First Draft Watford Local Plan 2020-2036
Chapter 1: Introduction
1. 1. What is the Local Plan?
1. 1. 1. The Watford Local Plan sets out the growth strategy for the borough, identifies how much development will take place and where it should be delivered. It sets out sites suitable for development and planning policies that will be used to determine planning applications. The Local Plan will cover the period from 2020 to 2036.
1. 2. Why is a Local Plan required?
1. 2. 1. A Local Plan is required to guide new development so that it comes forward in a coordinated manner, making the best and most appropriate use of land to meet the needs of the community.
1. 2. 2. Watford's existing Local Plan, consisting of the Part 1 Core Strategy 2006-31 (2013) and saved policies from the Watford District Plan (2003), are more than five years old. It is therefore out of date and existing planning policies have less weight when making planning decisions. A new Local Plan is required to better manage the planning process and deliver the development needed in the area.
1. 2. 3. Since the adoption of the Core Strategy there have been changes to planning legislation and national planning guidance. This includes delivering new housing to meet a housing target based on the Government's standardised Objectively Assessed Need calculations. The housing requirement for Watford has increased from 260 dwellings per year in 2013 to 793 dwellings per year in 2019. New information is also available for employment and retail provision that can more accurately reflect changes anticipated with future population growth.
1. 3. How does the Local Plan fit in with national policy?
1. 3. 1. Local Plans should be consistent with national policy and guidance set out by the Government. This is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (2019) and the Planning Practice Guidance. This establishes a framework from which local planning authorities can produce Local Plans.
1. 3. 2. Local Plan policies should not replicate national guidance. Instead, Local Plans should interpret national guidance to cover local issues.
1. 3. 3. Producing a Local Plan is a requirement of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012.
1. 4. What work has been undertaken to date?
1. 4. 1. In September-October 2018 the council undertook the Issues and Options (Regulation 18) consultation seeking comments on the key issues facing the borough to 2036. The council has considered the comments received and these have be used to inform the preparation of this first Draft of the new Local Plan. These comments are publically available alongside this consultation document. The timetable for the Local Plan is set out in Figure 1. Further information about the preparation of the Local Plan and key stages set out below are available in the council's Local Development Scheme (2019).
1. 5. Figure 1: Timetable
Issues and Options Consultation
September – October 2018
First Draft Local Plan Consultation (Preferred Options)
September – November 2019
Publication of the Final Draft Local Plan
Submission of the Draft Local Plan to the Planning Inspectorate
Independent Examination of the Local Plan
October 2020- February 2021
Adoption of the Local Plan
1. 6. Why are we undertaking this consultation?
1. 6. 1. The council is now asking for your views on the First Draft Local Plan. This version of the Plan has been prepared under Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Planning) (England) Regulations 2012. This consultation stage is also informally referred to as 'Preferred Options' and is used to develop and consolidate views on draft planning policies as a follow up to the previous Issues and Options consultation.
1. 6. 2. This is a draft version of the Plan which means that elements of it can still change before it is published and submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination. Alterations can be made based on the feedback received from this consultation or the findings of any emerging evidence.
1. 7. What happens next?
1. 7. 1. This First Draft Local Plan sets out the council's preferred approach to new development up to 2036. This can be amended to reflect local and strategic issues and ensure that it is consistent with national planning guidance.
1. 7. 2. The responses received for this consultation will be used to inform the Final Draft Local Plan. These comments, and the council's response to these, will be made available to the public when the Final Draft Local Plan is published for consultation. This is planned for May 2020.
1. 7. 3. The council has been updating its evidence base to better understand the needs of the borough. This information will be used to help determine how we can best meet them in a way that is well considered and managed during the next plan period. This work will continue to ensure the new Local Plan is based on the best information available.
1. 7. 4. The Sustainability Appraisal is an iterative process that is used to identify the most suitable and sustainable approaches to development in a local plan. The Appraisal sets out the alternative policy approaches considered to date and the potential impact they could have on the three elements of sustainability; economy, environment and society. This work will be further refined for the publication version of the draft Local Plan.
