Controversial plans to build windowless flats in The Wellstones may not go ahead after alternative plans were approved by Watford Borough Council (WBC) last month.
Developer ISE Investments’ initial proposal of 15 flats in The Wellstones in Watford, seven of which would be windowless, was approved by a government planning inspector in July after WBC had rejected it, much to the dismay of local residents and politicians.
The 15 flats described in that initial proposal ranged from 16.5sq metres to 22sq metres, prompting Elected Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor to say they were “far too small, lack safe fire exits, seven of them had no windows at all and they would back on to a very busy service road.”
But WBC has now approved alternative plans ISE Investments, which would see the The Wellstones building turned into nine flats rather than 15.
If WBC had rejected the plan, ISE could have appealed and had a government planning inspector overturn the decision again.
As it stands, the developers have yet to disclose which plan they will be going ahead with.
Speaking about the original plans Mayor Taylor said: “It’s very clear that the law surrounding permitted development needs to change. It is not acceptable that councils are unable to stop poor developments such as this. I have already written to the Secretary of State asking him to urgently look at these rules and change them in light of cases like this.
“This is not a situation I would like to see happening in our town again. Everyone should have the dignity of living in a decent home.
“I think it’s worth noting with The Wellstones case that WBC did not have the powers to turn down this scheme due to Permitted Development rules. This is obviously highly frustrating and a sign that the law must be changed.”
A spokesman for ISE Investments told BBC News: “We can understand the mayor’s comments and we appreciate the disconnect between central and local government in certain planning matters. Whilst some developers abuse these rights this is not our intention.
“As a technical point, windows would be normally introduced in a further, separate, alterations application as required when carrying out this type of permitted development conversion.”