Peter Falla Interviewed in Business Brief

Peter Falla Interviewed in Business Brief

In the midst of a prolonged period of financial restraint and with local house prices still riding high, the creation of a ‘dower unit’ is proving an extremely attractive option for an increasing number of Guernsey property owners.

Traditionally known as a ‘granny wing’ or a ‘granny flat’, this type of unit is defined as a part of a house or an addition to a house that is reserved for the accommodation of dependent relatives, whether for an elderly parent or parents or for other close family members.

As the name suggests, the dower unit has its roots in the old Guernsey law that allowed a widow one third of the house after her husband’s death. The traditional solution was a wing half the size of the main house to provide what was known as the ‘dower’ or ‘the widow’s third’.

Over the decades the dower concept has evolved to meet our modern day social needs. In fact today’s ‘granny wing’ is not just limited to room conversions and house extensions. It can also be a converted outbuilding such as a garage that lies within the grounds of the main house.

The beauty of the planning rules surrounding dower units is that planning permission for change of use will not be needed as long as the property in question remains a single household. And because it is such a practical and cost-effective option in these financially challenging times, the demand for properties with granny flat potential has never been higher.

Certainly within our own design practice we are seeing more of our clients seeking to combine with their parents to buy a bigger property than they otherwise could have purchased on their own. When they find a house that might fit the bill the first thing they ask is: “Can this be converted into a granny wing?”

Well, the good news is that the Environment Department is extremely sympathetic to dower unit conversions. Indeed, our own experience as architectural designers is that the island’s planning officers positively encourage this type of imaginative development, both for properties within the Rural Area Plan and the Urban Area Plan.

Of course there are certain criteria that must be met when applying for a dower unit and these are outlined in a helpful planning advice pamphlet issued by the Environment Department. However, the key condition is the relationship of the occupiers of the dower to the occupiers of the main dwelling.

It must be pointed out that the rules simply will not allow you to build a dower unit to take in an unrelated lodger, so there is no point in applying if you do not have parents or elderly relatives. The other important factor is the need for a physical link between the dower unit and the main house – even in cases where the unit is created within a detached outbuilding.

Basically, the Planning Department’s officers will want to see a few shared facilities to show that the dower is not a totally self contained unit but forms part of a single household. Meanwhile, the people at Building Control will insist on the inclusion of kitchen facilities to enable the dower occupants to prepare hot food without having to rely on the main house.

Living close to the parents is not an arrangement that will suit everybody and for some it can be quite a scary prospect. But for those who get on with their folks it certainly makes financial sense in the current climate to pool their economic resources – and who better to combine them with than the people they know without doubt they can trust?

Also in terms of sustainable land use the creation of dower units makes absolute sense in the modern age. In the foreseeable future there will be no more permissions for new building plots in Guernsey’s rural area. But providing you meet the criteria you should have little or no problems getting a granny wing off the ground wherever you are.


Guernsey Studio

Guelles Court
Guelles Lane
St Peter Port

9am - 5:30pm   |   01481 712633

Jersey Studio

12 Britannia Place
Bath Street
St Helier

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Chloe Whitmore


T: 01481 712633

Chloe is the first point of contact in the Guernsey studio. She has moved from a career of more than 20 years in the legal profession to managing a creative environment and its people - a welcome change for her! Her experience and legal background are a great asset for the Group.

Ollie Muston MCIAT


T: 01481 712633

Having been educated and grown up in Guernsey and developing a passion for technical design work, information technology and an intrigue for building design and history during his GCSE years, Oliver decided to commence his career in 1999 as an Architectural Technologist with Lovell Ozanne one of the largest architectural practices in the Channel Islands,  During those first inspiring 9 years he gained his BTEC HNC qualification increasing his fundamental experience and developing his knowledge base by working on multi-million pound commercial and residential developments including, Mixed Use and Redevelopment Areas (MURA), offices, apartments and industrial units.  

Moving to the States of Guernsey’s Property Services Team in 2008, Oliver was able to learn invaluable working skills and practices, increasing his expanding skillset in tendering and contract administration, whilst having the opportunity to work on public buildings and the differing challenges brought about by these types of projects. These projects encompassed education premises, States buildings with high security requirements, projects at the airport and harbours and fully accessible health facilities.  Full Accessibility audits for the health facilities became a prominent project for Oliver as his career progressed and he carried out a number of audits and reports for substantial business within the Island.

Now with a total of 21 years’ experience within the industry, his expansive knowledge not only covers all areas of a very vast field, but includes all aspects of a project from inception right through to the final handover of a completed project; which, for Oliver is the most rewarding experience. 

Oliver’s exceptional wealth of knowledge has lead him to gain his chartership with the Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists and was formally invited to become an Interview Assessor for the Institute in 2015, a position limited to only a small number and in which someone can only be invited by the Institute.  Oliver completed the necessary assessor training a few months later.  

Ever striving to continue growing and expanding his professional knowledge, Oliver is a driven member of PF+A and one of the top in his field. With his professional yet friendly approachable nature he is an individual able to facilitate and communicate to clients, contractors, sub-contractors and other third parties to ensure that a project is always the best it can be.  Internally an exceptional trainer to the less experienced members of the team with an ease of teaching methods to ensure an unseamingly level of continuity for their development.

In his spare time Oliver enjoys spending time with his young family of three daughters, experiencing travelling and cultural diversity and of course Guernsey’s beautiful outdoor environment.