“It is with a heavy heart, but I have no choice.”

This is the sort of thing most of us think when fixing the washing machine means we can’t afford new clothes this month.

Not so with Watford Borough Council planning committee, who say it when they find themselves agreeing to things they don’t agree with.

Last week, Watford Borough Council approved two schemes to build flats, despite councillors saying they wanted to vote against them. Click here and here.

OK, the government has changed the planning rules to make it easier to get things built. There are good reasons: Many people are priced out of the areas they grew up in, or are forced to live a long way from their work. Not long ago, a NIMBY contingent seemed to be able to block new homes at will. And the construction industry needed a shot in the arm after the recession.

But most of the new houses that are being built seem to be clusters of luxury family homes or flats, lived in by the people who found it so easy to get their own way before. Surely this is missing the point.

We’ve written about some existing eyesores this week. In a few years’ time, when people ask how those new ones ever got planning permission, the record will show that councillors voted unanimously to support them.

The “heavy heart” bit will be a footnote.

Surely there are ways to fight back – tactical abstentions to force narrow approvals? Using officers to fight to secure affordable homes and stop land being milked dry? If enough local authorities turned down schemes that were unacceptable, the burden on the appeal process itself could be a form of protest.

But saying that you oppose something and then voting for it “with a heavy heart” is pretty feeble.