Councillors have narrowly backed plans for a new 12-storey tower block in Watford town centre, despite the proposals being described as an “eyesore”.

The plans will see 63 apartments built on the former RBS bank site in Clarendon Road, but the block won’t include any parking or affordable housing.

Councillors on Watford Borough Council’s planning committee were deadlocked on the proposals, with the committee’s chair deciding to grant planning permission for the scheme.

Those opposed to the plans argued the scale and design of the building would impact on the nearby listed Palace Theatre and Beechen Grove Baptist Church.

Developers Iceni Projects and IDA London Holdings will now be allowed to demolish the existing building to replace it with a part-eight and part-12 storey building, which would also include a ground floor café or business lounge, along with a flexible community space.

Watford Observer: A view of the proposed building. Credit: Iceni Projects/IDA London HoldingsA view of the proposed building. Credit: Iceni Projects/IDA London Holdings

The development will include 18 studio apartments, along with 29 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom flats.

Earlier plans for the site included a 21-storey block, but this was withdrawn after the council refused to support the proposals.

Mairead Flower, of Iceni Projects, told councillors the development would “transform a under-utilised site to provide high quality new homes”.

She added that all flats would have access to a private balcony, while there would also be a communal roof terrace for residents.

However, there would be no parking for the site, with the developers highlighting its proximity to Watford Junction and the town centre.

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The developers also said it would not be viable to include affordable housing within the scheme, but the council will receive a £300,000 payment for off-site investment into affordable housing.

Deputy mayor Councillor Aga Dychton (Liberal Democrat, Central) told councillors the proposals would be “devastating” for Watford town centre’s character, and would lead to the Grade II Palace Theatre and Beechen Grove Baptist Church “disappearing”.

Cllr Dychton said 5-10 storeys would be preferable to the current proposals, and also raised concerns about the number of one-bedroom homes in the block.

During the debate, Councillor Sara Jane Trebar (Labour, Vicarage) also warned of tower blocks “encroaching” on the town centre and described the proposals as an “eyesore” alongside Beechen Grove church.

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Councillor Stephen Johnson proposed rejection of the plans, saying the scale, height and design would be unsympathetic to the character of the local area, as well as a lack of amenity space for residents.

In response, the committee’s chair Councillor Peter Jeffrey acknowledged sentiment around tower blocks in the town, but said he thought it was a “very good scheme”

Council officers also warned the reasons for approval may not stand up to scrutiny if the developers were to appeal.

Ahead of the meeting, officers had recommended the plans for approval, saying the development “would make efficient use of this town centre site to provide high quality residential dwellings in a sustainable location whilst also adding to the commercial offer and town centre vitality”.

Ultimately, a vote on the proposals was tied at 4-4, with one abstention, with planning permission was granted as a result of a casting vote by chair Cllr Jeffrey.