1. 7. 5. A viability assessment of the Local Plan will be undertaken prior to the document being submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for independent examination. Viability is the process of assessing whether a site is financially deliverable by considering if the value generated by a development is more than the cost of developing it. This assessment will consider the viability of each site and policy and how these cumulatively contribute towards the Plan. Therefore, the preferred approaches set out in this Plan are subject to change. For example, the draft policy on affordable housing requires 50% provision and the provision for accessible and adaptable homes is 20%. The viability assessment will test if these requirements are deliverable or if there is scope to raise the requirements currently set out on a site by site basis.
1. 8. How to use this document
1. 8. 1. The Local Plan is a document that covers a wide range of complex and inter-related issues and sites considered suitable for development. The document has nine chapters with three primary topic areas including:
- Planning policies to guide new development and determine planning applications;
- Development areas where significant change may take place (referred to as Strategic Development Areas); and
- Defined sites where specific uses can come forward.
1. 8. 2. The information used to support the draft policies and sites is set out in the council's evidence base.
1. 9. Strategic and local Policies
Strategic Planning Policies
1. 9. 1. These policies set out the planning requirements that are essential to guide Watford's future growth. They provide the foundations of a planning framework to inform planning decisions. Strategic planning policies are material considerations when determining planning applications. These are set out in Chapter 2.
Local planning policies
1. 9. 2. Local planning policies are intended to address local issues. In Watford, they ensure that the development is of high quality that will help Watford prosper as development takes place. As a suite of planning policies, together they are used to guide new development that delivers the vison and objectives set out in the Local Plan. They are a material consideration alongside national guidance when determining planning applications. These are set out in chapters 3 to 9.
Strategic Development Areas
1. 9. 3. These are strategic areas in the borough where new development will be supported in principle if it is consistent with the Local Plan. These policies set out key principles to steer development, but do not set out specific details. These will be determined on a case by case basis. These can also be supported through other planning documents such planning briefs, masterplans and supplementary planning documents. The Strategic Development Areas are set out in chapter
1. 9. 4. Site allocations define land that has been identified for new development. These sites are where development would be acceptable in principle for a specified use such as housing, employment and community facilities or a mix of uses. The development potential is identified where appropriate and constraints that need to be considered when proposals are prepared. These are set out in chapter 4.
1. 10. Collaborative working
1. 10. 1. The Localism Act (2011) and National Planning Policy Framework requires local authorities who share cross boundary issues to work collaboratively and constructively with stakeholders when preparing a Local Plan. This is referred to as the 'Duty to Cooperate'. The intention is that strategic issues facing the wider area are considered early in the planning process and potential solutions identified that can be delivered in a more strategic way.
1. 10. 2. In Watford, some of the key strategic issues include the provision of new housing to support a growing population, providing space for employment uses necessary to help support a thriving economy, and the delivery of infrastructure (e.g. schools) to improve existing provision and support new development. Key stakeholders working with Watford Borough Council include the South West Hertfordshire authorities of Dacorum, Hertsmere, St Albans City and District and Three Rivers alongside Hertfordshire County Council as well as Government agencies and organisations. The five local authority areas that make up the South West Hertfordshire form their own Housing Market and Functional Economic Market Areas. This means that housing and employment needed within the wider area should be met within these administrative boundaries.
1. 10. 3. Assessments have been carried out to objectively identify the housing and employment capacity of Watford. This has identified that Watford will be unable to meet its housing target within its own boundaries. Economically, Watford's strength is to provide floor space to support office based employment while other forms of employment support businesses within designated employment areas. The council's evidence base has indicated that Watford will be able to support office based employment but will have a shortfall of land available to meet other forms of employment related to general industry. The council engaged with neighbouring authorities through the preparation of joint evidence bases and other discussions about how to most appropriately meet its development needs both locally and strategically.
1. 10. 4. The council has been working with infrastructure providers to identify the requirements needed to support the growth anticipated in the area and how these can be implemented. This engagement is on- going and will continue as the Local Plan is implemented. Key infrastructure providers include Hertfordshire County Council, the health service, emergency services and utility companies.
