First Draft Watford Local Plan 2020-2036

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Chapter 2: Spatial Strategy for Achieving Sustainable Development

2. 1. Introduction

2. 1. 1. Strategic policies provide an overarching framework to be considered for all planning proposals across the borough. The overarching objective is to achieve sustainable development in Watford with the view to ensuring this generation can meet their needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.

2. 2. Scale of growth and delivering new development

Housing

2. 2. 1. Watford is continuing to grow with an increasing population and businesses locating in the town. To meet this growth new development needs to take place, including the provision of new homes, employment and retail floor space and community facilities.

2. 2. 2. Land available for housing, employment and community facilities is very limited in the borough, with capacity identified for between 7,000 and 8,000 units. This shortfall of developable land acts to increase competition between different land uses. Therefore, it is important to find a balance of how available land can be most effectively used to meet the needs of our growing population and economy, while safeguarding the natural and historic environment.

2. 2. 3. Watford has a young population compared to other areas in South West Hertfordshire, with a high proportion of families. This creates a demand for family sized homes as well as smaller units for people when they leave home. New development needs to come forward that is able to support mixed and balanced communities. This will enable people to live in areas they are familiar with and where they have social connections, an intrinsic part of the social and economic fabric in the town. It also provides opportunities for others who want to move into the area. If the right amount and type of housing to meet the needs of a growing and changing population is not provided, there is a risk that there could be an oversupply of some types of properties and an undersupply of others. This potentially distorts the market by increasing property prices and reduces the potential for people to access the type of homes they need. There is also an increased risk that new homes and other types of development may come forward in locations that are not appropriate and could adversely affect the town in the long term.

Employment

2. 2. 4. New employment floor space is important to support economic growth. Based on past trends the East of England Forecast Model had indicated that the number of jobs in Watford will increase from 59,484 in 2018 to 66,248 in 2036, an increase of 6,764 jobs (11.4%)[4]. This is spread across a variety of sectors but is primarily related to office based employment.

2. 2. 5. Redevelopment and delivery of high quality office floor space will encourage new investment, facilitating opportunities to meet the need for 37,400 sqm of office floor space. If new floor space is not provided there is a risk that investment will be directed outside the borough, potentially having an adverse effect on economic growth in the area.

2. 2. 6. Office development in Watford is, and will continue to be, primarily concentrated in the Clarendon Road and Watford Junction area. This area benefits from good connections with London and northwards towards Milton Keynes and Birmingham. Additional office development and other employment uses will be supported in other designated employment areas, such as Watford Business Park. Flexibility is provided within the Local Plan to enable the area to respond to market demands and changes that may be identified through future evidence based studies.

2. 2. 7. In South West Hertfordshire there is a need for approximately 48 hectares of industrial floorspace, of which 9.8 hectares is needed in Watford. It is important to provide a variety of land and floorspace to support different sectors and employment skills. There is not enough land available in the borough to allocate new sites for industrial, storage and distribution uses. Therefore, the council is working with neighbouring areas to identify an approach to providing the land required using the strengths and attributes of each area to support a vibrant sub-regional economy.

2. 2. 8. While new employment floor space will generally be of higher quality, it is important that work space offering different qualities is available to support different types of businesses. This helps to ensure that new investment can contribute towards more established businesses while lower quality or value premises can support smaller businesses and start-ups. Together, this contributes towards a more diverse economy and jobs requiring a wide variety of skills.

Retail and leisure

2. 2. 9. Watford town centre is a focal point for retail and leisure activities and supports about 10% of jobs in the borough. Recent investment in the town centre, including the public realm in the High Street, intu shopping centre and future works along Clarendon Road, will further enhance the town centre's role as a regional destination. Protecting retail frontages, while encouraging more people living in the town centre areas, is important to support the High Street and other smaller retail centres as they adapt and change over time.

2. 2. 10. New retail development is anticipated to come forward through the redevelopment of existing sites within the borough. Providing there is no net loss of retail floor space, the Local Plan supports the redevelopment of retail areas that can deliver a mix of uses including residential and employment where these are compatible. This will be particularly important in the Lower High Street where a more efficient use of land is encouraged. When well designed, these can make a positive contribution towards creating a sense of place and achieving sustainable development.

Infrastructure

2. 2. 11. Critical to supporting growth is the provision of new infrastructure and improvement of existing facilities where they will service the new development. Examples of new infrastructure provision can include education facilities, GP surgeries, utilities such as electricity, water and broadband, community facilities and green infrastructure. Public transport improvements including pedestrian and cycle infrastructure are also needed to achieve a shift away from car dominated transport in favour of more healthy and sustainable lifestyles.

2. 2. 12. New development affords opportunities to deliver well integrated infrastructure provision. In this regard, it is important that a proposal demonstrates that it understands and reacts appropriately to its surroundings and will be effectively integrated into them. Where new infrastructure requirements have been identified as part of a site, these are set out as development considerations supporting the respective site allocation.

