A proposal to create a complex of 261 flats in a building rising to 16 storeys has been refused by Watford Borough Council.

The council’s planning committee were unanimous in their decision to turn down plans to redevelop Exchange House in the town centre.

Last night, councillors were asked to consider a scheme to demolish Exchange House and replace it with new homes in a building ranging from five to 16 storeys.

Although the principle of development on this site didn’t seem to phase the committee, they raised several issues with the application.

This ranged from the height and design of the building, the loss of a locally listed building, the site’s proximity to the ring road, "inadequate" lighting for some properties, and the building’s impact on nearby residents and heritage buildings, such as Holy Rood Roman Catholic Church.

They were even concerned about the positioning of a proposed children’s playground while the number of affordable homes and car club spaces offered was also questioned.

Watford Observer: Exchange House currently. This building would be demolished under the plansExchange House currently. This building would be demolished under the plans

Despite being recommended for approval and receiving just eight objections, all nine councillors voted to refuse.

The applicants’ scheme was the third official design to come forward. Previously 60 Exchange Road Ltd had submitted designs rising up to 18 and 21 storeys.

But agent Peter Jeffery said his clients were not "comfortable" with 21 storeys and reduced the scheme down to 16 storeys.

Ahead of the meeting, Mr Jeffery, from Sphere25, said his "team had worked hard on the scheme for over two years to achieve the best proposal".

Watford Observer: The proposed developmentThe proposed development

Council planning officer Alice Reade said in her report the proposed scheme is in a "sustainable" town centre location, adding it offers "good quality" new homes with an "appropriate" mix of housing and a 20 per cent provision of affordable housing, including 60 per cent of those units for social rent.

She also reminded the committee about the prior approval granted under permitted development rights to convert Exchange House into 126 flats, of which none would be affordable.

Watford Observer:

Central Watford councillor Aga Dychton, who does not sit on the committee, spoke against the application, but no members of the public were present to speak against.

Despite the council officer’s recommendation to approve the application, councillors had too many concerns about the size of the building and its impact on neighbouring properties and decided to turn it down.

Keep an eye on the Observer website in the coming days for more details about why the application was turned down by the planning committee.