1. 10. 5. In addition, the council has been meeting with government agencies including the Environment Agency, Homes England, Highways England and Historic England. The council has also been engaging with Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership and wider area neighbouring authorities including the Greater London Authority.
1. 11. Watford Corporate Plan
1. 11. 1. The Watford Corporate Plan sets out the overarching strategy for the borough. It aims to see Watford as a place where communities thrive, the area prospers economically and people have good access to quality services and facilities. To achieve the goals set out in the Corporate Plan the Council has identified the importance of planning issues such as managing Watford's housing needs, encouraging smart growth and economic prosperity, providing for our vulnerable and disadvantaged communities and delivering a digital Watford to empower the community.
1. 12. About Watford
1. 12. 1. Watford is in located in Hertfordshire, 17 miles north-west of central London and is adjacent to the Greater London Area. The borough has an area of 2,142 hectares (8.3 square miles) and is the only non-metropolitan borough wholly within the M25. The borough is the largest urban area in South West Hertfordshire and supports has the highest population density. It also has a strong concentration of services and facilities with considerable employment, retail and leisure opportunities. Formerly a market town, the settlement has grown significantly over time with its core being Watford town centre.
1. 12. 2. The built areas of the borough are characterised by traditional forms of residential and employment development away from the town centre. While there are exceptions, the built up area at present is characterised by relatively low level development in outlying residential areas with higher buildings found closer to the town centre and key transport nodes such as Watford Junction. More recently, planning applications have been granted to support higher density development in areas such as West Watford and Clarendon Road to deliver new homes and employment floor space needed in the borough.
1. 12. 3. Watford is strongly influenced by London, which provides good access to services and facilities and opportunities for employment. However, coinciding with these benefits are increased growth pressures on the borough that have not been encountered to such an extent in the past. These pressures are the fundamental challenges facing the borough in the years ahead. The Local Plan, in conjunction with other corporate strategies will seek to guide this new development to meet the needs of the community and achieve sustainable development.
1. 12. 4. Around Watford's periphery, the Green Belt surrounds much of the urban fringe. This has acted to constrain the continued expansion of urban growth into the countryside. Land designated as Green Belt covers 19% of the land area within Watford's boundary and will continue to perform a strategic role in Watford's development and growth in areas beyond its boundary. Much of the Green Belt in the borough provides a secondary function as public open space and semi-natural areas to benefit the community, wildlife and acts to mitigate potential environmental issues such as flood risk.
1. 13. 1. Originally a market town known for traditional industries including printing and brewing, Watford has evolved to become an important regional centre for retail, leisure and business. The town centre provides a diverse array of services and facilities that serve the wider South West Hertfordshire and supports a significant amount of employment. The wider town centre area contains a mix of chain retailers and private operators, creating a varied mix of retail and restaurant provision to meet local demand. This is complemented with a healthy number of new businesses across the borough that are able to benefit from incubation periods that help them to prosper in the long term and contribute towards the local economy.
1. 13. 2. The five South West Hertfordshire authorities of Watford, Dacorum, Hertsmere, Three Rivers and St Albans form the functional economic market area and share strong economic relationships in terms of employment provision and commuting. Watford has a particularly strong relationship with the Three Rivers area while connections with Dacorum and Hertsmere are moderate. There is also a strong in-out commuting relationship with London. One of Watford's key market strengths is that it has a relatively young workforce. This is reinforced by migration trends which indicate the number of people moving from London to Watford, particularly among people in their 30s, is increasing.
1. 13. 3. Employment has continued to grow at 0.4% per annum in South West Hertfordshire, however, productivity has fallen to below the national average. Business start-up rates are well above the national and regional average, indicating there is a demand for flexible and affordable workspace to foster new businesses.
1. 13. 4. The area of Clarendon Road is a hub of office based employment of regional importance with high job densities close to the town centre and Watford Junction, a major transport hub. The area supports an intensive knowledge and information technology economy, however, there is a shortage of floor space available in Watford for new office development which has constrained growth of the sector.
