The very first stage of a development plan that will shape the future of Watford began this week.

Councils up and down the country have been told by the government to submit a Local Plan, a document that identifies where new developments may be built with hundreds of thousands of new homes to be created.

And in Watford, it is no different, and despite being the smallest district by area outside of London and the Isles of Scilly at just 8.27 sq miles, Watford Borough Council has been given a target to build 770 homes a year over a ten year period; a number which Mayor Peter Taylor has described as “unrealistic”.

According to council figures, Watford has a population of 96,000 which is expected to rise to 130,000 by 2039.

With a draft local plan not expected to be submitted until Autumn next year, the council, which admits a number of "difficult decisions" will need to be made, is running a series of public consultations to find out exactly how the public feel the town and plan could be developed.

The first of these consultations took place at Watford Library on Tuesday. In particular, these events look at five key points: infrastructure, transport, housing, employment, and green spaces.

Around 40 people attended, and although people were open-minded about what needs to happen, concerns were raised.

Andrew Mortimer, 83, an ex-Nascot ward councillor, said he has seen a plan like this coming for 25 years and believes it is vital the county and borough councils work together.

He said: “It is so important the councils talk to each other about the possible implications of development before it begins. The county are responsible for the infrastructure so there needs to be meetings. I also believe there is no choice but to be build up.”

While Phil Gough, 78, who has lived in Watford for 45 years, said if development is necessary, it is important that “standards do not drop” when it comes to building.

He said: “There is a demand and we cannot have a nimby culture. But we must protect standards and not just count them as units of houses. Previous mistakes on high rises that have had to be torn down cannot be repeated.”

Mr Gough also called for the green belt land that Watford does have to be protected to avoid a “huge sprawl”.

Further consultations will take place on September 27 at North Watford Library from 4.30pm-7pm, on September 29 at Cassiobury Hub in Cassiobury Park from and at Watford Museum on October 4 from 4.30pm-7pm.

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