Tackling (French) bureaucracy

I spend my life working with bureaucrats.  My clients would far rather pay me to navigate the minefields of “new” requirements and egos than do so themselves.  However, it is rare that I do so for myself.  Our move to France has changed some of that.  A lot of that.

We’re currently running 2 applications: one to make some changes to the top terrace of Les Terraces – we’d like to be able to see the Dordogne while we’re sitting down; the second is to import Graham’s much-loved and cherished Jaguar XKR Cabrio.

The application for the planning permission was initiated when we were last here, in April.  We knew that there would be some challenges – not those of being required to present an application in French and in triplicate, but that Les Terraces is deemed to be a building of historical importance and, as such, any application to make changes to the building (inside or out) has to be scrutinised by L’architecte des bâtiments de france.  His response arrived at the Mairie here in Sainte-Foy-La-Grande on 30th July.  The clerical officer who handles this aspect of the Mairie’s role was off.  I saw her yesterday and she told me that “Yes, a decision has been made.  It isn’t favourable, but not to worry.”  She couldn’t recall exactly what the response was but, apparently, we can reapply.  She’s sending me a letter via registered post to relay the decision to us!

The car has been a totally different story.  It’s a long one, so I’ll cut out the beginning and just say that there were a few frustrations in obtaining copies of the required documentation and getting them here to France.  Having got them to Sara, who was helping us with the process while we were back in the Virgin Islands, she then ran into the intractability of Mme. L-, the wife of the owner of the garage where the car is stored when we’re away.

Graham has relied on the very useful information to be found on the AngloInfo web site to guide us through the process.  On Monday morning we went to see M. L- to pay the bill for the work that he had done on the car since we last left and to ask him about the “Controlle Technique” for the Certificat d’Immatriculation.  He said that in order to do this he had to have the UK registration documents (that were in Sara’s possession).  I rang Sara who, as expected, said that Mme L- had never said a word about needing this document in order to undertake the French version of the MOT test. We leapt into the car and drove east for an hour to retrieve the documents.  Next on the list of requirements was to obtain a certification from the French finance department.  Thanks to Trudi in the Mairie I discovered that the office here in Sainte-Foy can’t handle this and that a drive to the Centre des Impôts in Libourne was necessary.  Back into the car for a rapid run into Libourne, where we arrived with minutes to spare.  Crucially, I couldn’t work out where, exactly, the tax office was, as traffic was 1-way alongside the river (inevitably the wrong way), so we had navigated by the seat of our pants.  We stopped at a petrol station for directions and, incredibly, they sent us back into town.  Graham and I were now getting cross at each other and I decided to stop at the first Police Nationale office and seek better advice from them.  To my enormous frustration (and secret satisfaction) they sent us back to where we had just been …….. the tax office was less than 100 yards from the garage…. but it was 1 minute after closing time!

We went there again today, armed with a sheaf of papers and the dictionary (just in case).  To our amazement we were out again in less than half an hour, new document in hand and not a centime paid in tax!  Back to M. L-for the controlle technique … after all, as he’s been working on the car all year it should be a simple rubber stamp.  Well, that’s what we thought.  But no, off to another garage tomorrow for that, and then make an appointment at the Préfecture in Libourne – fortunately we don’t have to go to Bordeaux – to present all of our documents for the final stage.  There is, however, a fly in the ointment ……….. M. L- seems to think that the certificate of conformity that we have is in the wrong language.

We’ll keep you posted.

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