First Draft Watford Local Plan 2020-2036

To take part in these consultations, you will first need to register as a user by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. Once you have registered, select a document, then comments can be given by clicking on the pen icon and writing in the form that appears. For further assistance please read our help guide.

Chapter 9: Ensuring the Vitality of Town and Local Centres and Providing Communities with Facilities and Services

9. 1. Introduction

9. 1. 1. The opportunity to participate in activities, whether it be through leisure, recreation, community events or learning, is important for people living in and visiting Watford. The availability of a variety of facilities and shops attracts people to the town and local centres and keeps them dynamic and vibrant.

9. 1. 2. Continued vitality in the town and local centres can reduce the need to travel by providing goods and services for people of all ages in easily accessible locations and allowing combined trips. Access to services encourages sustainability and creates opportunities for focal points within residential areas, particularly those with the potential to support higher housing densities.

9. 2. Town and Local Centres

9. 2. 1. Watford is identified as a major regional retail centre providing a wide range of services and facilities serving an area much wider than the borough. This benefits the residents of Watford and it is important for the economic prosperity of the town that this continues in the future. The town, district and local centres offer the opportunity to access a wide range of 'town centre uses' including retail, leisure, entertainment, office, arts and culture. These functions are vital to the long-term sustainability of Watford.

9. 2. 2. Watford has a strongly performing town centre and one district centre offering a wide range of services and facilities. There is a network of local centres which provide for much of their communities' day-to-day needs. The vision for the Plan is to build on these strengths and focus growth in these centres.

9. 2. 3. The face of retail is changing with traditional retailing declining and service sectors such as food and drink, health and fitness, and hotels increasing. The food and beverage sector has seen particularly strong growth, highlighting the importance to retain flexibility in retail policy to encourage footfall with popular uses such as leisure and food and drink.

Retail hierarchy

9. 2. 4. The retail hierarchy supports the management and growth of the town centre and other centres within Watford. It is important that new retail development takes place in the right locations and at an appropriate scale.

9. 2. 5. Watford's retail hierarchy will be used to direct 'town centre uses' to the most appropriate location with regard to their scale, function and character. The town centre will be the preferred location for these uses.

9. 3. Figure 11: Retail Hierarchy

Retail Hierarchy

Description

Town Centre

Watford Town Centre

Watford town centre performs a role as a regional centre with its catchment extending beyond the borough boundary. The centre offers a full range of town centre uses including retail, leisure, business, community and cultural facilities.


District Centre

North Watford St Albans Road

St Albans Road district centre contains a good range of town centre uses, including a large public library. The district centre has a smaller catchment than the town centre. It has a wider draw and a larger number and range of units than the local centres.

Local Centres

Buckingham Road

Bushey Arches

Garston Park Parade

Goodwood Parade

Langley Road

Langley Way

Leavesden Road

Longspring

Merton Road

North Approach

St Johns Road

The Brow

The Gossamers

Tudor Avenue

Vicarage Road

Villiers Road

Whippendell Road East

Whippendell Road/Ascot Road

Local centres include a range of small shops, meeting day to day needs of a small catchment area. It is expected that local centres will also contain facilities such as GPs, dentists, dry cleaners and community facilities to support the retail offer. Typically, local centres are categorised as being over 7 units with a range of at least 3 different uses.

9. 4. Vitality of the Town and Local Centres

Why is this policy needed?

9. 4. 1. Watford as a regional centre provides a wide range of services and facilities to residents of the town and beyond, drawing people from throughout South West Hertfordshire. The vibrancy and vitality of the town centre will be maintained and enhanced through the plan period. The town centre offers the opportunity to access a wide range of 'town centre uses' (as identified in the National Planning Policy Framework) including retail, leisure, entertainment, office, arts and culture. These functions are vital to long- term sustainability and underpinning Watford as an attractive place to live, work and invest.

9. 4. 2. As set out in the National Planning Policy Framework, a sequential test will be applied to proposals for town centre uses. The town centre is prioritised over edge of centre locations, and edge of centre locations are prioritised over out of centre locations. When considering planning applications for 'town centre uses', the council will require details of the application of this sequential test. Applications for 'town centre uses' over 350 sqm that are not located in a centre or are not in accordance with policies set out in the Local Plan will also require an Impact Assessment, in line with the National Planning Policy Framework.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 4. 3. The Watford town centre is an important regional destination for retail while smaller retail centres across the borough support local communities. The policy is intended to strengthen and consolidate Watford's position as a regional centre in the retail hierarchy and to seek a balanced and diverse town centre providing retail, leisure and entertainment for all ages and groups of people. Protecting smaller centres will help ensure built up areas in the borough have good access to services and facilities and contribute towards achieving sustainable development.

