A former allotments site that gardeners went to the High Court to save from redevelopment will be used for housing after plans were passed.

Farm Terrace Allotments, next door to Watford General Hospital, will be replaced by 192 homes, a community centre, and a multi-storey car park for the hospital.

The plans were discussed by Watford Borough Council planning committee on April 1.

Due to restrictions on social distancing, the meeting was held virtually, but councillors, officers, agents, speakers, and the public all had the opportunity to talk or listen in.

But government legislation does not yet allow councillors on the committee to make a decision on a planning application outside the council chamber, so it was down to the head of development management at the council to make the final decision, based on the discussion and comments they had listened to between committee members.

The scheme, which forms part of the wider Watford Riverwell development, will be a mixture of terraced houses and flats – and will also comply with the council’s policy that 35 per cent of the units are set aside as “affordable”.

Watford Observer:

A view over towards the former allotments from Thomas Sawyer Way. Vicarage Road stadium is behind the flats at the back

In total, 130 houses, 57 of which are set aside for either social rent, affordable rent, or shared ownership, will be built alongside 62 flats.

The terraced houses will be mostly three bedroom homes with 24 two-beds.

Watford Observer:

An eight-storey building will also be constructed, comprising 50 flats, with a community centre on the ground floor.
The development comes with 167 parking spaces, (not the multi-storey) which includes ten dedicated spaces for the community centre.

As part of the scheme, a new access road will be created from Thomas Sawyer Way.

According to the planning documents, this development offers an “innovative approach to create family housing at a high density” with a “high quality design approach”.

The scheme was approved subject to Section 106 conditions.

These conditions are that 35 per cent of the homes built must be affordable, and that the developer pays sums of £1.1 million and £320,000 to Hertfordshire County Council for provision of primary and secondary school education respectively.

There is a controversial history to the Farm Terrace Allotments site.

Allotment holders lost a High Court battle in 2016 when a judge stood by a Secretary of State's decision to remove protection for the allotments, which gave the all-clear for the land to be built over. The council had argued it needed the land for the Health Campus scheme.

Watford Observer:

The now derelict allotments

In 2015, outline planning permission was granted as part of the Watford Health Campus masterplan for 681 homes, a hotel, retail space, and construction of a new hospital or healthcare accommodation. This scheme did not cover the allotments site.

But the plans above have never come to fruition and instead the Riverwell scheme is going ahead as separate schemes made up of more than a 1,000 homes, a retirement village, primary school, hotel, shops, public spaces, and a community centre.

It also includes a seven-storey car park, which was approved in early 2019. It includes 1,450 spaces – of which 1,300 will be for hospital staff and visitors.

Watford Observer:

This is how the new multi-storey car park at Watford General could potentially look

The existing hospital car park will be turned into homes and a primary school as part of Riverwell.

Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said: “Over many years we have worked with our local hospital to help it get much needed new facilities, including a brand new multi-storey car park. This car park and new facilities are so important for our NHS.

“This scheme is vital if we want to see improved facilities at our hospital as well as good quality, affordable homes for local families.”

Watford Observer:

Watford Observer:

Thomas Sawyer Way, a new access road that was created to the hospital

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust will receive £400 million from the government to invest in its three hospitals – with the majority of the money going on redeveloping Watford General Hospital.

But The money is not a “free gift” – the trust will have to make annual repayments of around £20 million per year, but will not have to repay the full £400 million.