Watford Borough Council has officially submitted its draft version of its Local Plan to the Government.

The huge planning document, that will shape the development of Watford over the next 15 years or so, was formally sent to a Planning Inspector on Friday afternoon.

Within the document are planning policies in locations that identify how Watford will grow - and perhaps most importantly, how it will meet housing targets of nearly 800 a year.

The decision to submit the draft local plan was formally agreed by councillors on July 19 and now officers have officially submitted it.

Watford Observer: Watford town hall, home of Watford Borough Council (WBC). Credit: WBC/Simon JacobsWatford town hall, home of Watford Borough Council (WBC). Credit: WBC/Simon Jacobs

There was some controversy on the local plan process after councillors received a letter from Watford MP Dean Russell in the hours leading up to the July 19 meeting.

Within that letter, the Conservative politician claimed he had been told that the council's housing targets set by Government were just a "starting point" following correspondence he had had with a housing minister.

Mr Russell added the local plan is an "opportunity to present a reasonable and credible alternative option" and that any "challenging" of housing targets should be stated within the plan.

He said he could not find any evidence within the council's local plan of challenging the housing targets and said voting to submit it to Government risked "locking in" the targets - targets which Watford's Liberal Democrat mayor Peter Taylor has described as "unrealistic".

Watford Observer: Watford MP Dean Russell, left, and Watford mayor Peter Taylor clashed over Watford Borough Council's local plan process in JulyWatford MP Dean Russell, left, and Watford mayor Peter Taylor clashed over Watford Borough Council's local plan process in July

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Councillors chose to dismiss Mr Russell's letter and agreed to take the local plan to the next stage. Mr Taylor even accused Watford's MP of being "misleading" and trying to "sabotage" the council's local plan process - Mr Russell said he was "rather surprised" at the "ferocity of the criticism".

Ben Martin, the council’s head of planning and development, said housing targets can only be challenged in "very exceptional circumstances", such as when there are high flood risks or large areas of high-quality Green Belt.

He added: "None of these criteria apply to Watford so it is almost impossible for us to challenge the figure through the Local Plan process."

Mr Martin said a challenge would "almost certainly fail" and would leave the council without up-to-date policies – causing it to restart the planning process that has already taken seven years.

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Now that the council's draft local plan has been submitted to Government, it will subsequently be considered by an independent Planning Inspector to consider if it complies with national guidance.

The Planning Inspector will consider the comments submitted during the final draft Watford Local Plan consultation that took place between January and March this year.

The council says the examination will take the "best part of a year to complete", which if successful, will lead to the council adopting the Watford Local Plan.

A council spokesperson said: "This is an important step that will enable the council to better manage where development takes place, how it is designed, protect and improve our environment, address climate change, deliver affordable housing and more broadly; have more of a say of how development in our town comes forward."