A controversial Chinese massage parlour in West Watford has been approved by politicians after they were convinced it would not be offering illicit services.

Watford Council’s development control panel voted through the plans after the owner said the establishment would only offer "clean" services such as acupuncture.

The proposal to change the use of the vacant unit in Euston Avenue to a "massage parlour" has run into strong opposition from people living nearby.

Councillors said they understood the concerns of parents considering the goings-on in massage parlours in "Soho" and red light districts.

However they felt the phrase "massage parlour" had been misleading and the business’s application had since been changed to a "massage treatment studio".

Addressing the committee, Michael No, the studio’s proprietor, said he had his partner had already invested more than £8,000 into doing up the business and he had not anticipated such a backlash from the community.

He said: "Our intentions are nothing but offering the community the service and treatments.

"Given an opportunity, we want to show the local community of Watford how wonderful Chinese therapy is, such as acupuncture."

George Derbyshire, a Liberal Democrat representing Park, said he sympathised with the concerns residents.

He said "I think we all know the sort of activity that goes on in massage parlours, not least in Soho or in the red light district of Wan Chai in Hong Kong."

"I think everyone agrees Euston Avenue is not an appropriate location for that Wan Chai red light district activity."

Councillor Mark Watkin said he had looked into Chinese massage was found it was an innocent practice with an ancient history.

The Lib Dem for Nascot added: "I did some googling and there are some very respectable Chinese massage techniques going back to 2,700BC. To suggest all Chinese massage techniques are illicit is wrong."

During the meeting councillors discussed placing restrictions on the parlour’s opening hours to allay residents concerns.

Holywell  Labour councillor, Nigel Bell, expressed concerns about the extra traffic the new business would bring the road, which is in a controlled parking zone.

However Iain Sharpe, an Oxhey Liberal Democrat, said if the council agreed the parlour’s activities were legitimate he could not see any justification for restricting its hours.

In the end the application was approved by five votes to two.