As a resident of Watford for over 40 years, and ‘stakeholder’ for over 60 years, I feel that the council’s ‘masterplan’ to improve the top area of our town centre, creating a 'cultural quarter' around the town hall is a grave mistake.

Let me remind all that it was our councils who removed the gates to Cassiobury Park and installed a disastrous ‘motorway link’ underpass between the narrow Rickmansworth Road and St Alban’s Road, producing the “fortress town” as referred to in this ‘masterplan’.

There was the disastrous development of the Watford Springs Leisure Centre, the town centre one way system, the loss of interesting buildings, the Junction station front redevelopment with no easy passenger ‘drop-off ’ area and limited cycle storage to mention only a few.

Councils continually undertake confused, inconsistent and disastrous planning for which we residents and council tax payers suffer the long term price.

Yes, we have had some improvements, such as the two new leisure centres some ten years ago and recently bringing a cinema back to the town centre, however difficult that might be for parents to drop-off or collect their children from.

But then there is the confused recent development of the market, moved at our expense behind the high street shops and then when found to be ignored allowed back into the Parade, so the market has become a ‘white elephant’ and the high street has become congested and the new pavement dirty from food.

The removal of the ugly ‘60’s development’ shops blocking the view of St Mary’s Church and opening of this area was also an improvement as is the recent regeneration of the public space around the Pond. However this ‘masterplan’ appears to give the impression that ‘development’ for its own sake is a good thing. The above examples remind us this is not so and the Masterplan’s quote of “underused sites within the north hub” and “ the area around Iceland and Pryzm could be improved with taller buildings” is worrying as it appears that the council is driven to overdevelop with high rise buildings everywhere.

What kind of legacy will this leave? Hopefully not one like the 1960s tower block estate problems that town planners have left us with elsewhere.

Can I remind the council that the town hall area north of Rickmansworth Road is at the edge of a residential area and also that it does not need a “new vibrant quarter” adjacent to it.

The infill of the Avenue Car Park, opposite the library, is not what residents need, nor more high rise residential housing on the leisure facilities or the town hall car park.

Surely we do not need more hotels and certainly not the town hall developed into one. If the town hall needs more efficient office space then build this behind the existing town hall, in its car park, with council parking underneath. And why do we need a new museum in this area when we have one in Lower High Street in the attractive and historical Benskin’s building?

The ‘Masterplan’ looks like a property developer’s dream. The regeneration of the shopping and club area between the flyover and Rickmansworth Road certainly needs to be considered, as does the area around the Telephone Exchange, but please be very careful of alterations around the town hall and library.

This ‘Masterplan’ has too large an agenda and that it should be broken down and undertaken in stages to see their effect and not repeat the mistakes made by our councils in the past.

P. Rogers

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