As I sign off my last column for the Watford Observer, I want to share with you the one thing that keeps me awake at night.

If there is one problem I don’t envy my successor it is how to deal with the Government’s ‘revolution’ in the planning system, that includes doubling our housing targets and telling councils like Watford it will be ‘breathing down their neck every day and night’ to make sure we deliver. It is threatening to take powers away from councils that don’t. As a local resident wrote in the Watford Observer letters page last week, this is already happening in St Albans.

Make no mistake, Watford is right in the Government’s line of fire. The areas they want to provide most houses are existing towns and cities, in places close to railway stations and town centres, and where there is a gap between income levels and property prices. It sounds like they mean us, not the ‘leafy’ shires!

As Mayor I have tried to strike a balance between providing for economic success, jobs and homes, and protecting the quality of life in the town.

We are trying to focus new development on places that need regeneration – like derelict industrial land next to the hospital and at Watford Junction. We are fighting to defend our policy of 35 per cent affordable housing in new schemes – against government policy that undermines this. We are working with neighbouring councils to develop a strategic plan for the whole of south west Hertfordshire so that we get the right housing in the right places. The government hold all the aces, but we are playing our hand as best we can.

But even so I fear planning committee members will be in a no-win position – upsetting residents if they grant planning permission, risking the Government forcing even more development on us if they don’t. And while we all know young people struggling to buy or rent in Watford, even small-scale development can pack the public gallery.

Whoever you elect will have to grapple with these problems. And at least we are dealing with a situation where there is investment in the town – managing the problems of success is better than dealing with decline. It is a challenge that will require both guts and good judgement.

Councils of all colours across the country are struggling to deal with the tsunami that these changes have bought. Local politicians who claim they can defy the tide and resist development are at best naïve, but at worst, dishonest.

- Dorothy Thornhill is Elected Mayor of Watford