A “major” plan to knock down former high street offices for homes has been blocked by the council.

Despite the number of homes proposed being reduced from a previous proposal, the planning application to knock down a vacant office building in Lower High Street, near the Tesco Extra supermarket, was rejected today (November 1).

A similar application for 36 homes at the same site was also rejected by Watford Borough Council in February and was itself the third proposal to knock the building down.

Listed as a "major" plan through the planning portal, it would not fit in with the local context, fails to offer high quality accommodation, and would cause loss of light and privacy for neighbours, according to the council.

Of the 29 homes, 20 would be single aspect, meaning light can only get in from one side. The planning officer added that 18 fail to provide compliant amenity space for future residents.

The officer concluded that “the number of compromises to residential quality suggests unacceptable living standards”. It said this indicates the size of the development is “excessive”.

Watford Observer: The vacant office building seen from Lower High Street.The vacant office building seen from Lower High Street. (Image: Google Street View)

They added that the dropped kerb was not well-planned and the development would exacerbate parking issues without the proper agreements being completed to mitigate them.

The proposal was car-free. A review agreed with the applicant that it would not be viable to include affordable housing.

Neighbours, mostly from Crosfield Court next door, submitted 21 objections as the plan was being considered.

They raised the possibility the development would lead to “nightmare” traffic, loss of sunlight, and disruptive building work, with one describing the plan as “total madness”.

Watford Observer: CGI View 02 - from the design and access statement. Showing the view from Local Board RoadCGI View 02 - from the design and access statement. Showing the view from Local Board Road (Image: Watford Borough Council planning portal, Benchmark Architects, Nazmo Ltd)

According to the applicant, the block would have brought “much-needed new homes within this part of Watford” and created “high-quality new homes”, “whist not impacting upon the surrounding properties in an adverse manner”.

Documents submitted alongside the plan, on August 7, said feedback and reasons for refusal from the previous schemes had been taken on board so that the reduced scale and number of homes would limit issues that had been raised.

Earlier this year, architects on behalf of the applicant admitted that they had submitted a number of applications but had “paid close attention” to them to work with the council and try and find “the right solution”.