Policy V9.1 Vitality of the Town and Local Centres

Planning permission will be granted for the development of town centre uses (retail, leisure, entertainment, office, arts and culture) within the defined town, district and local centre boundaries, providing the use is appropriate for the scale and function of each centre.

Development within the town centre will contribute towards the enhancement of the public realm.

Proposals that optimise the use of land and floor space within the town centre through mixed use development, including new or re-used space above shops and commercial premises, will be supported providing they have regard to the role and function of the town centre, impact on town centre vitality and viability and the compatibility of proposed and existing surrounding uses.

Where appropriate, a limited amount of retail development will be supported on strategic sites to provide for the new community, subject to the proposals being of an appropriate scale and there being no significant adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the town centre or local centres in the vicinity.

Proposals for development of town centre uses outside a centre must demonstrate compliance with the Sequential Test. Where these are 350 sqm (gross) or more, they must also be accompanied by an Impact Assessment. Assessments will need to demonstrate there will be no adverse impact on the vitality and viability of the existing centres, and that good accessibility by walking, cycling and public transport is provided or available.

9. 5. Approach to Retail in the Town Centre

9. 5. 1. For the long term health of the town centre, it is important to achieve the correct balance of uses to continue Watford's role as a regional centre and provide leisure facilities and restaurants to support the retail provision. Retail is the focus for the town centre, however, it is also a place where a wide range of other uses help to ensure that vitality and viability are maintained.

9. 5. 2. Concentrating destination retail in the intu centre and permitting complementary uses in the surrounding primary and secondary frontages within the town centre will help retain is vibrancy. To continue to thrive, Watford town centre will need to evolve and diversify in response to current and future economic trends, technological advances and changing consumer behaviours. This need for adaption and diversification, together with good public transport accessibility, makes the town centre appropriate for residential led or mixed use high density development. Existing uses must be considered to take precedence over new development, particularly where there may be conflict between existing businesses and proposed residential use. Any potential adverse impacts on new residents caused by existing businesses such as noise, odour, light, vibration must be mitigated through good design to the satisfaction of Environmental Health.

9. 5. 3. To complement this approach and to encourage the restaurants (A3 uses) needed to support the shopping function, two restaurant hub areas are identified in the town centre. These are located at the two main entrances to the intu centre along the Watford High Street. In these areas restaurant and eateries will be encouraged to congregate and complement the retail function of the town centre. To encourage the clustering of restaurants and eateries, these units will not contribute towards to restriction of non-retail uses in the primary shopping frontages.

9. 5. 4. For secondary frontages, the approach is to allow more flexibility to change between A1 (retail shops), A2 (professional services) and A3 uses (food and drink outlets). This will encourage the occupancy of existing units, enable shops and services to adapt to changing retail patterns in the shopping area and ensure a continued footfall for the town centre. The turnover of retail units provides opportunities for new businesses to start and make a contribution towards the town centre. This additional flexibility will enable vacant units to be brought back into use, particularly within designated shopping frontages, to minimise impact on the health of the centre and contribute to a successful place, both economically and socially.

9. 6. Primary and Secondary Retail Frontages

Why is this policy needed?

9. 6. 1. To protect existing retail areas and enable some change in other suitable areas, strengthening and consolidating Watford's position as a regional centre in the retail hierarchy and enhancing the family friendly aspect of the town.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 6. 2. Development is expected to enhance the offer for families and achieve a balanced town centre which meets the needs of all residents and visitors during the day and evening. Residential use of ground floor premises within retail areas is not acceptable.

Policy V9.2 Retail Frontages

In all cases proposals for town centre uses should promote the diversity and range of uses available and promote an active street frontage in terms of increasing footfall and retaining an active window display.

Primary Retail Frontages

Within primary retail frontages, as identified on the Policies Map, planning permission will only be granted for A1, A2 or A3 uses at ground floor level.

A2 and A3 uses will only be permitted where it will not detrimentally undermine the retail character, function or effectiveness of the primary retail frontage. The total number of units in A1 use should remain above 60% of the total number of units on a street within the identified primary frontage.