2. 2. 13. Physical infrastructure can be provided when development comes forward, however, it can also be delivered using developer contributions. This will be done using mechanisms such as the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 (s106) agreements. The Infrastructure Delivery Plan identifies infrastructure required in the borough during the plan period, however, with a high reliance on windfall development, infrastructure requirements may need to be reassessed to consider site specific issues that may not have been accounted for.

Collaborative working

2. 2. 14. Many of the growth issues facing Watford are also being considered by other local authorities in the area who are facing similar challenges. Some issues are locally specific while others are more appropriately considered in a strategic context.

2. 2. 15. Throughout the process, the council has engaged, and will continue to do so, with neighbouring authorities, infrastructure providers and development partners. It is particularly important to work with neighbouring authorities in South West Hertfordshire and Hertfordshire County Council to effectively consider how unmet development needs in Watford can be delivered more strategically. Watford has identified developable land to support 5,736 new homes and made an allowance for an additional 1,670 homes to be delivered through windfall sites not allocated in the Local Plan. Land for other types of uses such as employment, retail and infrastructure such as primary schools, is expected to come forward through the intensification and more effective use of existing sites in the borough that may come forward as windfall.

2. 2. 16. The council's evidence base, including the Housing and Economic Land Availability Assessment, has identified land available for new development during the plan period. The findings have demonstrated that there remains a shortfall of land available to meet Watford's growth needs. Measures have been incorporated in the Local Plan to make the most effective use of land available for development including increasing housing density requirements, revising design guidance and parking standards and setting approaches to support the intensification of existing residential, employment and retail areas when opportunities arise.

2. 2. 17. Working collaboratively, housing, employment and education facilities which are subject to development shortfalls in the borough, will be discussed with other local authorities to understand if there is capacity to support this growth in other areas. This work will likely be addressed through a Memorandum of Understanding or Statement of Common Ground in the future as the Local Plan progresses over the next year. These cross-boundary issues will likely form part of the South West Hertfordshire Joint Strategic Plan; however, this work is not expected to inform this Local Plan but will support the Plan when it is time for it to be reviewed at a later date.

Why is this policy needed?

2. 2. 18. The policy is required to establish the scale of growth required in Watford over the plan period. There is a need to have an understanding of the development needs over the plan period in order to plan positively for this growth.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 2. 19. Within the parameters set out, the policy provides context for local planning policies and how they are expected to contribute towards growth objectives in the borough.

Policy SD2.1 Planning for Growth

During the plan period 2020 to 2036, the following approach and scales of development will be pursued:

Housing

  1. Provision for 5,736 new dwellings is identified;
  2. A framework for how Strategic Development Areas could aid the delivery of new homes is set out;
  3. Intensification of existing residential areas, particularly low density areas, which will contribute towards meeting the needs set out in the South West Hertfordshire Local Housing Needs Assessment (2019) will be supported;
  4. Development of windfall sites that will contribute towards the housing requirement as calculated by the standard objectively assessed need methodology is made. A windfall allowance of 105 dwellings per year that will contribute 1680 towards the housing requirement is incorporated into the Local Plan.

Employment

  1. Proposals that will deliver new employment floor space that will contribute towards delivery of 37,600 sqm of office (B1a) uses, 27,000 sqm of industrial (B1c/B2) uses and 71,000 sqm of storage and distribution (B8) uses will be supported;
  2. Intensification of existing employment sites that will contribute towards meeting the needs set out in the South West Hertfordshire Economic Study Update (2019) will be supported;
  3. Employment land will be protected and proposals that will provide new employment floor space and residential dwellings through mixed use development that will not result in any net loss of employment floor space will be supported.

Retail

  1. The redevelopment, intensification and reprovision of retail facilities that contribute towards the additional capacity of at least 5,200 sqm of convenience goods floor space and 7,100 of comparison goods floor space identified in the South West Hertfordshire Retail and Leisure Study (2018) will be supported.

Infrastructure

  1. New education facilities will be required on sites larger than 350 residential units;
  2. The route of the former Metropolitan Line Extension will be protected.

Where these needs cannot be met within the borough, the council will work collaboratively with other local authorities and development partners to deliver the housing, employment and other types of development along with supporting infrastructure required in the area.

2. 3. Achieving sustainable development

Why is this policy needed?

2. 3. 1. Sustainable development is inseparable from good planning. The key elements of sustainable development are equally important and relate to the economy, environment and society. To achieve sustainable development, proposals should seek to find a balance of these issues that will benefit the area without compromising the potential for growth and use of resources in the future.

2. 3. 2. Resolution 42/187 of the United Nations General Assembly defined sustainable development as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Appendix 1). Reflecting the Resolution, at the heart of the National Planning Policy Framework is a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

2. 3. 3. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out planning guidance to inform the preparation of plan making documents and planning decisions emphasising the importance of achieving sustainable development. It specifically states that planning policies should take an active role in guiding development towards sustainable solutions.

