South Oxhey Initiative: 'Hokey Cokey' Conservatives on-board with scheme

South Oxhey from the air

South Oxhey from the air

First published in News Watford Observer: Photograph of the Author by , Senior Reporter

People in South Oxhey were given their first look at fresh plans to regenerate the estate with new homes and a shopping parade.

Residents were able to see the plans for the massive regeneration scheme at the public consultation event yesterday (Thursday).

The designs show Three Rivers' intention to build between 450 and 500 new homes during the first phase of the redevelopment.

Watford Observer:

An idea of how the site could look

Approximately half of the shops will be kept open while the north side of the precinct is developed, then the car park, before the final regeneration phase of the south precinct takes place.

Plans specify that there will be a smaller gap between the north and south precincts, with trees and seating areas in the market square.

The district council has also left space for a flexible market to be located between Prestwick Road and a proposed new supermarket.

Some of the area’s current strengths and weaknesses were also outlined.

The council identified that, amongst the areas of strengths there is "a strong sense of community and desire to improve the area" and "residents like living in the area, which has lots of green space, trees, good transport links and low density family housing".

Among the area’s weaknesses are "limited retail offer in South Oxhey to make it a destination and create employment opportunities" and "in need of improved range of housing".

The unveiling of the new proposals comes as the political support for the scheme received unanimous support from political parties in the district.

This week the Conservatives dropped their objections to the scheme after the council agreed to consider developer bids that do not meet its demand for 45 per cent affordable housing.

The district’s Conservative group pulled its support for the regeneration scheme in November over concerns that the plans were not financially viable.

In a project initiation document released by Three Rivers, it was revealed that: "The council recognises that there are potential advantages to incorporating variant bids from developers and the procurement process will accommodate such eventualities both within the core site area and beyond that boundary."

Councillor Sangster, who represents Moor Park and Eastbury, said the group will now back the project’s "change in direction", which will allow variant, as well as compliant bids from developers.

He said: "We support the adoption of the South Oxhey Initiative Project Initiation Document and welcome the change in direction for this project that it signifies.

"Some time ago the Conservative group withdrew its support for the South Oxhey Initiative as a consequence of what we considered were unrealistic objectives set by the Liberal Democrat administration and Labour Group."

He added: "This document recognises that our concerns were legitimate and addresses them directly."

Leader of the Liberal Democrat-run district council, Ann Shaw, has welcomed the Conservative’s new approach to the initiative.

She said: "We are delighted that, at last, common sense has prevailed in the Conservative group.

"The scheme has not changed but they have now realised how important it is to South Oxhey. It is a pity they took so long to understand this.

"The Liberal Democrat administration is determined to stick with South Oxhey residents to support a project that produces a modern shopping centre, more housing, and better leisure and community services for the residents. It should not be subject to playing party politics."

The leader of the district’s Labour group has criticised the Conservative group’s change of mind, referring to them as the "Hokey Cokey party". 

Councillor Stephen Cox, who represents Hayling ward, said: "The Tories are all over the show.  One minute they’re in, the next they’re out.  In two shakes they’ll turn around again. 

"South Oxhey deserves better than the Conservatives’ vacillation and indecisiveness.  Labour says what it’s all about is doing the best for South Oxhey.  We’ve always been clear and consistent about that."

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