Elderly residents unable to open their windows at a sheltered housing scheme in Devizes have spoken of their disgust that Wiltshire Council has refused planning permission for replacement windows.

People living at Chantry Court, New Park Street, were astonished when council planning officers rejected the application on the grounds the upvc windows would have a “significant adverse impact” on the character and appearance of the conservation area. Planners said it would result in “substantial harm” to the surrounding heritage assets including St Mary’s Church.

The existing white sash wooden windows are rotten and the proposed replacements are white upvc.

Despite Chantry Court being a modern red-brick building built in the 1980s, planning officers said the new windows would harm the conservation area and they would prefer sash windows to be installed.

Planning officer Rebecca Hughes said while the council noted the reasons for the plan, they did not outweigh the damage to the heritage assets that would result.

Resident May Simper, 82, who has lived at Chantry Court for 17 years, said: “Opening the windows has always been a problem as long as I have been here. I am furious that Wiltshire Council has refused planning permission, they think more of the surroundings than the people who live here. ”

Jean Alexander, 77, who has lived there for almost seven years, said: “When you get to your sixties and seventies most of us have some arthritis. When you are cooking fish, for example, you want to be able to open the window to get rid of the smells.”

Joy Spencer, 87, who has lived there almost eight years, said: “I just rely on my family to open my windows for me. In the summer the flats get really hot, it’s airless. I used to prop the door open but was told not to do that because it is a fire risk.”

Margaret Perkins, 78, who has lived there 12 years, said: “A lot of the windows are absolutely rotten. The council’s reason for refusal is disgusting.”

Cynthia Smith, 88, who has lived there two years, said: “I’m partially disabled with arthritis and balance problems and the only window I can open is my bathroom window.”

Resident Vicki Messam, 68, said: “Raglan, the managing agents of Chantry Court, are as frustrated as we are. Wiltshire Council’s refusal of planning permission verges on being discriminatory in that it is giving priority to the external appearance of the building rather than the needs of the elderly residents.”

Her husband Michael Messam, 72, said: “The new windows will give us better heat and sound insulation. We pay into a fund to pay for refurbishments and if the council insist on sash windows it will cost another £100,000.”

A planning appeal has been submitted by the window company awarded the contract to replace the windows and Chantry Court residents of have sent in letters.

Devizes Town Council’s planning committee reiterated that it supports the planning application.