2. 3. 4. The scale of growth facing Watford and the South East is challenging and the planning policies set out in the Local Plan are considered to be an approach that will achieve sustainable development by steering growth in a direction that ensures society and the environment are fully considered as part of the planning process.

2. 3. 5. To make effective use of land a more sustainable development pattern is needed to provide good access to services and facilities and encourage more walking, cycling and public transport use while reducing pressure on greenfield expansion. However, this needs to be balanced against protecting the historic built environment by achieving high quality design.

2. 3. 6. Issues related to society are an integral part of sustainable development. The provision of an appropriate mix of housing types will achieve more inclusive, equitable and balanced communities, while infrastructure contributions are important to ensure that communities are not left behind in terms of services.

2. 3. 7. Collaborative working is also an integral part of preparing development schemes that will contribute towards delivering growth that will help achieve sustainable development. Early engagement with the Local Planning Authority to discuss planning proposals is encouraged to ensure that schemes will comply with the development management policies which seek to achieve environmental and social objectives.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 3. 8. With the development needs and parameters set out, the policy provides context for development management policies and how they are expected to contribute towards growth objectives in the borough by ensuring sustainable solutions are at the core of all development proposals. It seeks to aid the delivery of the vision for Watford by ensuring that planning policy achieves sustainable development.

Policy SD2.2 Achieving Sustainable Development

To achieve sustainable development, proposals for schemes larger than householder developments will be required to demonstrate how they will positively contribute towards the vision and objectives set out in the Watford Local Plan.

Planning applications will be supported where they are in accordance with planning policies set out in the Watford Local Plan and provide sustainable solutions to development needs.

Development proposals which fail to demonstrate how the following have been used to achieve sustainable development will not be supported including:

  • The enhancement and integration of an area through good design;
  • Making efficient use of land;
  • The provision of a mix of new homes that will support balanced and mixed communities;
  • Protecting employment opportunities;
  • Reducing car dominated areas;
  • It will not have a significant adverse effect the environment.

2. 4. Making Effective Use of Land

Why is this policy needed?

2. 4. 1. For planning to achieve sustainable development it needs to steer that development in the direction of the common good. One aspect of this involves the establishment of a sustainable pattern of development based on efficient building densities. Effective use of land enables more trips to be made by foot and bicycle and improves access to services and facilities. It works to ensure that land is not underused which in turn allows more homes to be built and jobs provided while also allowing the clustering of economic activity and the better provision of services and infrastructure.

2. 4. 2. Not all of the borough is evenly serviced by access to amenities, access to jobs and schools, and access to public transport. While it is important to see uplift in densities throughout the borough area, some areas are capable of higher densities than others. However, all areas require an uplift in densities, including lower density areas away from the town centre. This is set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (p.36, 2019) which states "where there is an existing or anticipated shortage of land for meeting identified housing needs, it is especially important that planning policies and decisions avoid homes being built at low densities…standards should seek a significant uplift in the average density of residential development within these areas, unless it can be shown that there are strong reasons why this would be inappropriate".

2. 4. 3. The size of the uplift will depend on the sustainability and accessibility of that area and a policy is required to cater for this.

2. 4. 4. In addition, there is a general link between the design of development and the final density on site. The amount of car parking, amenity space and the housing unit mix strongly influences the final density of a site. These three components are in turn influenced be the accessibility and sustainability of the site. Accordingly, a density range which establishes a clearer expectation for the amount of car parking, unit size mix, and amenity spaces is needed.

2. 4. 5. An effective use of land policy which sets out broad ranges for the density based sustainability and accessibility credentials will optimise the use of land leading to a more sustainable pattern of growth and will enable the provision of more homes while encouraging greater use of public transport.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 4. 6. The policy seeks to ensure that all development should optimise the use of land. For residential development, the policy seeks to ensure that minimum and maximum density standards are provided to deliver proportionate uplifts in density throughout the borough. Minimum standards are established in order to avoid ineffective and wasteful land use, while maximums are established to ensure that areas without necessary services and infrastructure are not overburdened with sudden and dramatic uplifts in density.

2. 4. 7. The density ranges seek to establish a starting point for scheme design. These will inform the housing mix, car parking and the general quantum of development expected on a site. Site specifics will also inform the overall density and design of the site. Policy recognises that some schemes may require a departure from the standards to account for particular site constraints, however, any departure should not be significant. The provision of infrastructure on site which would increase the sustainability e.g. schools on a particular site may justify a departure from a range.

2. 4. 8. Employment land densities are often determined by the nature of the use. However, office use in particular is capable of being provided at high densities based on plot ratios (floor space to site area) to site (jobs per square metre). Office (B1a), industry (B2) and storage and distribution (B8) uses should maximise and proportion of a site used for a building (plot ratio) to provide more space for jobs rather than significant amounts of unproductive ancillary land, although a level of landscaping and high quality public realm should be provided as part of the design of any employment development. Minimum plot ratio densities for employment land uses are set out in the policy.