Within the Restaurant (A3) Hubs, as identified on the Policies Map, proposals for A3 uses will be supported. A3 uses within these areas will not contribute towards the 60% threshold applied to non- retail uses located in the Primary Retail Frontages.

Secondary Retail Frontages

Within secondary retail frontages, as identified on the Policies Map, planning permission will be granted for appropriate town centre uses where it will not detrimentally undermine the retail character, function or effectiveness of the frontage. The total number of A1 units should remain above 40% of all the units on a street within the identified secondary frontage at ground floor level.

9. 7. Non-Retail Uses in the Intu Shopping Centre

Why is this policy needed?

9. 7. 1. To maintain a dynamic and adaptive town centre it is important that all aspects of retail contribute in a collective way that benefits the town centre overall. The intu shopping centre and High Street provide complementary retail offers and this should continue for the economic health of the area.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 7. 2. While intu is an important and identifiable shopping destination, there is a need to ensure the High Street is also a thriving shopping area. The High Street provides a different experience than offered by the shopping centre and it is important that this is protected to provide a positive experience for visitors and retain the diverse retail offer in the town centre.

Policy V9.3 Non-Retail uses in the intu shopping centre

Within intu Watford shopping centre (including units with direct access to High Street and Queens Road), planning permission will only be granted for A1, A2 and A3 uses.

The number of units in A1 use should remain above 90% of the total number of units within the intu centre.

Within the Restaurant (A3) Hubs, as identified on the Policies Map, proposals for A3 uses will be supported. A3 uses within these areas will not contribute towards the 90% threshold applied to retail uses in the intu centre.

9. 8. District and Local Centres

Why is this policy needed?

9. 8. 1. Retail and service provision outside the town centre is an important element towards achieving sustainable development and healthy communities. The network of local centres across the borough provide an important local resource for Watford residents. It is important to recognise their contribution towards local areas and their identity. Local shops, alongside other services, are a key component of local centres and their protection and consolidation through planning policy will help shape how services are provided in the future.

9. 8. 2. Watford is a compact but congested town and it is important that local centres provide multiple services for residents and are located across the town enabling easy access and reducing journeys.

9. 8. 3. A policy is needed to provide flexibility for local centres to address the challenges of new forms of retailing while realising their potential for higher density mixed-use residential developments and environmental improvements. Redevelopment will be supported where it can make centres more viable and functional but existing floor space will be protected.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 8. 4. The policy seeks to consolidate and reinforce the network of local centres within the borough so that they are able to offer a range of services to the population within a reasonable distance of where people live. The focus is on the consolidation of a viable range of functions and uses that make centres a recognisable destination in the local area, particularly convenience retailing, leisure, local employment and workspace.

Policy V9.4 District and Local Centres

Within district and local shopping centre frontages, as identified on the Policies Map, planning permission at ground floor level will only be granted for the following uses:

  1. Retail (A1) uses;
  2. Financial and professional services (A2), restaurant (A3), pub (A4) and take-away outlets (A5) uses where;
    1. the proposed development would not result in a concentration of more than 4 adjoining units of a particular use other than A1 uses;
    2. the proportion of units at ground floor level in A1 use does not fall below 40% of the total number of units within the defined shopping frontage;
    3. the proposal will not detrimentally undermine the retail character, function or effectiveness of the centre in question;
  1. Other town centre uses where the proportion of A1 use does not fall below 40% of the total number of units within the defined shopping frontage and where the proportion of class A use does not fall below 75% of the total number of units defined within the shopping frontage.

Proposals for redevelopment will be supported where there is no net loss of existing A1 floor space on the site.

Smaller neighbourhood centres should focus on a limited but variety of uses and provide convenient and attractive access by walking and cycling to local goods and services needed on a day-to-day basis.

Providing communities with facilities and services

9. 9. Infrastructure Provision

Why is this policy needed?

9. 9. 1. The provision of infrastructure is required to support the growth and change set out in the Local Plan. The Watford Infrastructure Delivery Plan considers the infrastructure improvements that are needed to support the planned increase in new homes, businesses and other facilities arising from the population and job growth in the borough.

9. 9. 2. Infrastructure is provided by public and private bodies and includes:

  • Social infrastructure: schools, healthcare, community facilities, leisure and cultural centres, places of worship and emergency services.
  • Physical infrastructure: roads, footpaths, cycleways, water provision and treatment, sewerage, flood prevention and drainage, waste disposal, electricity, gas and electronic communications networks.
  • Green Infrastructure: open spaces, recreation facilities, trees, green corridors, wildlife corridors and landscape features.