1. 13. 5. Other employment areas in the borough are more tailored for industrial uses and lower job densities. Watford Business Park provides a mix of employment uses in the west of the borough. To the east are the Balmoral Road/Imperial Way and Greycaine employment areas which are more focused on general industrial uses. Businesses requiring higher land take, such as storage and distribution, are commonly located outside of the borough where there is better access to the transport network and land is less constrained. In Watford and across South West Hertfordshire, there is a shortfall of land available for industrial uses, particularly small premises, which account for 44% of leased floor space in the area. This restricts economic growth in these sectors. In Watford, this is supplemented by low vacancy rates indicating that while there is strong demand for floor space, the lack of availability/supply could be resulting in the displacement of jobs and businesses. Intensification of existing employment land provides an opportunity to make better use of employment areas in Watford, while mixed use development in the area has become more common in recent years.
1. 13. 6. The resident workforce in Watford is generally highly skilled overall, however, this is not met with the same level of growth in high skill jobs in the borough. An effect of this is that many residents are commuting out of Watford for these types of jobs. Opposite to this, while more people commute into Watford than commute outwards overall there is an increasingly higher proportion of jobs requiring relatively lower skills.
1. 13. 7. One of the key drivers supporting Watford's attractiveness as a destination for employment and as a base to access employment further afield is the good access to strategic transport routes. Watford is served by two main line train stations (Watford Junction and Bushey) making central London accessible in less than 20 minutes. The Metropolitan Line serves two stations in central Watford (Watford and Watford High Street) while the Abbey Line connects the town to St Albans.
1. 13. 8. The road network is well connected to strategic road corridors including the A41, M1 and M25. Traffic congestion is an issue in the borough, particularly around key junction points such as Bushey Arches and the network of busy roads encompassing the town centre. Alternative travel options within the borough such as bus routes are coming under increasing pressure and face constraints similar to other road users while infrastructure to encourage cycling is fragmented and poor at connecting destinations across the town.
1. 13. 9. To the north of Watford are nationally important growth areas. The growth corridor in the Luton and Central Bedfordshire area should support the Watford and South West Hertfordshire economy, however, the growth corridor from Cambridge to Oxford (via Milton Keynes) may eventually compete with Watford for inward investment.
1. 14. Environment
1. 14. 1. Watford is characterised as an urban borough with approximately 80% of the area consisting of existing built up areas and urban green space, while the remaining 407 hectares is designated as Green Belt.
1. 14. 2. The rivers Colne and Gade, along with the Grand Union Canal, provide structure to much of the green infrastructure network in the borough. Along these corridors are areas of flood risk which enable green spaces to provide a variety of functions for the environment and the community.
1. 14. 3. Green space is well-distributed across most of the borough, enabling people to have good access to local recreation facilities. These spaces encourage physical activity and social interaction to benefit people in terms of their physical and mental health. These are key elements to encourage healthier lifestyles as part of the growth strategy set out in the Local Plan. However, constraints within the built up area limit the potential to deliver new open space of any significant size. Accordingly, the focus has been on providing quality open space to best serve the community with a significant number of open spaces awarded Green Flag status and work being undertaken to improve other parks to obtain this status. With future development required to make best use of the limited land available, innovative forms of new open space provision and enhancing the quality and connectivity of open spaces within the green infrastructure network will become increasingly important as the population continues to grow.
1. 14. 4. The built up area is traversed by a number of strategic road corridors including the A41 (Hempstead Road) and A405 (North Orbital Road) while the A412 (Rickmansworth Road and St Albans Road) provides a primary east-west vehicle connection through Watford to neighbouring built up areas. The strategic location of Watford to the transport network, in conjunction with the A411 ring road around the town centre, provides very good accessibility, however, it can facilitate a vehicle dominated environment along with associated environmental issues related to air, noise and light pollution.
1. 14. 5. In July 2019, Watford Borough Council declared a 'climate emergency' reflecting concerns about carbon emissions, the potential impact it will have on the local environment and achieving sustainable development. Many of the carbon and greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere are attributed to lifestyles which in turn are often dependent on past and current forms of development and infrastructure and access to employment, retail and social facilities. While Watford has lower emissions per capita than the national average, new development provides an opportunity to improve the environment to encourage healthier lifestyles, to benefit people and help mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. To address the issue successfully as part of the Local Plan, there is a need for the council, development partners and infrastructure providers to work collaboratively to deliver measures such as more energy and water efficient buildings, quality green infrastructure and alternative travel options to reduce car dependency, all of which are key elements of sustainable development.