Policy SD2.3 Making Effective Use of Land

All proposals are required to make efficient use of land. This will be based on the Sustainability Zone the site is located in, as identified on the Policies map. Schemes which comply with the following standards will be supported.

Residential density

Proposals for new residential development will be supported where the following housing densities in the respective Sustainability Zones are achieved and they are in compliance with other policies in the Local Plan:

  • Between 45 – 70 dwellings per hectare in the Low Sustainability Zone
  • Between 55 – 95 dwellings per hectare in the Medium Sustainability Zone
  • A minimum 95+ dwellings per hectare in the High Sustainability Zone[5]

Only where it is clearly demonstrated that there are site specific or exceptional circumstances will proposals which deviate from the set out housing densities, be supported[6].

Employment density

Proposals for new employment uses will be supported where they achieve the following plot ratios:

  • B1a (office) use should achieve a plot ratio minimum of 2.0
  • B1b (research) use should achieve a plot ratio minimum of 1.0
  • B1c/B2 (industrial) use should achieve a plot ratio minimum of 0.6.

2. 5. Safeguarding Strategic Infrastructure

Why is this policy needed?

2. 5. 1. Watford is an established transport hub for the South West Hertfordshire area. It benefits from a number of key transport nodes and routes providing people with good connections to the North West and central London.

2. 5. 2. Existing key transport infrastructure should be retained and enhanced where necessary to meet the needs of those who live, work and visit in the area. Future development and growth patterns and how these are managed will be important to ensure better connectivity, accessibility and enhancement of the transport network in the long term. There is an expectation that uplift in housing and employment densities will aid the provision and maintenance of transport on a borough wide basis.

2. 5. 3. One of the key benefits of higher densities is that it makes the provision of public transport services easier. Increasing densities will raise demand for public transport encourage more people to walk and cycle. This will be reinforced by higher density schemes having less car parking provision reflecting the sustainability of their location. The key issue is to ensure that infrastructure providers and development partners facilitate a shift towards more people using public transport by providing the travel choices that are effective and convenient. Safeguarding potential routes for future transport projects is therefore essential.

2. 5. 4. The successful use of strategic transport infrastructure depends on new developments establishing clear connections to transport routes/hubs and other key destinations. It is important to ensure new proposals recognise key infrastructure in the vicinity of the development site and these are properly integrated into the design process from the outset.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 5. 5. The policy seeks to safeguard existing and proposed transport infrastructure from inappropriate development that could compromise future schemes and proposals. The main rail lines, cycle ways and pedestrian routes need to be protected when future schemes come forward. Phased schemes or sites in close proximity should complement each other, with design considerations not being undertaken in isolation from the wider area. Schemes are expected to be designed in a manner which establishes clear and permeable connections from the site to the wider pedestrian and cycle networks.

2. 5. 6. Specific transport improvements have been identified in the borough including the creation of a mass transit system along the disused railway line to the Lower High Street station. In addition, the Abbey Line is considered an important route between Watford and St. Albans. Service frequency improvements are an important transport objective and the route needs to be safeguarded from inappropriate development for the benefit of future generations. Road widening may be possible for bus route improvements to reduce journey times between destinations. While there is limited capacity to achieve this in the borough, Hempstead Road does have an amenity strip that needs to be protected from development.

Policy SD2.4 Safeguarding and Connecting to Strategic Transport Infrastructure

Strategic transport infrastructure, as identified on the Policies Map, should be safeguarded. This includes the disused railway line, the Abbey Line, Hempstead Road amenity verge and key cycle routes. Any proposals that could compromise strategic transport infrastructure will not be supported.

Proposals should enhance connectivity to public transport and encourage walking and cycling. Proposals which demonstrate suitable site connections, within and outside of the site, to the wider pedestrian and cycle networks and public transport points will be supported.

2. 6. Protecting Green Belt Land

Why is this policy needed?

2. 6. 1. The Green Belt is a strategic land use designation that aims to limit urban sprawl and prevent the coalescence of settlements. The protection afforded to the Green Belt in national policy promotes a 'brownfield first' approach by encouraging local planning authorities to thoroughly assess their urban capacity before considering the release of any Green Belt land for development.

2. 6. 2. The evidence gathered during the preparation of this First Draft Local Plan has shown there to be insufficient brownfield sites to meet Watford's housing target. As a result, the council will now need to undertake a review of the Green Belt within its administrative area to assess its performance against the wider objectives set out in national policy. This review and other evidence will inform which sites should be removed from the designation, and which sites should continue to receive protection as Green Belt land. This study should be completed to inform the Final Draft Local Plan. The de-designation of sites which no longer perform a Green Belt function will not automatically imply that a site is suitable for redevelopment. The majority of Watford's Green Belt is designated public open space and is subject to other Local Plan policies, such as Policy NE8.2 Protecting Open Space.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 6. 3. The policy seeks to protect Green Belt land by resisting inappropriate development that could compromise the long term separation between built up areas.

