Having cited the needs of the so-called ‘Health Campus’ in the business case for re-routing the Met line away from the established Watford station, with its 1.5+ million users a year, toward the already overcrowded Watford Junction via ‘Cassiobridge’ & ‘Vicarage Road’, the Watford political machine swang back into action this week.
With great fanfare in official channels and social media, the master plan for the much-heralded ‘Health Campus’ was unveiled at Watford Football Club on Friday for public consultation. Taking a leaf out of TfL’s book on public engagement, the way into the event was not entirely obvious!
Nonetheless, having successfully navigated the way through darkened entrances and dimly lit tunnels beneath the stands at Vicarage Road football ground to the subterranean conference room, as some others also did while I was there, an army of suited professionals from planners to transport engineers was on hand to explain the proposals and take questions. The Master plan itself was laid on wall displays and a large printed mat on the floor, complete with model cars and trucks for younger visitors to play with – nice touch since if the Council gets its way they’d better get used to indoor play!
Despite the glossy images and artist impressions, the most glaringly obvious ‘revelation’ is, as tactfully observed & explained by chief reporter Mike Wright of the Watford Observer: “Health’ part of ‘health campus’ remains curiously elusive”!
I believe the plans represent a gross and unsustainable over-development of the site and constitute a recipe for exacerbation of the traffic problems around West Watford. Also calling the development a Health Campus when there is at the current time no plan or even declared intention by the hospital Trust to increase its service provision there is simply misleading and dishonest. It is far from clear how the two small land parcels in the master plan forming the ‘possible future hospital development zone’ have been identified or sized, or for what purpose?
In their current form I am far from convinced the proposals are in the best interests of the people of West Watford. They represent:
- The over-development of a back land site in an already densely populated area with
- Loss of a rare ‘green lung’ and valuable community facility in Farm Terrace allotments
- Poor sustainability in healthcare, public transport & heavy impact on local roads
- No improvement and worsening of safety for cyclists travelling north/south
- The Creation of business floor space for which there is no evidenced demand
- Loss of rare floor space in borough for ‘bad neighbour’ industrial uses
- No committed improvement to healthcare facilities despite being called a ‘health campus’
You can read the full text of my objections here – feel free to plagiarise!
This is not to say there couldn’t be some beneficial development on the land behind the hospital – certainly earmarking land for real healthcare proposals must take priority but calling this a ‘health campus’ is disingenuous. It’s no different from any other development. Arguably, in it’s current form, it’s an unsustainable gross over-development of back land so let’s hope Watford Council’s role as planning authority is kept respectably separate and impartial from its role as project sponsor and landowner.
Finally, if the development capacity is markedly less than currently proposed, surely this undermines still further the already shaky case for closing Watford Met station based on comparative projected passenger numbers and this case should be reopened!