1. 15. Society
1. 15. 1. Watford has a population of approximately 96,700 people (Office for National Statistics, 2019). This is equivalent to 45 people per hectare making it one of the most densely populated non-metropolitan districts in England. The population of Watford is projected to increase to 110,295 people by 2036, an increase of approximately 14%.
1. 15. 2. Watford has a relatively young population with 21% of the population aged between 0-14 years compared to 18% nationally and 25% aged between 26-40 years compared to 20% nationally. The number of households in the borough is increasing with greatest need for one, two and three bed units. This reflects trends where single person households and households with two adults is increasing while households with dependent children is decreasing.
1. 15. 3. The town experiences some of the highest levels of in-migration in the county, reflecting its attractiveness as a place to live and ensuring it will continue to have a diverse character moving forward. There are approximately 39,900 homes in the borough with an average household size of 2.4 persons per dwelling.
1. 15. 4. Similar to other areas in South West Hertfordshire, Watford has experienced rising house prices that have not been matched by the rate of rising household incomes. This is increasing pressure on the provision of new homes that people can afford and the types of housing available to meet their needs. These needs vary across the demographic from small sized homes for single people and couples, to family sized homes and more specialised forms of housing that can cater to people as they get older or support those who may have disabilities.
1. 15. 5. Watford's population is culturally diverse and has been changing in recent years. The existing population is predominantly British White and makes up approximately 62% of those living in the town while 38% of people come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds.
1. 15. 6. Life expectancy in Watford is marginally below the national average with males expected to live 79 years and women 83 years. However, in the most deprived areas life expectancy is significantly lower for men and women by 6.6 years and 3.4 years respectively.
1. 15. 7. Overall, Watford is ranked the 194th least deprived of the 391 local authority areas in England, with no areas identified as being in the 10% most deprived parts of the country. Deprivation across the borough varies, with the wards of Central Watford and West Watford exhibiting higher levels while Park and Nascot have the least deprivation. Areas of higher deprivation are also associated with lower levels of education and income and are in poorer health more generally.
1. 16. Spatial strategy and vision
1. 16. 1. The vision of Watford in 2036 is based on embracing key sustainability principles and priorities set out in the Watford Corporate Plan and other key strategies. These are aimed at delivering important objectives to meet the needs of the community. More widely, the vision for Watford will contribute towards a larger vision for South West Hertfordshire that is to be a successful place for people and businesses offering a high quality of life and economic prosperity and opportunity.
1. 17. Vision
1. 17. 1. In2036,Watford will continue to be a welcoming and vibrant place, where people enjoy a high quality of life in a place that is attractive for everyone to visit and partake in recreational activities. Sustainable development will have been delivered through quality development schemes that have considered how different parts of the borough work together to affect the whole area including the economic, environmental and social aspects of everyday life. The town will have been adaptable during a period of change, supporting innovative approaches to development that benefit the town and the South West Hertfordshire area. Residents will be able to live in the types of housing they need and will have access to education and employment opportunities. The environment will have been protected for the benefit of future generations and semi- natural areas of green infrastructure will have been enhanced for the benefit of ecology and wildlife.
1. 17. 2. Economically,Watford will have increased its contribution towards the local area and attracted business investment to support jobs growth, particularly in the Clarendon Road and designated employment areas, reaffirming its key role in the regional economy. The employment opportunities in the town will increase with a highly skilled labour force and the provision of quality education facilities. These will support a diverse employment sector ranging from office and general industry to the service sector, including retail and leisure. Employment areas will have been intensified making more effective use of land and higher employment densities with appropriate areas support a mix of complementary uses.
1. 17. 3. Watford town centre will have been improved to be a destination to visit, providing an enjoyable experience for people of all ages while supporting a diverse range of retail shops, leisure facilities and restaurants as part of the daytime and evening economy. The town will have an attractive range of cultural activities available reinforcing Watford's appeal as a destination for leisure and recreation activities.