Policy SD2.5 Protecting Green Belt Land

Planning permission will not be granted for inappropriate development in the Green Belt, as set out in national policy.

The Green Belt boundary is identified on the Policies Map. Removal of a site from the Green Belt does not imply that development is appropriate.

2. 7. Delivering the strategy: development contributions

Why is this policy needed?

2. 7. 1. To deliver the strategy and objectives set out in the Local Plan, the provision of infrastructure will need to be funded and delivered in a timely manner to support development. Infrastructure includes a wide range of facilities and services including schools, health care, community facilities, open space, roads, railways and cycle paths.

2. 7. 2. Cumulatively, almost all development puts additional pressure on infrastructure and should contribute to addressing that impact. It is important that infrastructure is provided to cope with the increased demand resulting from the proposed growth to deliver the spatial strategy, objectives and vision for Watford in 2036.

2. 7. 3. Where development creates a need for new or improved infrastructure, and to ensure that the burden of providing additional infrastructure does not fall on existing communities, contributions will be sought to make it acceptable in planning terms.

2. 7. 4. The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) is a tariff in the form of a standard charge on new development to help fund associated infrastructure. Watford has been charging the levy since 2015. As most development has some impact on infrastructure, it follows that it should contribute to the provision of infrastructure otherwise future developments are increasingly likely to carry a disproportional amount of the burden.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 7. 5. The starting point for the Plan is that development proposals can meet all of their respective policy and infrastructure requirements in full and in a timely way to ensure needs are met as a scheme comes forward. Given that the Plan is subject to stringent viability testing, it is expected that the number of applications where viability issues are identified should be minimal. However, the council understands the need to remain flexible, a key requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework, and as such financial contributions may be accepted where on site delivery is not practicable. It is acknowledged that in some cases on-site delivery is not appropriate. For example, if measures were needed to mitigate the impact of car parking and the proposals was for a car club, it would not be expected that an applicant would set up a car club but rather provide a financial contribution to one that already exists near the site that could be integrated into the scheme.

2. 7. 6. Contributions from a particular development will be fairly and reasonably related in scale and kind to the scheme. While some infrastructure can be directly provided by, and directly serve a specific development, or group of developments, in many cases it will be necessary to pool funding from several developments.

2. 7. 7. Proposals should demonstrate the provision of site specific infrastructure such as affordable housing, open space, children's play space. Off-site infrastructure provision or contributions may be accepted where it is not possible or is inappropriate to provide on-site. This is likely to be the case for sustainable transport initiatives such as public cycle car parks and car clubs.

Policy SD2.6 Development Contributions

Where development is dependent on, or creates a specific need for, new or improved infrastructure the council will seek this on site. Where it is demonstrated that this is not practicable financial contributions will be sought.

Section 106 developer contributions will be sought alongside the Community Infrastructure Levy where needs arise in line with the policy requirements of this Plan. Contributions will be used to mitigate the adverse impacts of development. Pooled contributions will be used, where appropriate, to facilitate the necessary infrastructure in line with development.

2. 8. Strategic Development Areas

2. 8. 1. Watford is facing considerable development pressures. How growth is managed to achieve a sustainable pattern of development is a key objective of planning policy and the Local Plan. The Strategic Development Areas are key locations in the borough that can contribute towards achieving sustainable development. By making effective use of land, taking advantage of strategic transport infrastructure and contributing to the wider objective, they will help deliver the vision for the town to 2036.

2. 8. 2. These areas primarily focus on their regeneration potential and cover larger land areas relative to other site allocations in the Plan. The areas bound by these designations encompass a variety of land ownerships and land uses. With the complexities of these areas, it is recognised that bringing development forward in a phased manner during the plan period will be particularly difficult. The policies accompanying each Strategic Development Area set out key principles of development to guide proposals when they are being conceived and designed. The requirements set out reflect the character of each specific Strategic Development Area in the borough, of which there are five:

  • Watford Junction
  • Bushey Station
  • Watford Town Centre
  • Lower High Street
  • Dome Roundabout

2. 8. 3. The Strategic Development Areas may be subject to the Community Infrastructure Levy charge. This will be determined following the completion of a viability assessment that is to be undertaken to support the new Local Plan.

2. 9. Watford Junction Strategic Development Area

Why is this policy needed?

2. 9. 1. The Watford Junction Strategic Development Area covers an area of 19 hectares. At the heart of the Strategic Development Area is Watford Junction railway station and ancillary infrastructure connecting the town to London, St Albans and Birmingham. A bus station is also located adjacent the railway station. The area supports a variety of land uses including employment (primarily office floor space to the west and industry to the south), residential and a mix dispersed retail, restaurants, cafes and public houses. The site is connected to the town centre via Clarendon Road, which supports a regionally important area of employment. North of the site is the St Albans Road district retail centre. To the east are the Balmoral and Imperial Way employment areas which are poorly connected, with the railways lines acting as a physical barrier.

