Housing is an issue that really matters. It’s not just about making sure everyone has a roof over their head. Having a proper home gives people dignity and allows them to live healthy and happy lives.

Like many people in the town I was shocked when the Government’s Planning Inspector ruled in favour of tiny, windowless flats in Watford. These flats would be far too small, lack safe fire exits, seven of them would have no windows at all and they would back on to a service road. Watford planners decided that these were not fit for people to live in. The developer chose to appeal this decision and shockingly the government inspector approved the plans.

The inspector said this was allowed because of ‘Permitted Development’ rules, where an office can be converted into housing without getting planning permission from the council. These rules are simply wrong and too often result in situations where developers can get away with building houses that are not fit for human habitation.

That’s why my colleague Cllr Ian Stotesbury and I have started a petition calling on the Government to change these rules. We need to make it clear that situations like these are unacceptable and the law must change to protect people from living in totally unsuitable and unsafe conditions. You can sign the petition at www.watfordlibdems.org/reform_planning_rights.

In Watford, we are under increasing pressure from central government to build more homes. Building more homes is important but it should never come at the expense of local infrastructure and of providing residents with a good quality of life. We are doing all we can get this right but too often the odds are stacked against local councils.

The Government should be working with councils to do the right thing and not cram in more and more homes at the expense of good living standards. There must be a balance between providing people with somewhere to live but also making sure that this is somewhere that allows them to live with dignity. We cannot allow situations like this to happen again.

  • Peter Taylor is Elected Mayor of Watford