Frequently asked questions
Why do we need this Masterplan?
There are a number of reasons:
- To improve the top of the town centre from the flyover to West Herts College so that it develops its own unique offer for residents, businesses and visitors, encourages greater footfall and, overall, is able to match the success of the rest of the High Street
- To secure the future for two of Watford’s well-loved historic building – the Town Hall (which isn’t suitable for modern office use) and the current Watford Museum building (which isn’t suitable for a modern Museum and Heritage service)
- To relocate the Museum to a modern, new purpose built facility next to Watford Central Library
- To open up more attractive and well-designed public space around the Town Hall with better pedestrian and cycle pathways
- To create a vibrant hub for culture in the area including the library, Watford Colosseum, the new Museum and the Horns Public House
What does the proposals mean for the Town Hall building?
The Town Hall was designed for working life in the 1930s and you would be hard pushed to find many organisations and businesses that are still working from the same building they were over 80 years ago. The age of the building means that we are having to spend a great deal of money on repairs and regularly sorting out substantial maintenance issues, which just isn’t good use of money. On top of this, the building isn’t compatible with efficient, modern working or for providing great customer service to residents.
However, the Town Hall is a very important building to the town and sits within the middle of one of the council's most important conservation areas (the Civic Core conservation area). This has been designated because its architecture and historic interest to the town are seen as worthy of preservation and enhancement. The building itself is Grade II listed. This applies to the whole building but of specific historical interest are:
- The Council Chamber
- The Committee Rooms
- The stairway
- The Mayor’s office
The council will only progress plans that take the historical listing into account so that they are preserved for future generations and for ongoing civic use (such as council meetings). The masterplan in putting forward a proposal to convert the Town Hall into a high quality, landmark hotel, achieves these aims. There are a number of similar conversions that have dealt sympathetically with the heritage of former Town Halls and retained public access to some of the more iconic rooms and areas so that the buildings remain an integral part of the heritage of the area.
We also recognise the importance of the exterior of the building and so the masterplan will need to be sympathetic to the look and feel of the building and ensure the Town Hall is located within a setting that is both attractive and appropriate to its historic importance.
Initial discussions with Historic England have been encouraging and we are working closely with them to preserve and enhance the character of the Civic Core Conservation Area. They are positive about the initial plans and about the more significant improvements to the area which will be delivered through the masterplan overall
What does this mean for the council?
The council has given a great deal of thought about what would be best for the organisation’s future working and moving to new, purpose built premises secures the best financial value possible as well as improved services to local people and a better working environment for staff and councillors.
It is early days in terms of making a decision on where the council should be located for potentially the next 80 years. We are looking at a number of options in the town e but have not decided where yet.
Why does this mean for Watford Museum?
The existing listed 1775 museum building, which has been a permanent home for the Museum since 1981, has outgrown the practical requirements of the museum and also the ever-growing collection. The council plans to relocate the Museum to a new premises within the cultural hub within the masterplan and then return the existing museum building back to its original residential use.
A new museum in a purpose built building allows more space to possibly include a café, retail, gallery as well as space for events and learning.
What will the proposed changes to road layout around The Avenue Car Park do to the traffic?
The council is looking at the opportunity presented by closing part of Hempstead Road changing from one way to two way traffic circulation. The closed area could become a new shared surface for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport access. These changes to the road network would still maintain access to existing properties.
This is an initial idea. Further investigation is needed to assess the implications on the town’s traffic network and required mitigation to ensure that the road network will be able to cope before any scheme can be progressed.
When will phase 2 (potential opportunities adjacent to The Parade) happen?
There are a number of opportunity areas where the buildings in the ares look tired and out of date in comparison with the town centre south of the Exchange Road Flyover and around intu Watford. These are not firm proposals, just a suggested strategy we are seeking views on.
The council gets a lot of speculative development schemes from developers with plans for the area but we want to be in the driving seat and set out an overarching strategy that gives us a blueprint that will help shape this part of the town centre for the next 20 years.
This document puts the council in the driving seat, and provides an overarching strategy that gives us a blueprint for the next 20 years.
Why is it proposed to close the underpasses under Rickmansworth Road?
This is a piece of work that needs further investigation to see whether it is feasible. But there are a number of reasons why this has been included in the proposals:
- The subway outside the Town Hall through to the Parade does break the link between the High Street and the very top of the town centre – we would like to see a more attractive and appealing way for people to move through the area
- The subway is quite narrow – too small for the amount of use it gets each day – and this can lead to issues between pedestrians and cyclists
- We want to replace the traditional street layout, which is currently dominated by the car and other motor vehicles, with pedestrian and cycling a priority in the future.
What will happen after the consultation?
Following public consultation, all the feedback will be reviewed. What people have told us will help shape the final masterplan before it is formally adopted by the council as what is known as a supplementary planning document. This document will be used to guide future decisions on development proposals and investment in new infrastructure such as roads
How will the council deliver the masterplan?
The council has an active role to play as both landowner and local planning authority in redeveloping the area but acknowledges delivering the masterplan will require the involvement of a number of organisations, including other landowners and developers. The council will look to work with them to bring forward development of their sites.