Watford’s elected mayor vowed the "door is not closed" on hospital regeneration in the Health Campus development after councillors approved a new business zone on the land this week.

MP Richard Harrington backed the project, calling it "one of the biggest urban regeneration schemes Watford had ever seen".

But Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said she was "bitterly disappointed" things were not yet firmed up with Watford General Hospital bosses.

She said "the land is there for the hospital to build on for the foreseeable future" after Watford Borough Council development control committee also approved an outline plan of the project.

The mayor added: "Come on hospital, tell us what you want. It’s a bitter disappointment they are not in that position, but I understand why. I won’t close the door on the hospital. The door is open, the land is there for the foreseeable future.

"It’s really important the hospital does the right thing and we just have to wait a bit longer to see what’s happening with the Watford site. But we can crack on with the blue light road, which is absolutely needed, and it will also bring better access and parking."

However, she said the priority was now on building the new hospital link road in West Watford, the new business zone and then on housing.

During last week's meeting, the planning committee granted permission to incorporate a business zone as part of the campus with purpose-built premises to support additional employment opportunities in the town.

The outline element of the plan, also green lit by the committee, includes building up to 681 homes and regenerating, in time, the existing Watford Hospital in the next 10 to 15 years.

Mr Harrington said the project "is just what Watford needs" but has urged the hospital trust to bring forward its plans to realise the full potential of the campus. 

He said: "We are kicking at an open door - we are just waiting for the proposal from the hospital trust once they’ve decided what they want.

"I’ve taken Jeremy Hunt there, he’s seen the whole area, and it’s all integrated. 

"I think the hospital campus should take place, I think it will take place and, in its own right, it’s fantastic for the town, but it’s an important pre-cursor to what it says, the health side of the campus."

Samantha Jones, chief executive of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and in charge of Watford General, said: "We are pleased with this decision. We are fully committed to the Watford Health Campus scheme which will, over time, help facilitate a major upgrade of Watford Hospital.

"This is great news for our patients, local people and staff."

A separate planning application has been submitted for the land known as Farm Terrace allotments, which was not considered at the meeting.

Labour leader and committee member Nigel Bell said: "Concerns were raised about the effect the new houses and flats will cause - it is something for the future and something highways will have to look into for West Watford.

"We supported it. There’s a lot of work to be done, this is an outline application. Kier, the developer, will have to come back with a more detailed plan taking into account the conditions we put in place."

Among the concerns raised were flooding and highways problems as a result of the development.

Permission was granted subject to a section 106 agreement to contribute to the community costs of the development.

Mayor Thornhill added: "It has been agreed in principle that we go ahead.

"The priority is now the road, the business area and then housing. Hopefully by then we will know what the hospital needs and slowly, slowly everything will come together.

"We are on our way, which is very exciting.

"The space for new businesses has already been let. Nothing about this project is pie in the sky. I’m proud that businesses want to come to Watford."

The plans state 35 percent of the new homes will be affordable.

They also propose new parks and play spaces in the area, a new public square, cycle paths and safeguarding the expansion of school places at Laurance Haines primary school.