For members


UPDATED: How strikes will hit travel between France and the UK this Christmas

Anyone planning a trip between France and the UK this Christmas or New Year is facing widespread strike action, delays and cancellations. Here is the latest on which services will run.

UPDATED: How strikes will hit travel between France and the UK this Christmas
Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP

Planes, trains, ferries and even roads look set to be affected by UK strike action, while French rail and airline unions have also filed strike notices.

The British actions come in the context of widespread industrial action from nurses to postal workers, train drivers to border guards, all of whom are striking to win pay rises above the rate of inflation that will help them cope with the spiralling cost of living.

Here’s a look at how travel will be affected;


UK-based security staff will walk out on December 22nd and 23rd. The UK’s RMT union is also taking strike action between December 24th and 27th.

The Eurostar will be running fewer services than usual on December 23rd and 24th and has cancelled several services and changed the times of others – anyone with a pre-booked train is advised to check the website or app.

Eurostar will be running no services at all on December 26th due to strike action that has closed lines.

At present services from December 27th to January 1st are listed as running normally, but things can change closer to the time. Eurostar says it is “currently assessing the impact” of more planned strikes between January 3rd and 7th.

Passengers should be notified about cancellations or changes, but some Eurostar passengers have reported not getting updates about earlier cancellations, so it would be a good idea to keep an eye on the Eurostar website or app for any timetable changes. 


Border guards belonging to the Public and Commercial Services union have called strike action from December 23rd until December 31st, with the exception of December 27th, at Heathrow (Terminals 2,3,4 and 5), Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff airports.

The UK government has warned arrivals to “expect delays and disruption” at airports – 75 percent of passport control staff are PCS union members. The main effect will be long waits at passport control (some are predicting up to 10 hours) but there may also be flight cancellations as passengers may have to wait before disembarking their plane – something that will affect other incoming flights.

Anyone with a pre-booked ticket will be contacted by their airline if their flight is cancelled, but travellers should allow plenty of time to clear passport control.

In France cabin crew working for Easyjet have withdrawn their strike notice after successful pay negotiations, and Air France says it will be running normal services over the Christmas and New Year period. 


The UK border guards’ strike will also affect the ferry port of Newhaven, so there could also be delays for passengers on the Dieppe-Newhaven route, but cancellations are a lot less likely due to significantly lower volume of traffic through Newhaven.

The PCS strike does not include staff at Dover, Folkestone, Plymouth or Portsmouth.

Channel Tunnel

The border guards strike does not include staff at Folkestone, and train drivers on the Channel Tunnel do not belong to the RMT, so Channel Tunnel services should be running as normal.

Eurotunnel bosses say that unspecified “technical difficulties” at Folkestone which caused six-hour waits on December 19th have now been resolved.

Services are expected to be extremely busy as travellers change their plans to avoid flying or taking the train. There are also possible road disruptions in the UK (more below).

Domestic travel

So that’s travel services between France and the UK, but there are also issues to be aware of on both sides of the Channel once you leave the port/airport/station.

In the UK

Rail strikes – The biggest impact is likely to be on the railways, National Rail Enquiries says: “Due to various industrial action, there will be a reduced train services across the rail network from Tuesday, December 13th 2022 until Sunday, January 8th 2023. Significant disruption is expected across the rail network. Trains will be busier and likely to start later and finish earlier, and there will be no services at all in some places.”

The RMT union is taking strike action on December 13th, 14th, 16th, 17th, 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th.

Outside of strike days, union members are also refusing to do any overtime outside of their contracted work hours – and it is estimated that this will see around 20 percent of services cancelled. It seems that the disruption is concentrated on local services, rather than intercity routes. 

Roads – travel by road could also be disrupted over the holidays because of a strike by National Highways control room staff. These workers have a largely unseen but important role – including monitoring CCTV, programming motorway matrix boards and co-ordinating with emergency services. It essentially means that work to mitigate the effects of crashes, breakdowns or bottlenecks will happen more slowly, leading to unusually long traffic jams on motorways and A roads.

These strikes are on a regional basis – December 16th and 17th in the north-west, north-east, Yorkshire and Humber, December 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th for London and the south-east, December 30th and 31st for the West Midlands and south west and January 6th and 7th for the east Midlands and eastern England.

All National Highways workplaces will take industrial action on January 3rd and 4th.

In France

French rail workers are also taking strike action from Friday, December 23rd to Monday, 26th and SNCF says that only two in five of the normal services will be running on those days – with cancellations concentrated on the high-speed TGV lines. It does not affect local TER trains or city or suburban public transport.

The busy Christmas period means that most trains are full, so that people whose trains have been cancelled are struggling to book an alternative – SNCF is offering refunds of double the ticket price to anyone who cannot travel.

However a second strike – planned for December 30th to January 2nd – has been called off after a deal was reached.

