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Government rules Farm Terrace Allotments can be built on as part of Watford health campus
Campaigners have lost their bid to save Farm Terrace Allotments from being concreted over as part of the Watford health campus.
Today, the Department of Communities and Local Government ruled the 117-year-old allotments can be developed as part of the scheme to build 600 new homes and new hospital facilities on the land behind Vicarage Road.
The decision comes after the department rescinded initial permission it granted earlier this year to build on the allotments following a legal challenge from the Farm Terrace Community Association campaign group.
Watford Borough Council then had to submit a second application to use the allotment land as part of the regeneration scheme.
Today’s decision was welcomed by Watford’s elected mayor, Dorothy Thornhill, who said: “Whilst in my head I never doubted that the right decision would be made, clearly it has been a long grind and a difficult one and you know there are times when you wonder.
“Asking to build on allotment land was not a decision we took lightly.
“Part of that redevelopment is around securing space for new hospital facilities.
“I don’t want a chief executive of the hospital in five or ten years time to turn around and say, ‘if we only had some ground, if we only we could’ve done that’.
"I don’t want to be responsible for Watford General Hospital not to be able to improve its facilities in the 21st century.
“It’s about regeneration. It’s about jobs. It’s about houses for local people. It’s about creating a new part of town and a new neighbourhood, and turning a derelict, grimy spot into something we can all be proud of.
“I regret the allotments have to be the casualty of such a major scheme, but I always believed that the benefits outweighed the costs, and it seems the secretary of state agreed.”
A statement from the Department of Communities and Local Government said ministers approved the inclusion of these allotments into the health campus once they were satisfied Watford Borough Council met these criteria by creating new allotments to replace those lost.
Stephen Williams, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: "This application, backed by the local council, local MP Richard Harrington and Watford’s Elected Mayor Dorothy Thornhill, opens the door for new NHS hospital facilities and regeneration scheme, as well as replacement allotments.
“Having carefully considered all the issues and representations, ministers have approved the application."
Original plans for the health campus had protected the Farm Terrace Allotments. However, last year politicians at Watford Borough Council included it in the scheme, saying it was necessary to make it viable for developers.
Last week the regeneration project took its first step towards getting started after a new access road to Watford General Hospital, which will stretch from Dalton Way to Willow Lane, was approved.
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is due to unveil what the new hospital redevelopment will entail when it reveals its new clinical strategy in the coming months.
Following today’s announcement, Samantha Jones, the health trusts’ chief executive, said: "We are pleased with today's news, especially as it will allow us more flexibility to provide the best possible services and facilities on the Watford Hospital site.
“This is good news for our patients and staff. We recognise that the Farm Terrace allotment holders will be disappointed by this news. However, I am assured that the Council have put in place suitable alternative arrangements for them and have committed to supporting them as they relocate."
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