intu has released plans to bring in new doors at its shopping centre in Watford.

The company proposes to remove its doors to the entrances of the centre at the Queens Road junction and instead put doors on Queens Road to create an accessible tunnel-like walkway for its shoppers.

In 2015, following a backlash from councillors and the public, intu withdrew its plans, after Queens Road traders claimed people would be put off from going to The Broadway shops as the doors would act as a barrier.

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Earlier this month, intu revealed its new proposal which Queens residents and traders discussed at a meeting on Tuesday night.

A number of concerns were raised at the meeting which the Watford Observer has put to intu as a Q&A.

intu has spent the last couple of weeks carrying out a public consultation. As of yet, no official planning application has been made.

All responses in the Q&A have come directly from intu.

What are the key changes from 2015?

• The new proposals are for one set of doors that the public would have to walk through rather than two.

• Doors are now fully automatic with no push or pull required at all. The doors will be locked open all night to ensure access at all times along the public route

• More glazing for views through the doors

• More signage promoting The Broadway (including at the high street end) and signalling it as a route to Watford Junction station via a detailed wayfinding scheme

• More landscaping, lighting, and attractive features to improve the area by the Beechen Grove subway

What are the reasons for implementing these doors?

We want to create a safer route through to the centre and the surrounding areas for all users. There have been instances of anti-social behaviour and many cycling-related incidents such as near misses and collisions at the crossing, which we hope to prevent with the addition of doors and additional signage. We hope this will encourage cyclists to dismount in this busy pedestrianised area.

The current thoroughfare is also open to the elements, so it can get cold/wet/slippery during bad weather, posing further danger to users, especially the elderly and infirm.

How many new doors will there be and what is the width?

Two, either side; the width of the space between each set of sliding doors is 1.8m and therefore a generous 3.6m of clear space will be provided into each end of the enclosure at all times.

What will replace the doors that are already in the centre? Will there be shutters instead?

The current doors will be removed and at night, a security shutter will be pulled down. At the moment, a shutter comes down over the doors.

Is it true that the new doors will be able to pivot all the way back to allow greater access?

We are currently reviewing design options but as part of the current doors designs the panels either side of the sliding doors can be pivoted and folded back. The doors will be glazed and will slide open automatically.

Automatic opening will allow ease of access for wheelchair and ambulant users, and at night, the doors will be locked in their open position so people are aware the route is fully accessible and can continue to use it at all times.

Will the new doors be covered at all or will you be able to see straight through towards Queens Road?

These will be a glazed set of doors with a glazed over panel, and we intend to put signage to The Broadway above them (as shown in the CGI image).

Will the new doors still be wide enough for emergency access?

In an emergency during centre opening hours, the sliding doors will open and remain in the open position for the duration of the emergency to allow the public in the centre and covered space to evacuate.

During the night, when the doors are already locked open, any centre staff within the centre will evacuate through the dedicated emergency exits. Any public within the covered space will be able to escape through the already open doors.

Is there a possibility the new doors can stay open throughout the summer?

The doors are automatic and will open / close regularly throughout the day and be locked open at night. The doors will provide shelter to the wind and cold elements but will be open throughout a day to allow air to flow through.

What’s to stop these doors from becoming the next step to this not being classed as a highway, which would mean that access to the route can be legally blocked?

The route is currently public highway over which vehicular rights have been extinguished through an historic order. We will ask for the section of Queens Road to be made into a public footpath rather than a public highway, meaning we can add the doors, but that the right of way will absolutely remain, even by law.

What happens if the automatic doors fail – what contingency plan is in place?

We would be able to fix the sliding doors in the open position or pivot and fold back all of the panels to create and maintain access.

What exactly is a “cycling incident”?

Since August last year, there has been 48 recorded incidents of a serious nature, either anti-social behaviour or health & safety issues. These include large groups of teenagers on bicycles intent on trying to enter the centre.

Members of staff have unfortunately been physically assaulted when seeking to stop these incidents. Bikers cycling along Queens Road have caused accidents and injury by colliding with pedestrians who are moving across their path.

In very rainy conditions, the floors become very wet and bikes naturally cause a greater issue, bringing more water through. We have had numerous slips and falls as a result.

Could the surface of the floor in the tunnel be changed to deter cyclists from riding through?

Rumble strips were considered to prevent the cycle related issues experienced previously however, these were discounted as they would hinder access for able bodies and in particular ambulant or disabled pedestrians or those in wheelchairs.

Is there a forecast of how many people will use Queens Road after the doors are put in?

We do not anticipate the volume footfall to change because of the doors; naturally our new extension and new retailers will increase footfall long term but we do not see this being an issue operationally.

Has a footfall count be conducted at all in Queens Road, for example near the subway?

intu Watford has a process of counting footfall at each end of Queens Road and throughout the centre, and regularly reviews peak trading hours to assess all operational needs.

Will the improvements on the intu side of the subway be replicated on the Broadway side?

Our plans also include enhancing the surrounding areas by making a more attractive and welcoming space. We’re proposing new landscaping, additional cycle parking, new lighting (LED spotlights and linear lights), seating and nicer paving. We have been asked to consider some planters and lighting on the Broadway Subway side and we are happy to consider this.

Will a store directory for the Broadway be implemented?

We would be happy to do this.

Will any of the proposals such as signage, subway enhancements be done if a planning application fails?

The signage and enhancement forms part of the entire proposal that intu are making along with the doors.

Will all the changes to the area be done at the same time?


Vicki Costello, general manager at intu Watford, said: “Following consultation sessions for local traders, councillors and representatives of the local cycling, rambling and disability support groups, over 120 customers and local people visited the public exhibition at the weekend. The overall response so far has been in support of the plans to make the area safer and create a more vibrant and welcoming environment for all.

“The public route will be open and accessible at all times, and we’ve had some fantastic feedback which is helping us to make our proposals even better.”

Concerns about anti-social behaviour and rough sleeping within the new tunnel have also been raised. intu admit they cannot stop people sleeping there, but says it is nothing that does not happen already. intu says it will be introducing more CCTV cameras and nightly security patrols of the centre

intu are aiming to put in an official application in the summer and if successful hope the project will be completed by spring 2019.

Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst who campaigned heavily against the proposals in 2015 is more open to the new plans.

He said: “The previous plans of four sets of fixed doors were unacceptable. The changes shows intu has listened to our concerns with improvements to the subway, extra lighting and signage especially for The Broadway shops and these could outweigh any potential issues.

“Automatic doors that are fully open at night are essential and I want to see extra lighting and enhancements on the intu side replicated on The Broadway shops side - that is essential.”

Helen Lynch, chairman of the Queens Community Action Group, said: “We are still deeply concerned about the impact of these doors and the barrier they may cause to Queens Road. intu has removed its glass doors and given them to us so there must be a reason for that.”

At the public exhibition in the intu centre, a number of people expressed their support for the plans.

Danielle Kingsley, who lives close to the town centre, said: “I think it’s a great idea. The have been a number of times my children have nearly been knocked over by a cyclist. Therefore this is a great idea.”

Two ladies who were born and bred in Watford initially marched over and described the proposal as “ridiculous” and a “disgrace”.

However, after the proposals were explained that access to Queens Road would be different to that of In 2015, the pair came around to the idea.

The exhibition remains on show in the intu centre. For more information or to leave a comment, contact Richard Harris via freephone 08000356480 or on the intu Watford website.

What do you think of the new proposals? Let us know in the comments above and on the details above.

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