At a Watford Borough Council cabinet meeting last night, elected councillors voted in favour of a new masterplan to regenerate and enhance the stretch of the town centre that runs from the ring road flyover to the Town Hall and surrounding area.
The council will now move forward with a 8 week public consultation on the masterplan giving residents, businesses and other stakeholders the chance to have their say and help shape the vision.
The key aim of the 20 year plan is to transform the top of Watford town centre into a vibrant, economically successful mixed use cultural hub, which is better connected to the rest of the town centre.
This follows on from substantial town centre investment over the last five years, most significantly, the £180million enhancement of intu Watford and the major public realm improvement programme in the surrounding area which has delivered a thriving retail and leisure quarter
This successful transformation of the middle of the High Street and immediate environs has thrown into contrast the current fortunes and overall appeal of the top end and this is what the new proposed masterplan for the area is addressing.
Key options being explored in the 3 phase masterplan are:
- Relocation of Watford Museum, which is currently housed in the Grade II listed Benskins Brewery Building on the Lower High Street to a new building beside the Library which would include a café, gallery and community space
- Redevelopment of the Grade II listed Town Hall into a 4/5 star hotel –the building, currently home to the council, is very costly to run and maintain and needs significant investment
- Redeveloping the current Town Hall car park into a much needed housing
- Making the area around the Town Hall more pedestrian and cycle friendly
- Improving the road infrastructure around The Avenue so it becomes a two way road leading onto Hempstead Road
- Bringing empty buildings in The Parade area back into use for housing and new businesses
- Redeveloping nearby streets Albert Road and Watford House Lane
- Improving Watford market, exploring the option of a mix of indoor and outdoor space opening onto the High Street
Improve the pedestrian and cycling experience between the High Street and the Town Hall area by introducing a new surface level crossing at the top of Rickmansworth Road. To enable this to happen the current vehicle underpass below the Rickmansworth Road/ Hempstead Road roundabout would be closed and the pedestrian underpass filled in. More detailed work is needed to ensure that the road network will be able to cope before such a scheme is progressed.
Elected Mayor Peter Taylor said ‘This is really positive for our town. We have a vibrant town centre at the moment and I want to make sure that we are constantly adapting and improving so we can keep Watford moving forwards. The important message is that the masterplan presents what is possible in the area. We want to know what people think about the proposals, what works, what doesn’t and any other ideas that could be considered. I hope people are able to get involved with these plans to make them the best they can possibly be.’