The news that the proposed Metropolitan Line Extension project is to be scrapped is very welcome news for those of us who have been concerned at the way in which Watford has been subjected to overdevelopment in the past decade or so.

As a former train driver, a life long railway enthusiast and a firm advocate of public transport I never imagined that I would oppose such a project, but enough is enough. With the very prospect of this rail link being built we have witnessed the vultures of the construction companies, the building developers, the estate agents and other business interests circling ever lower over the residents of Holywell, Vicarage and elsewhere in West Watford and nearby. For these big business interests the proposed rail link was (and still is) viewed as another chance for an orgy of over-development and exploitation and another bonanza style payday all at the expense of local people. Yet more ugly, overpriced, out of character flats for professionals and yuppies. Yet more retail outlets and of course roads all over the place. Basically let’s see how much concrete, bricks and mortar we can squeeze onto every available piece of open space and green land left in the area.

The evidence for this is already plentiful. For instance there is the 23-storey monstrosity agreed by Watford Council for Ascot Road. Now developers are greedily eyeing up the open green space nearby alongside the Ebury Way, where local people and their dogs exercise every day. Residents on the Holywell Estate have been forced out of their garages and lock-ups to accommodate a programme to increase housing intensity in the area. It has even been suggested that a school could be built on the park and children’s recreational space in the middle of the estate.

Perhaps most shameful of all is the way in which local long standing tenants were forced out of their allotments at Farm Terrace by Watford Council leadership, rather as peasantry were driven from their land by the barons in feudal times. Once again for another large housing development.

Below that, along the Cone Valley is the massive building project quaintly named Riverwell. But all is far from well. All of the above mentioned developments are along the route of the proposed Met Line Extension and will impact adversely upon local people. Vicarage Ward is densely populated and enough people and businesses are there already. What developers and planners fail to appreciate or probably care nothing for is what appears to them as “waste ground” is for many local residents (adults and children alike) precious pieces of land which they have naturally adopted over many years for recreation, exercise and just open space.

Significantly in the anguished outpourings of the Watford Mayor, the town’s MP and others, since the scrapping of the proposed link, its been all about lost business opportunities, lost investment potential and connectivity (whatever that means) for people coming to Watford. There has been little or nothing about the effects upon the people of west Watford, or the wider town, or even about public transport, or anything to do with the natural and built environment, depending upon whether the rail link is built or scrapped. This speaks volumes about where the priorities of the political and business leaders of this town lie. Honest local people are not even a consideration.

The scrapping of the Met Line Extension offers a real opportunity for local people to be involved in stopping the madcap headlong dash to overdevelopment, overpopulation, over density and stressful hustle and bustle. It’s a chance to maintain and improve the quality of life, to preserve our open spaces, to look after the natural environment and to maintain and ensure the relative peace and quiet which still exists, not only along the river banks and canal sides, but even in the residential areas and estates on the outskirts of this part of Watford.

Martin Elvin

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