As reported in the Watford Observer (Watford’s Manhattan, December 20) the council has granted planning permission for a Manhattan-style development on the site currently occupied by The Range, TK Maxx and other retail sheds next to Watford Junction station. The cluster of towers, up to a staggering 28 storeys high, will contain more than 1,200 flats accommodating more than 3,000 people.

Enormous skyscraper blocks of flats might work in a city like New York or London, but they won’t work in Watford. Although the development probably meets all the statutory planning regulations, albeit somewhat tenuously, here in our market town they it will be completely out of place. We don’t have the infrastructure to support such a development and it will undoubtedly bring a raft of problems for residents of the flats themselves and for those who live in the surrounding streets.

In recent years national government has weakened planning regulations so much that they no longer reflect the parameters which matter in practice. With common sense and a knowledge of Watford it is not difficult to foresee the following problems:

  • The minimal car parking provision means that residents are going to find it extremely difficult to get around. The railway is useful for travelling to London or to the north west but many of the trains are already grossly overcrowded. Any other direction and public transport is woefully inadequate.
  • Cycling and walking are possible for the fit and hardy but are not for everyone in all weathers, and a lot of people are fearful of traffic.
  • The streets of the neighbouring residential areas of Callowlands and Nascot will be used for overflow car parking. This could only be avoided if CPZs are put in place with 24/7 enforcement.
  • It is most unlikely that sufficient additional school places and GP facilities will be provided in sufficient time and quantity to cater for the 3,000 plus new residents that the development will bring.
  • Shops and restaurants in St Albans Road will no longer have the benefit of the car parking provided by The Range site.
  • Only 9 per cent of the new homes will be ‘affordable’, despite the fact that the council’s planning policy calls for 35 per cent. If sufficient affordable housing cannot be provided in a high density development like this then where can it be provided?
  • The development will be a dominating visual eyesore for hundreds of residents of the neighbouring Nascot and Callowlands residential streets. The Nascot Conservation Area is characterised by its skyline of a mix of two and occasional three storey building styles interspersed with many tree-tops. The Callowlands streets, although not in a conservation area, are very traditional cosy streets of two storey terraces.
  • The fact that a development of this nature has succeed in getting through the planning process, not only against the wishes of not only hundreds of local people who formally objected, but also of many councillors and even the town’s Mayor, makes a mockery of local democracy.

If we are going to prevent hideous developments like this one continuing to gain planning approval we have to make sure that councils are given control over planning once again. We are meant to be living in a democracy which means that ordinary people are able to influence major decisions which affect their lives. The town has just gained a new MP. The best thing we can do now is to lobby him to have the planning of our town put back in the control of our elected council.

Peter Hutchinson

By email