A Planning Inspector has allowed plans to convert an industrial building in Watford into 15 bedsits, despite seven bedsits having no windows, ruling that the scheme met the requirements of the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO).

The appeal concerned an industrial building in Watford that was last in use as a workshop. The building is single-storey and has a high dual-pitched roof. Inside it has a mezzanine floor, but no roof insulation. The building has only small, high-level windows at ground-floor level.

The appellant sought planning permission to convert the building into 15 studio flats/bedsits under schedule 2, part 3, class PA of the GDPO, which allows changes of use from use class B1(c) (industrial) to use class C3 (residential).

The flats would each have an area of between 16.5 and 21 square metres, less than half the minimum standard for a 1-bed flat, which is 37sq m. All of the upstairs flats and one downstairs would not have any windows.

The council refused permission on the grounds that the quality of the accommodation proposed was so poor that the units could not be considered “dwellings”, and therefore did not benefit from permitted development rights.

The council officer’s report noted that the units “would not provide any meaningful outlook, daylight or even appropriate ventilation”, and that upper-floor units “would have no means of escape in case of fire”. This “oppressive environment” would have “a serious impact on the health of future occupiers”, it concluded.

The assigned Inspector, Mr Steven Rennie, acknowledged that the proposed units were small, and that “living without a window would not be a positive living environment”.

However, he noted, “the provisions of the GPDO require the decision-maker to solely assess the impact of the proposed development in relation to the conditions given in paragraph PA.2”.

“The size of individual dwellings to be formed by the change of use and whether they would have windows or ventilation is not a condition of the GPDO” for the change of use proposed, he concluded. It was on that basis that he allowed the appeal.

Following the decision, the Mayor of Watford described the development as ‘sub-standard’, ‘a disgrace’ and said it “set such a low bar for the homes that people are expected to live in”.

08 August 2019