2. 9. 2. The land surrounding Watford Junction Station is significant but in places underutilised. This is particularly evident given its location close to the town centre and employment areas. With over eight million passengers annually passing through the station, it is an important transport hub in the region. There is a need to see a more effective land use in this location to make better use of the excellent accessibility to public transport and access to services and facilities in the town centre.

What is the Policy intended to do?

2. 9. 3. The policy is intended to set out a broad framework for the redevelopment of Watford Junction Station and the immediate surrounding area. It establishes broad development parameters and clear design and land use expectations. Key considerations and constraints are identified.

Policy SD2.7 Watford Junction Strategic Development Area

Proposals in this Strategic Development Area, as defined on the Policies Map, which contribute to achieving successful implementation of the development aims will be supported.

Proposals for new development are expected to incorporate the following development considerations:

  1. Transform the Watford Junction Station into a 21st century multi-modal public transport hub and enhance the visitor experience;
  2. Create a new vibrant mixed use quarter to provide new homes and jobs in close proximity to Watford Junction station;
  3. Reduce severance created by the railway lines and improve connectivity between different parts of the site and the wider area including the town centre;
  4. Protect or reprovide existing bus related facilities on site;
  5. Improve the public realm and create a safe and attractive network of streets and open spaces, incorporating the green infrastructure;
  6. Ensure individual developments are planned in a comprehensive manner and contribute to the regeneration of the site as a whole;
  7. Encourage high density development with school provision required to make it a fully sustainable location;
  8. Support greater land use efficiency based on a mix of uses to benefit from the accessibility of the area;
  9. Where necessary, Compulsory Purchase Orders may be applied.

2. 10. Bushey Station Strategic Development Area

Why is this policy needed?

2. 10. 1. The Bushey Station Strategic Development Area covers an area of 18 hectares. The central focus of the area is the railway station, which provides access to mainline services to London and Birmingham and the London Overground connecting to London and Watford Junction.

2. 10. 2. The land around Bushey railway station offers a significant opportunity for achieving a more sustainable pattern of growth. Proximity to mainline and Transport for London rail services make the area accessible and the Strategic Development Area lies within the High Sustainability Zone. It is relatively close to Watford town centre, while Oxhey Park is located to the west. There are important heritage assets in the area including Bushey Arches to the east and the Oxhey Village Conservation Area to the south-east.

2. 10. 3. The area west of the rail tracks has a large number bulky retail units while east of the tracks there is vacant land close to the station. Generally, there is a poor urban form, exacerbated by the road network which is heavily congested with poor air quality in places. Opportunities exist for significant redevelopment in favour of more sustainable land uses with the railway station at its core as the key transport hub.

2. 10. 4. Without significant redevelopment and a transition to a more sustainable layout and revision of the road, pedestrian and cycle network, the area may continue to be car dominated, with destination bulky good stores proliferating and continuing to be defined by a weakly defined urban character.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 10. 5. The policy is intended to set out a broad framework for managing transformation and change in the area. It establishes broad development aims and clear design and land use expectations.

2. 10. 6. The policy will seek to ensure that the land around Bushey station establishes a more efficient mixed use development pattern using the station as the key transport hub. Medium to high density development based on a mix of uses, with a gradual move to more efficient use of land away from single storey retail outlets, is needed. The retail element can be retained, however, redesigned to be more efficient and combined with a range of other uses which encourages more walking and cycling.

2. 10. 7. The policy expects radical improvement to the urban realm, prioritising for pedestrian and cyclist movements with the view to improving air quality and easing traffic congestion in the area. The vibrancy of existing local shops will be enhanced while opportunities to enhance existing heritage assets so that the area retains its positive character elements should be pursued.

Policy SD2.8 Bushey Station Strategic Development Area

Proposals in this Strategic Development Area, as defined on the Policies Map, which contribute to achieving successful implementation of the development aims will be supported.

Proposals for new development are expected to incorporate the following development considerations:

  1. Encourage medium to high density mixed use development in the vicinity of the train station and the surrounding area;
  2. Support greater land use efficiency based on a mix of uses which will benefit from the accessibility of the area;
  3. Establish a more defined and attractive urban grain with robust pedestrian and cyclist connectivity to key destinations such as parks, transport nodes and local shops;
  4. Reduce the dominance of the road network at Bushey Arches, improving air quality and reducing traffic;
  5. Ensure that heritage assets are key features of the Strategic Development Area, their setting and character should be enhanced by proposals;
  6. Development should bring more vitality to the existing local neighbourhood centre with no additional retail land use being provided.

2. 11. Town Centre Strategic Development Area

Why is this policy needed?

