Homes plans that include seven flats with no windows has been given permission after a planning inspector overruled council officers.

In December, Watford Borough Council objected to a change of use application to turn a former upholstery workshop in Wellstones in the town centre into 15 flats.

But the applicant, Imran Dhanji, has successfully appealed the decision.

Mr Dhanji did not need planning permission because it is a permitted development - but the council argued that permitted development rights did not apply in this case because the proposed flats were "so small", it did not qualify as housing according to government standards, so it went to an appeal.

Government planning inspector Steve Rennie acknowledged that the proposed units are "small" but ruled the proposal met the requirements of the general permitted development order (GDPO) – planning rules brought in by the coalition government that allow workplaces to be converted to flats.

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Mr Rennie concluded the act allows Mr Dhanji to change the use of the building - despite concerns about the size of the flats.

The plans include 15 homes - nine on the ground floor and six on the mezzanine level. None of the upper units would have any windows and neither would one of the flats on the ground floor.

Mr Rennie wrote: "Overall, I recognise that the proposed units are small and that, for example, living without a window would not be a positive living environment. However, the provisions of the GPDO 2015 require the decision makers to solely assess the impact of the proposed development in relation to the conditions given in the order."

The flats range from 16.5sq m to 22sq m in size. One-bedroomed flats should be a minimum of 39sq m.

No parking spaces are provided but the plans include 18 cycling spaces.

The council officer refused the scheme because the units "would not provide any meaningful outlook, daylight or even appropriate ventilation", and that upper-floor units "would have no means of escape in case of fire". They said this "oppressive environment" would have "a serious impact on the health of future occupiers".

Following the appeal, Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor said: "We are very disappointed by this decision. We strongly opposed this sub-standard development, because it is the wrong building and location for a residential conversion.

“The living space is extremely poor, seven of the homes have no windows, there is no amenity space and residents will step out of the building onto a very busy service road.

"It is a disgrace that central government has set such a low bar for the homes that people are expected to live in. Councils should be given the powers to reject applications like these. We will continue to reject these type of planning applications as we expect more for Watford. So should our government."

Mr Rennie ruled that the council does not have to pay Mr Dhanji's appeal costs.

A Planning Inspectorate spokesperson said: “Inspectors make their decisions after giving full consideration of the evidence submitted at the time of the appeal, taking account of current planning policies, guidance and legislation.”

Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government said it is committed to "reviewing permitted development rights, particularly in respect of the quality standard of the homes delivered".

Agents HK Architects have been approached for comment from Mr Dhanji.