At this time of year, it seems that flowers in Guernsey are everywhere.

The bright colours certainly supplement the enjoyment of being outdoors, whether they are from the marigolds and geraniums we find in the manicured roundabouts, the ragwort and sea thrift along the rugged cliffs, the Open Gardens of Floral Guernsey or even the Guernsey Lily on the “Welcome to Guernsey” sign at Guernsey Airport (originally painted by our very own botanical artist Sally Cokeley!).

Those of you with greener fingers than me may well be enjoying the floral displays in your own gardens after the time, dedication and effort that you have invested earlier this year.  However, as we relax into the warmer evenings and longer days outside, I wonder how many of us contemplate some kind of home improvement that involves the garden?

That might be, for example, an extension, removing a hedge, a new pond, installing a swimming pool, taking some trees down or maybe even something on a grander scale such as a tourelle.

The planning rules that deal with such projects are both varied, and in parts, actually quite detailed.  In some cases, the activity will be exempt from requiring planning permission, and in other cases approval will be needed.

With that in mind, we at Ferbrache & Farrell thought it might be helpful to set out a few basic considerations.  The Guernsey Planning Service have also produced a useful Practice Note entitled “Do I need permission for my development- Householder’s Guide” which is well worth reading.

The rule of (green) thumb is that generally development needs permission.  As one might imagine, it is more complicated than that because some development is exempt from needing approval since it is a specific activity, or else it is too small in nature.  In fact, 20 types of home development are exempt.  More on that below.

Development, without being overly legal, is anything that involves building or engineering operations, or which changes a use of property. There are Laws and Ordinances that provide a structure to that, but practically speaking, if the improvement or change needs heavy machinery or professional help (for example a landscaped pond), it may well need planning permission.

Another thing to bear in mind is whether your home is listed or protected in some way, or contains important trees or is in a Conservation Area (for example). If that is the case, you may already be aware that special rules will apply to preserve the unique qualities of your property.  It is not that development cannot be carried out; more that it requires careful consideration and a well-crafted application.

One of the many balancing acts that our Planning Service must manage is to have regard to a homeowner’s reasonable aspirations to develop their property, but at the same time meeting legal and policy requirements.  The recently adopted Island Development Plan provides a degree of flexibility for the planning officers that they have not had for very many years. This, in turn, will help homeowners.

Bear in mind that exempt development must generally be carried out in your garden (domestic curtilage to be more precise), and as an abundance of caution it is always a good idea to check with the Planning Service helpdesk (01481 717200).

Development that may be allowed without needing permission (provided specific criteria are met) may include the placing of a caravan, installing a flag pole, installing a swimming or other pool, putting up a fence or gate, creating a hard-surfaced area including timber decking, setting up a glasshouse, building a shed or installing a garden structure designed to support plants.

So, a whimsical idea conjured whilst sat by the BBQ can, most definitely, become a reality.

In the meantime, the Guernsey North Show & Battle of Flowers in late August will provide more bright colours for us yet.

Author Alastair Hargreaves Advocate, Solicitor & Managing Partner