You can keep up to date with all the latest strike news in our strike section HERE, and we will also update this article as things become clearer.

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For members


How to get planning permission for your French property

If you own property in France and you want to extend it, embark on a renovation project or even - in some areas - paint the shutters a different colour, you will first need to get permission from the mairie. Here's how the French planning permission system works.

How to get planning permission for your French property

Certain types of building or DIY projects in France require planning permission, known as a Déclaration préalable. You may also need a building permit (permis de construire) depending on the type of project.

This article deals with the déclaration préalable.

Do you need planning permission?

The first step is to determine whether your project requires planning permission at all, which might be more complicated than it first appears.

As a general rule of thumb anything that changes the size of shape of the building – such as an extension – or any kind of structural change requires planning permission.

Likewise a change of use of the building (from residential to commercial, for example) requires a déclaration préalable.

If you’re doing internal renovations they probably won’t require planning permission.

But then there are a whole host of specific works like the installation of a swimming pool (if above a certain size), the installation of a skylight or roof shutter or the installation of a raised terrace that do require planning permission.

There’s also the matter of where you live – if you are in a historic area or near a historic monument you may need planning permission even for small works like changing the doors and the shutters.

Speaking of shutters, some areas – mostly historic areas – have specific rules that say what colours you can paint your shutters and other external structures.

If you live in a mountainous area you may be covered by the Loi montagne, which specifies extra safety standards for buildings (because of the risk of avalanches).

Helpful hints

Although the system is complicated, there are two ways that you can make it easier for yourself.

The first is to use the Service Public website – here – which has a simulator that allows you to click on the type of project you want to do, select whether you are in a protected area or not and then it will tell you whether you need a déclaration préalable.

The other is even easier – go and see your local mayor. The mayor (or their assistant) is usually a mine of valuable information and will be able to tell you instantly whether your project requires planning permission and whether the area is covered by any extra local regulations (historic area, mountain laws etc). 

In smaller villages the mairie might not deal with all queries, but they can tell you which local agency you should direct your déclaration to.

What next

Once you have established that you do need a déclaration préalable, the next stage is to complete the form. 

As the building owner, it is your responsibility to make sure the paperwork is completed, but if you are using a builder or other artisan they might offer to do the forms as part of the service. You can also instruct a professional to act on your behalf in this matter – some real estate agents specialising in foreign buyers or relocation agencies might offer planning permission help as part of their service (which you will pay for, of course).

If you’re doing the paperwork yourself, the next stage is to find the form.

Depending on the type of project there are different forms – the one for works being done on a private home can be downloaded here, and you can find the other options here

If you’re in a commune with more than 3,500 inhabitants, your mairie might offer an online service to submit the form. In smaller places you will usually have to submit the form by post or in person, although some mairies offer an option to email it.

The form

The form requires your personal details, plus the details of the property and exactly what works you intend to do.

If you’re a second-home owner then the address asked for with your personal details should be your full-time home (even if that is outside France), while the property address is the French address you are working on.

You will then need to tick the boxes to describe the work you are doing. It’s a good idea to add a little description of the works you intend to do, just so everyone is clear what you are doing.

Supporting information

The second section of the form is dedicated to pièces jointes – which are supporting documents to add. Exactly what you need to add depends on the nature of your project.

Decision stage

You then send the completed form to the mairie. In smaller villages there might be an arrangement where a slightly larger commune deals with planning applications. Your application won’t be rejected if you sent it to the wrong place, but it will just take longer so it’s a good idea to check with your local mayor where you should send it.

Your mairie should give you an récépissé (receipt) for your application with a registration number. If you make the application online you should get this via email.

The mairie then has one month to notify you of any problems with the application, or to request more information.

Technically, if you don’t get a response within a month then you can start work, but it’s usually a good idea to check with the mairie before you start a project if it’s complicated or expensive.

If the project is approved you can request from the mairie a certificat de non-opposition (certificate of non-opposition) which may be needed for insurance purposes or if you are taking out a loan.

The mairie can either approve your application, refuse it, authorise it with certain conditions or postpone the decision. The postponement can be made for us to two years, but only under certain circumstances – usually related to planned public works that your project could make more difficult or expensive. This postponement is known as sursis à statuer.

You have the right to appeal against a refusal, imposition of conditions or a postponement.


The final step, which is often forgotten, is that once your project is finished you must inform the mairie that the works are all done. This process – which is called a Déclaration attestant l’achèvement et la conformité des travaux (DAACT) (declaration of completion and conformity of works) is so that the mairie can check that your project is completed in accordance with local rules and the conditions of your planning permission.

You can find details of this here.

Other paperwork

As mentioned above, you may also need a building permit – permis de construire – for your works. If any part of your project involves people working close to a main road (for example painting the frontage of your house if it adjoins a road) you may also need to request a full or partial road closure, for safety reasons.

You can speak to your local mairie about arranging this.