Frequently Asked Questions
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Watford Health Campus is a multi-million project which will bring enormous benefits to residents in west Hertfordshire and Watford in particular. The 26.5 hectare site (or 29 hectares with the inclusion of Farm Terrace allotment land ) will provide:
- the opportunity to develop facilities at Watford Hospital, which serves up to 500,000 people: an improved road network and better use of space will offer greater flexibility for the hospital’s future plans.
- new business and work opportunities: with premises and facilities to attract new businesses to west Watford and creating up to 1,300 new jobs.
- much needed new homes, including affordable homes
- better access and modern infrastructure, including the new road to the hospital site: this will help reduce congestion and allow much easier and quicker access for hospital vehicles, patients, staff and visitors. There will also be better walking routes and cycling facilities. The Croxley Rail Link [link to website] provides a new station (Watford Vicarage Road) within a short walking distance of the Health Campus
- green, open spaces for the whole community to enjoy: attractive, new landscaped spaces are planned including riverside walks to open up the River Colne for the community. They will provide new wildlife habitats and encourage bio-diversity
- a community garden: where local people can enjoy the benefits of growing fresh produce
- local community facilities: with a new community hub forming the heart of the Watford Health Campus. Local people as well as patients, staff and visitors to the hospital will enjoy a lively neighbourhood centre with shops and community facilities
- cleaning-up of former industrial and contaminated land
- progressive environmental and sustainable solutions: these will be promoted throughout the scheme.
History of the Health Campus:
Around ten years ago, Watford was faced with the very real prospect of losing its general hospital. A significant local campaign gathered widespread support from local residents to retain hospital facilities at Watford. This campaign was successful. At around the same time, Watford Borough Council had started a project with the aim of regenerating the Cardiff Road Industrial Estate. Since then, the council and other partners, most notably West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (The Trust) and Watford Football Club, have been working to deliver the Watford Health Campus – a combined vision for the area in west Watford from Vicarage Road where Watford Football Club and Watford General Hospital are situated, down to Wiggenhall Road. Current state of the site and facilities: Much of the current 29 hectare location is unappealing, with old hospital buildings not supporting efficient working, hospital car parking sprawling over a wide area and predominantly low value employment. Instead of adding to prosperity of the area, in many ways the existing facilities are detrimental to its viability and vitality. The surrounding residential area suffers from traffic congestion and Watford Hospital has traditionally been seen as an introspective series of buildings, facing in on itself rather than looking out and being a part of the local community.
Sitting at the heart of Watford Health Campus is, obviously, a hospital, whose primary focus is to tend to people’s health needs and improve their health outcomes.
For Watford, we see the Health Campus as a once in a lifetime opportunity to create new places and spaces around the existing hospital as well as designing a masterplan that allows for future hospital facilities and services, which can be used to support and promote healthy living and well-being for the wider community.
We are planning for Watford Health Campus to provide new employment opportunities, and sufficient leisure, recreation, housing and education to generate a vibrant and sustainable community.
Everyone agrees that the current hospital site and its surrounding area needs redeveloping. A significant proportion of the wider land is contaminated, as a left over from its previous industrial use. The Health Campus offers a fantastic opportunity not just to plan for hospital facilities and services but for a scheme that will create an attractive new community right in the heart of west Watford.
For Watford residents there will be improved access to hospital services which, over time, will offer more modern health facilities for the local community and beyond.
There will also be upgraded green spaces with better access from west Watford, which we know is in much need of good quality, accessible open spaces and other facilities that will benefit local residents and hospital visitors alike.
Part of the site will be dedicated to providing new employment space locally. New transport links with two new stations (to be called Vicarage Road and Cassiobridge) planned in the area as part of the Metropolitan Line Extension and a new link/access road will improve public and hospital access to the area, reducing congestion.
Watford Health Campus is a major regeneration scheme. We have conducted an estimate of the entire investment and spend required to deliver all of the facilities. This indicates an overall spend in the area of over £350m. This is a considerable sum and would not be achievable without the support of private sector investment to ‘kick start’ the scheme. This will be done through the financing of some of the early housing on the site, the employment space and retail facilities and crucially investing in the infrastructure.
The hospital trust is able to fund £9m towards the construction of a new road, but this is way short of the total cost required of about £24m. Hertfordshire LEP has provided a further £6million and the rest has been provided by partner equity. .
After an open and thorough international procurement process, the Watford Health Campus partnership (Watford Borough Council and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust) appointed Kier Property as its private sector partner. Kier has a great deal of experience, and success, in delivering large regeneration schemes and is committed to making the investment needed for the scheme to come to fruition.
The council is not selling land to Kier as the developer for the scheme. The council is contributing land it already owns and will share any profit generated through the development on a 50:50 basis with Kier.
Overall, the scheme is not projected to make huge profits. Indeed, financial viability has been a critical issue through the planning stages. For example, there is an estimated £40million worth of ‘issues’ (known as ‘abnormals’) associated with the site – such as the current contaminated land, the flood risk, sewer relocations and demolition. In addition there are infrastructure costs that have to be met such as for the 1km of new road that is needed to improve access to the hospital.