1. 17. 4. Environmentally, Watford will have a high quality, clean and attractive public realm that encourages people to be more active through walking and cycling to enjoy the environment around them. The network of open spaces and parks and the connections between them will have been improved, providing access to better recreational activities that will be accessible to everyone. Important biodiversity habitats will have been protected and connectivity within the green infrastructure network improved increasing their value to local people and wildlife. New development designed to minimise their impact on the environment including the reduction of air pollution will have taken significant steps to mitigate and adapt to the impacts associated with climate change.
1. 17. 5. Assets related to Watford's heritage will have been protected. New development will have taken opportunities to reuse existing buildings of historic importance and improved the settings of important features connected to Watford's past.
1. 17. 6. Socially, Watford will be an inclusive place for everyone, especially families. The town will be characterised by mixed and balanced communities and new development will have made a positive contribution towards this. New housing will be located in areas with good access to services and facilities with housing densities reflecting their sustainability. New homes will have been provided that reflect the type, size and tenure needed by local people and those moving to the town.
1. 17. 7. New development, supported with infrastructure such as education, pedestrian/cycle routes and quality open space, will support a socially inclusive community that is welcoming for people at different stages of their lives. With local people enjoying more active lifestyles and the provision high quality non- vehicular routes that are safe, convenient and attractive, the population will be healthier and enjoy a higher quality of life for longer
1. 18. Strategic objectives
Transport and mobility
1. 18. 1. The Local Plan will deliver infrastructure to provide people with a variety of travel choices including walking, cycling and public transport to access services and facilities and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage active and healthier lifestyles. The redevelopment of Watford Junction as a strategic transport node, provision of transport services along the former railway line between Watford High Street and Holywell, greater train frequency along the Abbey Line and improved connectivity with the town centre.
1. 18. 2. New housing will be delivered to meet the needs of the population and support creation and retention of balanced and mixed communities. The density of new housing developments will reflect the sustainability of the location and make the most effective use of land. Development will ensure that a mix of homes (size and tenure) are provided on all sites that will contribute towards meeting the needs of the community. New affordable housing will be delivered to provide for those most in need and be of a mix that will support the community in the long term.
1. 18. 3. Clarendon Road will attract new office based investment to support the knowledge based economy and reinforce its regional role in the area, making best use of its location and proximity to London. Designated employment areas will be protected from non-complementary uses and intensified to support a diverse economy and mix of uses. Intensification of employment areas, mixed use developments (where appropriate) and the availability of flexible work spaces in the town will support small and innovative businesses, including start-ups, making use of its strategic location and proximity to London.
1. 18. 4. To deliver high quality, energy efficient homes and employment premises and an approach to transport where non car based travel is encouraged to establish a more sustainable pattern of development. New development will be designed or infrastructure provided to mitigate flood risk and effects associated with overheating in the built up area.
1. 18. 5. New development will protect heritage assets and listed buildings, be sensitive to conservation areas and be designed to make best use of places with cultural value for future generations.
Place making and design
1. 18. 6. Development will make best use of land, schemes will be respectful to their surroundings and in places of change or constraint they will be innovative and create a place that people can relate to and identify with. High quality new developments will be well designed to create a sense of place that has a relationship with the street and people using the surrounding area.
Public realm and outdoor environment
1. 18. 7. A coordinated approach to improving the public realm that will enhance the green infrastructure network, provide clear wayfinding to local destinations around the borough that encourages active travel. Improvements will have been designed to be user friendly and part of an overall strategy to enable the public to interpret the environment around them.
Health and wellbeing
1. 18. 8. To improve health, wellbeing and education and life-long learning opportunities for local people.
1. 18. 9. Existing infrastructure will be improved to support the borough. New development will take opportunities to provide infrastructure including education and utilities. New and improved routes connecting people to green infrastructure, with better cycling and walking access to services and facilities, provide health benefits, support biodiversity and help reduce the impact of society on the environment.
Monitoring and adaptive management
1. 18. 10. Monitor and report on progress against policy objectives to learn and adapt to make policy implementation and delivery as effective as possible.