In common with so many, I am depressed to see the fabric of Watford being carved up by private housing developers, their new blocks all too often occupying former industrial sites often unsuitable for residential use. In Watford, it has become a deluge. Indeed, I noticed in the planning announcements of last week’s Watford Observer that the Mothercare headquarters is to become 110 residential flats. In West Watford, Sydney Road is soon to see hundreds of new flats on the Watford launderers site, and the old Wemco site is also to become flats. And there are the 24-storey tower blocks approved on old Sun Printers land in Ascot Road. And 181 flats planned for the bottom of the Holywell estate. Not to mention 1,200 new flats on the TK Maxx – The Range site in St Albans Road.

I don’t think anyone objects to some new-build. Where I live, there were a couple of houses until the early 1980s, now there are 33 flats! And I am fortunate to live in one. But what has changed since the 1980s is that the town planning system, once an upholder of public amenity in all its forms (green space, access to local facilities, visual aspect, housing density, and, no doubt, many more considerations that mere mortals such as myself are unaware of) has been corrupted by government legislation, making it little more than a rubber-stamp for developers. Hence the flats without windows which will be going up near the Wellspring Church in Lower High Street. Hence flats without communal green areas worthy of the name going up all over the place. Hence the new flats on an industrial estate in Tolpits Lane.

One could blame the Liberal Democrat planning committee for not fighting hard enough to stop Watford becoming another Wembley. But surely the salient point is the fact that the Government has prepared the ground so that any meaningful intervention by local government planners, whether officers or elected members, is likely to fail if challenged in the courts, and fail very expensively. If town planning committees are an expression of local democracy, then I would be interested to know what Watford’s new MP, Dean Russell, has to say about his own party’s very deliberate weakening of it this expression of local democracy.

Clive Jones

Gade Avenue, Watford