9. 9. 3. The Infrastructure Delivery Plan highlights the need for new schools, healthcare, sustainable transport and additional cemetery capacity to support Watford's population over the plan period. As infrastructure is provided by various agencies, the onus is on developers to ensure capacity to meet requirements arising from proposed development.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 9. 4. This policy ensures that infrastructure provision is an early consideration for developers. It also provides guidance for the spending of the Community Infrastructure Levy and requiring on-site infrastructure requirements where development opportunities arise.

Policy V9.5 Infrastructure Provision

Planning permission, except for householders, will be granted where it is demonstrated that there is, or will be, sufficient infrastructure capacity to support and meet all the requirements arising from the proposed development. Infrastructure provision will reflect the Infrastructure Delivery Plan and its successor documents.

Priority projects include:

  • Education facilities;
  • On site green infrastructure and connectivity to the wider network;
  • Sustainable transport using the safeguarded Metropolitan Line Extension route and projects set out in the Local Transport Plan and related strategies;
  • Future-proofed communications infrastructure, in particular broadband;
  • Wayfinding and public arts projects as identified in Watford Borough Council Cultural Strategy.

The council will work with key infrastructure providers and partners to deliver new infrastructure that will meet the needs of Watford and support growth in the South West Hertfordshire area.

9. 10. Quality Communications

Why is this policy needed?

9. 10. 1. Communication technology is an integral part of modern society. It is important to work with developers and providers to ensure that schemes are well designed and have sufficient capacity to meet the anticipated demand of a modernising society that can embrace technological change and continue to be socially connected and economically competitive.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 10. 2. For a scheme to be successful and be able to adapt to future technological changes, developers are expected to engage with utility providers early in design process. This enables all stakeholders to understand as early as possible if, and where, there may be a need for additional capacity in the network. It provides opportunities for development to be designed in such a way as to support the provision of utilities.

9. 10. 3. Future proofed high quality digital infrastructure is considered vital to support well-functioning employment areas. The National Planning Policy Framework requires planning policies to set out how high quality digital infrastructure is expected to be delivered.

Policy V9.6 Utilities and Digital Infrastructure

Developers must demonstrate they have explored existing capacity, and how this could be future proofed, with appropriate utilities providers to show that they have made provision for utilities and digital infrastructure.

Proposals for employment uses including business (B1) and industrial (B2) uses should demonstrate that provision is made for high quality digital facilities as part of the application.

9. 11. Cultural and Community Facilities

Why is this policy needed?

9. 11. 1. Cultural and community facilities have wide ranging uses which support and serve the residents of the town. In seeking social inclusion and a high quality of life the approach is to make a diverse range of facilities accessible. Community facilities can include education and health facilities, local places of worship, community centres, public halls, leisure and sports centres, or, arts buildings. Other types of buildings might also be classed as, and function as, community facilities where they meet the social, leisure, cultural and religious needs of Watford's diverse communities.

9. 11. 2. This policy is needed to provide protection for existing community facilities which play an important role in delivering a place where people want to live. Where major new development is proposed, or where facilities are lost as part of redevelopment proposals, the council will seek new facilities where there is an identified demand. Where appropriate, community facilities are encouraged in or near to local centres in order to reduce trips.

What is the policy intended to do?

9. 11. 3. It is important to protect existing facilities where these are required to support a healthy and inclusive community. These types of use typically generate high levels of footfall from members of the public. Co-locating multiple facilities on a single site, particularly where this is close to a local centre, can be an efficient way to improve quality and accessibility.

Policy V9.7 Community Facilities

The provision of new cultural and community uses that address a demonstrated demand from the local community will be supported. Such uses should be located within sustainable, accessible locations close to the identified need and as a complementary use within, or close to, an identified local centre. Facilities that are proposed in isolated locations or that conflict with existing uses nearby will not be permitted.

The loss of existing social and cultural venues will be not be supported unless it can be demonstrated that the facility is no longer needed, or that the formal and informal leisure activities can be reprovided in an alternative location or manner that is of a higher quality and is equally accessible to the community.

To take part in these consultations, you will first need to register as a user by clicking on the link at the top right of this page. Once you have registered, select a document, then comments can be given by clicking on the pen icon and writing in the form that appears. For further assistance please read our help guide.
back to top back to top