Only a matter of months ago, a quaint detached house that had been given a new lick of paint would barely make most of us bat an eyelid.

But now one lilac-painted property in Oxhey village is famous - thanks to an anonymous complaint and viral coverage of a council's call that the colour is "harmful".

Those who aren't experts in planning will have been bewildered by Watford Borough Council's decision to turn down what many would agree is a lovely new colour and arguably an improvement on the previous cream.

Watford Observer:

The crux of the matter is this property sits within a conservation area, which puts constraints on what new buildings are allowed and even what people can do to their own homes.

Homeowners Kate Codrington and her partner Ian Davis say they did not know their home was in a conservation area, and that they would need planning permission to paint it a different colour.

Read more: Homeowner 'shocked' after council says new house colour is 'unacceptable'

Being constrained by what you can and can't do to your own house may be incredibly frustrating - and could even seem a curtain-twitcher's charter to those informed on by an unidentified neighbour.

And limiting people to colours that other people might have used before might be more a curse than conservation.

But scrapping the conservation area in Oxhey, which is what Kate and Ian have called for in a petition, may not be the best move because it could risk the village being open to other, less sympathetic, developments.

To resolve this, an appeal to the planning inspectorate must surely be the way forward - just last month a planning decision on a neighbouring property in Capel Road was overturned even though the inspector acknowledged the conservation status.

Read more: Oxhey Village mural now gains support of Watford Borough Council

In the longer term, many people will question why applications like painting a house a new colour can't be judged on their own merits.

It may be time to look again at the rules governing conservation areas and ask what is genuinely worth protecting, and which rules we could do without.

Perhaps giving the whole community a say would get more people involved, meaning fewer cases of breaking the rules and fewer appeals.