The Conservative Mayoral candidate’s arguments about housing targets are directly refuted by the article she was replying to. If government targets are so optional, why have ministers named and shamed Watford Council for not meeting them, obliged the council to produce an action plan to increase the rate of building and reduced its powers to reject development?

Other points she makes are equally based on ignoring harsh reality. While the government has done a rhetorical about-face after losing the Chesham and Amersham by-election, over recent years it has tightened the screw on councils to force them to allow more development.

Watford has repeatedly challenged the Government’s methodology for new housing that puts additional pressure on urban areas like ours through requirements for higher densities on previously developed land. Increasingly, government inspectors are rejecting local plans that don’t provide for achieving their targets – forcing councils to start again and in the meantime being prey to speculative development. Is that what the Conservatives want?

It also takes some gall to attack the council for the timing of the local plan. The reason the plan is coming forward now is that just when the previous version was ready to go, Watford’s housing targets were hiked up, forcing the council to start this time-consuming process all over again – on the advice of the Government’s Planning Advisory Service.

There is something particularly disingenuous about attacking the Liberal Democrat Mayor for failing to stop government housing targets when the town’s Conservative MP explicitly supported them. In doing so, he missed a chance to back an alternative government proposal that would have reduced Watford’s target. No wonder he and his colleagues are now trying to deflect attention.

While local Conservatives wriggle and squirm to get off the hook, it is their government that is imposing these targets on Watford, punishing the council if it doesn’t meet them and imposing national policies that insist on higher density development. Rather than blame the council that has to deal with the consequences of government targets, why don’t they do something to get them changed?

Iain Sharpe

Oxhey Road, Watford