WATFORD Town Centre could be home to spectacular water jets and even an ice skating rink in years to come.

The Watford Town Centre Cultural Study, commissioned by Watford Borough Council in January last year, suggests a variety of building and cultural projects that would bring long-term social and aesthetic improvements to the area.

Compiled by private consultants Aecom, the final text was debated by councillors on Monday night, who opted to move the process forward to a formal public consultation later in the year.

The company split the town centre into three clusters: the Town Hall, the Parade and Palace Theatre clusters – each with their own distinct needs and ambitions – and launched a lengthy consultation into what residents wanted, taking inspiration from towns and cities across the country to formulate a final set of proposals.

In the Town Hall cluster, defined as the area from the Rickmansworth Road underpass to the old West Herts College building, the planners sought to establish an area for “discovery and learning” and suggested the following:

  • refurbishing the library and relocating the Watford Museum to a purpose built premises next door
  • potential residential development in the Town Hall car park
  • building urban and sculpture gardens
  • improving public transport links
  • and converting the old college building into offices for small businesses.

In the Parade cluster, defined as the area from the underpass to just past the ring road flyover, the planners sought to develop a “more welcoming environment” by suggesting:

  • “opening up” the underpass, with steps expanded to both sides
  • the removal of the formal cycle route to slow down speeding cyclists
  • the removal of the vehicle route between Albert Road South and the Gade Car Park
  • a redesigned pond with water fountains
  • a neighbouring events space, alternating from a water jet feature, a stage, an ice-skating rink, or even a summer beach
  • improved lighting, street furniture, and resurfacing.

In the Palace Theatre Cluster, defined as the area from the parade cluster to the end of Lower High Street, the planners sought to create “an area for making and performance” by suggesting:

  • the potential building of a new cinema (with a commercial partner) at Charter Place
  • moving the bus stop from outside the Palace Theatre to the corner of Clarendon Road and the High Street
  • the development of a community arts development, for drama, dance, and the creative arts
  • improved lighting.

The proposals, with a combined cost of £27 million, were warmly welcomed by members of the council’s Cabinet committee, who will launch a formal public consultation later in the year.

Mayor Dorothy Thornhill warned, however, that all the suggestions were not economically viable in the current climate and would take many years to implement. She said: “I can say now that some of this will not happen, some ideas will be changed, but others will be embraced wholeheartedly.

“This will be something that will happen over several years and several budget cycles. We will be doing this as we can afford it.”

It was agreed that the Palace Theatre cluster would be a priority.