and the taking of express decisions by the instructing services which would have set up dematerialisation or a work organisation allowing decision making.
In view of this context, it would therefore be relevant to generalise the modalities of dematerialised instruction in order to avoid a complete shutdown of the sector and significant financial damage.
Such practical arrangements could thus be defined through implementing decrees.
It is therefore important for construction professionals to call for the continuation of dematerialised instruction in order to avoid a total shutdown of the activity.