2. 11. 1. The Town Centre Strategic Development Area covers an area of 90 hectares and extends from Watford High Street station in the south to West Hertfordshire College on Hempstead Road and is bound by the major road corridors on the east and west sides. The town centre is a regional destination for retail and leisure related activities and supports a significant number of jobs in the area. To consolidate Watford's role in the South West Hertfordshire area, it is essential the area is able to adapt to changing trends and make better use of existing land. The policy sets out a framework to support growth and change and encourages a mix of uses that complement each other and support the local economy.

2. 11. 2. The Strategic Development Area is at the heart of Watford and is located in a zone of high sustainability with strong connections to the other Strategic Development Areas identified in the Local Plan. The town centre is well served by public transport, however, it is constrained by the road network which also acts to sever many of the pedestrian and cycle connections. With new development coming forward during the plan period, the policy framework should facilitate opportunities to improve connectivity between local destinations and make for better place-making that will benefit residents, visitors and the business community.

2. 11. 3. The High Street supports a variety of national retailers while the Parade provides a focal point for the evening and night time economy. At the north end of the Strategic Development Area is the Town Hall, Watford Library and West Hertfordshire College. This area has been identified as an area for improvement, focused on being a cultural hub with a mix of community orientated uses in conjunction with types of development that contribute towards a larger mixed use development.

2. 11. 4. Adjacent to the High Street are the distinctive local retail centres of Market Street and Queens Road. Improvements to the town centre will benefit these areas through improved public realm, connectivity and intensification, including a mix of uses such as new homes that can encourage greater footfall. The improvement scheme to be undertaken along Clarendon Road will enhance pedestrian connections between Watford Junction and the town centre, reinforcing the relationship between a key transport hub, employment and retail centres. Together, this will further enhance Watford's standing as a regionally important destination for a multitude of uses and experiences and increase its attractiveness as a place to grow and invest.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 11. 5. The objective of the Strategic Development Area is to enhance the town centre for residents, workers and visitors and support redevelopment. It is important to ensure that when development proposals are being designed, they consider how they are integrated with other projects in the town centre and nearby. In this context, proposals will be expected to clearly demonstrate how they will contribute towards the vision for the Watford to 2036 and reinforce it importance as a destination and service centre.

Policy SD2.9 Town Centre Strategic Development Area

Proposals in the Town Centre Strategic Development Area, as defined on the Policies Map, which contribute to achieving successful implementation of the objectives will be supported.

Proposals for new development are expected to incorporate the following development considerations:

  1. Encourage medium to high density mixed use development by making more effective use of land for infill and underutilised sites;
  2. Support greater land use efficiency based on a mix of uses and bringing residential uses back into the town centre where these are not located along primary retail frontages;
  3. Development along the High Street, Market Street, Queens Road and The Parade should retain and enhance active frontages on the ground floor;
  4. Encourage provision of flexible work spaces as part of new developments;
  5. Retain and improve positive perceptions of place by improving the public realm, establishing more green infrastructure and enhancing the visitor experience;
  6. Ensure movement corridors are attractive, easy to follow and are well integrated into the transport network for pedestrians and cyclists and to connect key destinations;
  7. Ensure that heritage assets are key features of the Strategic Development Area and their setting and character should be enhanced by proposals;
  8. Redevelopment of the Parade and north of Rickmansworth Road are consistent with the key principles and guidance set out in the Watford High Street (North) and Cultural Hub Draft Masterplan, and subsequent amendments;
  9. Any large scale residential schemes will be required to consider infrastructure requirements such as the provision of education facilities and open space with ancillary recreation facilities.

2. 12. Lower High Street Strategic Development Area

Why is this policy needed?

2. 12. 1. The area between Watford High Street Station to Bushey Station is referred to as the Lower High Street. The Strategic Development Area, which has an area of 42 hectares is one of the most sustainable areas of the borough, however, the land is considered to be ineffectively used. The area is characterised by single use large retail outlets, which are predominantly car based destinations. The retail uses provide competition for the town centre rather than complementing it.

2. 12. 2. To make better use of the area that would contribute towards achieving sustainable development by encouraging improved access to services and facilities, and providing better transport choices to local destinations. As such, a transformative approach to development in this area is supported. To deliver this, it is essential that when proposals are being prepared proper consideration is given to how the site relates to its surroundings and how it could function more effectively as part of the in the wider area.

2. 12. 3. A large part of the site is adjacent to existing residential areas, however much of this is severed by major roads, disconnecting people from the wider area and encouraging reliance on private vehicles for short distance journeys. The nature of the road network in the area has created poor pedestrian and cycle networks and low quality public realm. The area is located in close proximity to the town centre, transport hubs and community facilities such as quality green spaces and cultural activities, however, the character of the area reduces the value of these. New residential and mixed use development in the area would benefit from focusing on healthy streets, where the pedestrian environment is attractive and connects to local destinations that would reflect its sustainable location and complement quality high density development within the Strategic Development Area.

