Imagine living in a house with no windows. That’s right, it’s unthinkable.

But an application submitted last year to convert an upholstery workshop in central Watford into flats, some of which have no windows, was permitted on appeal by a planning inspector last week after Watford Borough Council refused them.

The decision had gone to appeal because the council objected to the scheme. It felt the proposed residential units were "so small they did not qualify as housing" according to government standards.

You can see developer ISE Investments’ plans on the council’s website. Nine flats downstairs, six up, bin stores, a corridor and bike racks (more about these later). The smallest flat is 16.5sq m, the largest 22.5sq m. (National space standards suggest a minimum of 37sq m.)

There are no windows in any of the upstairs flats and one of the downstairs flats. There is no mention of showers, toilets, and kitchens, or fire escapes.

One thing there is, though, is cycle storage. There is a lot of debate in the documents over this. If you wanted to go for a pedal for a bit of fresh air and some sunlight, rest assured there would be somewhere safe to keep your bike.

If the windowless flats were built as set out, they would not be housing but a monument to bad law, greed and exploitation. And they would be closed immediately.

ISE knows this. It says it will not abuse development rights and it has since - in June - submitted a notification with detailed plans for nine flats in the same building that do all have windows.

So why not just save time and money and submit one set of sensible plans?

The real problem is with planning law.

Faced with a housing shortage and a construction industry in hibernation, the coalition government in 2010 said it would cut planning red tape. One solution was to allow empty offices, and later on some industrial buildings, to be converted to flats under permitted development.

In these applications, which councils have no control over, space and daylight are not considerations.

This has already led to problems, and ISE’s planning consultants cr2 Planning in their appeal say they can cite several examples of homes that do not come up to the council’s standards.

The Association of Public Service Excellence recently said half of councils think housing built under permitted development could threaten people’s health and wellbeing. Its chief executive Paul O’Brien warns such developments are in danger of becoming “the slum housing of the 21st century”.

The Government now says it is reviewing permitted development rights - especially the quality of the homes created.

About time too. This was a bad, hurried law that created more red tape and opened a loophole for exploitation.

The solution to a housing shortage is not a quick way to create bad housing. It is to make it easier to build good homes that people can afford.