Watford's mayor has written to the Secretary of State calling for an "urgent review" of a planning law after a developer won an appeal over a scheme including windowless flats.

Peter Taylor says the current laws surrounding permitted development make it "far too easy" for developers to abuse them.

A government inspector approved plans for 15 small flats in a building in Wellstones in the town centre - seven of which would have no windows.

Permitted development rights meant ISE Investments did not need to apply for planning permission, but needed to notify Watford Borough Council it was changing the use of the building from industrial to residential.

But the council objected to the scheme because it felt the proposed residential units were "so small they did not qualify as housing" according to government standards, so the decision went to appeal.

Watford Observer:

Read more: Plans for tiny flats with no windows get green light after appeal

However last month, ISE Investments submitted a notice of change of use to turn the building in Wellstones into nine flats rather than 15 - all of which would have windows. This application is currently being considered by the council. This application was submitted before the successful appeal.

After the planning inspector's decision, Mr Taylor wrote in a letter to James Brokenshire MP: "These plans are so brazenly in breach of minimum standards for residential property as set by your own government that it beggars belief they have been approved on appeal. I find the prospect of people living in these units extremely concerning and would worry for the physical and mental wellbeing of any future inhabitants.

"I fear it is far too easy for developers to abuse permitted development rights and build substandard accommodation which is not subject to the proper rigour and checks that an authority would normally give to a planning application.

"Local councils should have the powers given them to prevent situations like these from occurring. I would urge you to review this case and take this as an opportunity to change the law surrounding permitted development."

Watford Observer:

Watford Labour parliamentary candidate Chris Ostrowski echoed the Mayor, describing homes with no windows as a "disgrace".

He added: "We cannot allow people in Watford to live in conditions because of legal loopholes that exist as a result of poor planning policies. We will be campaigning for a legal minimum dwelling size alongside Watford Labour councillors and the national Labour housing team."

Councils do have powers to restrict permitted development rights. Article 4 directions require developers to seek full planning permission to turn offices for example into homes. Watford Borough Council currently operates these restrictions in Clarendon Road and other employment zones in the town.

President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Ben Derbyshire, said: "The government’s current permitted development rules are quite frankly appalling. Evidence clearly shows that office to residential conversions, under current regulations, result in poor quality housing that sidesteps standards put in place to ensure people are able to lead healthy lives. Conversions result in homes without access to sufficient light, homes that fail to meet national space standards and bypass local sustainability standards.

"We will continue to make a strong case against the current policy."

Meanwhile, the 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 to this scheme HK Architects were approached again today for comment from ISE Investments and Imran Dhanji.