2. 12. 4. Proposals will need to consider how they contribute towards creating a sense of place ensuring there are connections for pedestrians and cyclists that are convenient and intuitive to use. With a focus on mixed use development, it is important to support the delivery of housing and business needed by the community.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 12. 5. The policy covers the area between the Watford High Street Station and stretches to the large retail outlets to the west of Dalton way, punctuating at the railway line. The policy seeks to provide a framework for the gradual transformation of this area to provide a more pleasant urban environment and efficient use of land in the High Sustainability Zone.

2. 12. 6. The policy seeks to transform the area into a people focused area with a wider range of uses. It seeks to support higher density mixed-use development, including new homes. Heritage assets in the area, including Watford Museum in the north of the area and Frogmore House in the south, should be enhanced by any redevelopment of the area. The policy also sets out the need for proposals to consider environmental constraints such as flood risk, which may have to be mitigated through the design as part of the design of any scheme.

Policy SD2.10 Lower High Street Strategic Development Area

Proposals in this Strategic Development Area, as defined on the Policies Map, which contribute to achieving successful implementation of development aims will be supported.

Proposals for new development are expected to incorporate the following development considerations:

  1. Proposals which intensify the existing land use through mixed-use redevelopment and intensification of large retail and car sales sites will be supported;
  2. Proposals should create a clearer and more legible public realm, led by a more defined building line along the core streets;
  3. High quality design, including an attractive public realm and landscaping scheme that will support the green river corridor, will be essential;
  4. Design proposals should enhance the existing heritage assets to protect and enhance their setting and the quality of the street scene;
  5. Pedestrian and cycling routes should be enhanced as part of any redevelopment proposals, providing clear and attractive connections that are easy to follow and consider desire lines to local destinations including the High Street and smaller retail outlets, Bushey Station, open spaces and cultural centres;
  6. The design parameters of schemes need to ensure that in areas at risk of flooding, mitigation measures are identified. Ideally this should be provision that can support multiple uses and designing buildings that have less sensitive uses on ground floors.

2. 13. Dome Roundabout Strategic Development Area

Why is this policy needed?

2. 13. 1. The Dome Roundabout area is located in the north of the borough and has a site area of 19 hectares. The area is dominated by retail supermarkets, petrol stations and fast food establishments, along with a congested road network. Residential properties in the vicinity are predominantly family sized homes and the site is situated within the Medium Sustainability Zone, despite being somewhat removed from the town centre. The Strategic Development Area has good access to employment, schools, local shops and the Abbey Line is nearby, which provides a public transport connection between Watford town centre and St Albans. Additionally, the area is served by strategically important bus routes.

2. 13. 2. To ensure a greater optimisation of land, the area is in need of significant transformation. This should deliver improvements to the built up area which include the quality of buildings and the public realm. Any redevelopment should provide a more efficient use of land by mixing residential uses with employment and retail uses where these are compatible.

What is the policy intended to do?

2. 13. 3. The uses in the area are destinations and there is an opportunity to establish a mix of uses, including residential. The policy seeks to see an incremental change to a more efficient pattern of development, combined with tangible urban realm improvements. A framework for improving the pedestrian and cyclist environment, including the establishment of greater connections to North Watford station, is provided.

2. 13. 4. Significant redevelopment opportunity, based on more effective land uses, public realm improvements, establishing a vibrant mixed use area and supporting pedestrian and cyclist connections to key destinations, is sought. There will be more homes based on a well-established community in North Watford. Synergies will develop with existing land uses including the existing employment area, health and community facilities and the local shopping parade.

Policy SD2.11 Dome Roundabout Strategic Development Area

Proposals in this Strategic Development Area, as defined on the Policies Map, which contribute to achieving the successful implementation of the development aims will be supported.

Proposals for new development are expected to incorporate the following development considerations:

  1. Maximise opportunities for combining large retail stores with residential development to ensure more effective land use;
  2. Provide no additional retail floor space in this location;
  3. Any development should improve the vibrancy of the existing local shops and neighbourhood centres;
  4. Mixed use development to include health and community uses is sought for proposals near North Watford Library;
  5. Establish a higher quality, integrated and user friendly pedestrian and cyclist environment that creates clear connections to the wider area including North Watford station;
  6. Pursue a design that establishes a distinctive building line and quality urban grain based on legible and healthy streets;
  7. Improve the landscaping and green infrastructure in the area, making road side areas more attractive and enhancing the public realm.

[4] The South West Hertfordshire Economic Study Update (2019) has recommended that growth projections used to inform planning policies be based on floor space requirements rather than number of jobs.

[5] Sites above 350 dwelling per hectare should only be allowed in Strategic Development Areas and have access to a Mass Transit System

[6] In special circumstances site specific constraints will necessitate a departure from the range. These include schemes in Conservation Areas, those which involve a listed building, sites which seek to provide more family homes and 3 bed units, or in cases where it can be demonstrated that new infrastructure e.g. a school would increase the sustainability credentials for that site.

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