As I have read the pages of the Watford Observer for the past few weeks, the subject of new housing in our town is never far from the front page. This is particularly in light of the new development at the current Range site on St Albans Road.

Many people are understandably concerned by the scale of this, worrying both about the impact on our already congested and under strain roads and public transport as well as seeing the landscape of the place that they live changing.

Councils like Watford have never been under such pressure to build more homes. The government have tripled Watford’s housing targets. They have put pressure on our town, which is largely made up of brownfield land with fast transport connections to London, to help them meet their target of building 300,000 new homes a year.

A government spokesperson told us, just last week, that it is ‘not an option’ for Watford Council to reject planning applications like that at the Range.

It’s not just Watford where this has been happening. In Croydon, planning permission for a 68 storey tower block has been given whilst in Woking, a 39 storey tower block has been approved.

It’s clear that across the country we are in the midst of a housing crisis, with young people being priced out of the housing market. We must build decent, good quality and affordable new homes.

However, local councils must have more power to say ‘no’ to development that is not appropriate for our town.

Last year, we rejected 260 planning applications but many of these were overturned by a government inspector on appeal, including plans from a developer for windowless flats in our town centre.

It is astonishing that government rules do not allow councils to reject planning applications because they lack affordable housing or because of the impact on local infrastructure.

That does not mean we are rolling over and have given up. I have this week written to the housing minister to give us more control over development in our town. I am working to improve the town’s infrastructure, including launching a new bus service, bike hire scheme, helping the NHS improve capacity at our hospital and ambitious long term improvements to Watford Junction.

There are no easy answers to development in the town and it is a clear that simply saying ‘no’ to all new homes is not an option. However, I will keep fighting for the government to give councils the powers they need so that we can decide what is right for the town.

  • Peter Taylor is Elected Mayor of Watford