All these have to be paid for by the parts of the scheme that will generate money – in the main this is the new housing on the site. Even this return is not guaranteed and so consideration has had to be given as to how the scheme can be delivered in a way that makes it financially viable and still guarantees the future needs of the hospital itself, and helps reduce the financial exposure risk of the public sector partners.
One of the main reasons the site has been allocated within the council’s Local Plan Core Strategy as an area for development (including new homes) is its excellent link to public transport. The much-longed for Metropolitan Line Extension (MLX) will run to the south of the Health Campus, so a new tube station, Watford Vicarage Road, will be within 5-10 minutes walking distance. The MLX will be supported by improved bus services and for those who have a commitment to fully green methods of getting about there will be new cycle and footpath networks, which will link into the borough’s current provision.
The new road, which links Watford Health Campus with Dalton Way, will help ease current localised congestion and, most importantly, improve access to the hospital for emergency vehicles.
The plans agreed will also eventually provide new parking facilities for visitors to the hospital services and facilities to improve the patient, visitor and staff experience and environment. Any new homes will be allocated parking in line with current parking requirements for new developments in the borough.
The new road is a public road that will provide access to Watford Hospital and the Watford Health Campus overall – including the new homes and businesses that are planned for the site. The main case for building the road is to improve access to Watford Hospital, particularly from the M1 and for A&E (Accident and Emergency) traffic. However, it is important that the road does not become a ‘rat run’, which would significantly slow down the speed of emergency vehicles, and so the Watford Health Campus team is looking at ways to avoid this. Parts of the road will be ‘no entry’ except for emergency vehicles and buses. This will mean access will be restricted but there is no intention to introduce fines for people who use the road to visit the hospital or to get to and from the homes, businesses or community facilities on the Watford Health Campus.
The homes will be a mixture of houses and flats including much-needed affordable homes for families and individuals in housing need. The council would want to see its target of 35% affordable housing met for the Health Campus development. This can only be acheived if the plans overall are financially viable.
As well as new homes, there will be a new neighbourhood centre with shops and community-wide facilities.
Watford is a popular town and there is increasing demand for more homes in the town. The 2011 census shows that the population of Watford has increased by 13.3% over the last ten years rising to 95,500 people in 2014. There is a need for around 6,500 homes to be built up to 2031. This number is based on current need, future increases in population and the amount of land the council has identified as suitable for housing. It won’t accommodate all of the demand but it’s a reasonable amount. It should be noted that all local authorities are required to consider increased provision for new homes. If they do not their Local Plan, which has to be considered by government to ensure it is planning effectively for the future, will not be approved. This has happened to some local authorities but not Watford as our plans were found to be sound.
The council’s Local Plan ensures that most new homes are built at sustainable locations rather than through infilling (high numbers of small but sporadic conversion of buildings or gardens to residential), which is not something local people have told us they want to see. The council strategy is to concentrate the building of new houses on previously developed land, close to neighbourhood centres and with good transport links. Watford Health Campus is one of these locations. Watford Health Campus will deliver a large number of new homes over a 15 – 20 year period.
Some people think an area should be able to ‘stop development’ but we cannot say ‘Watford is full’ – it is not how the planning system works in this country. Even if the Council rejects a planning application, the applicant can appeal to have our decision overturned. But also, in Watford we have nearly over 1,000 local families in what is known as ‘priority need’ for housing, which means their circumstances are pretty desperate. Sites like the whole of Health Campus site, where a vast amount of land isn’t currently being used and is just being left derelict, are the best locations for new homes. Some, but by no means all, of which be offered to those in real need.
One of the reasons the partners are working so hard to deliver the Health Campus project is because the site contains opportunities for new employment space. Up to 1,300 jobs will be created in a wide variety of occupations or trades including retail, leisure, light industrial and, of course, connected to the hospital.
The jobs created need to be accessible by local people and there is a commitment to ensuring that practical, relevant and accessible support is available to help local people compete for and retain those jobs. New business space will, with targeted support, encourage new businesses to start and existing ones to grow.
Separately from this figure, the building and development phases will create significant opportunities for jobs in construction.
The current hospital is an important provider of local jobs. Many people who work for the hospital live locally.
It was agreed by the WatfordHealth Campus partners that including Farm Terrace allotments, which are owned by the council, would:
- enable flexibility to meet the requirements of the hospital so it can provide facilities and services as cost effectively as possible and in a way that makes the best and most efficient use of the space available,
- improve the viability of the Health Campus scheme and speed up the works on the site as the allotment land is not contaminated or at risk if flooding
- secure more much-needed family housing as the increased space allows more homes with gardens to be built rather than flats.
- provide for a better designed Health Campus scheme to be developed of sufficient size to make a greater overall improvement for residents of west Watford.
- remove the impact on the amenity of allotment holders. By relocating the site it avoids significant disruption and the impact of pollution that they will otherwise be subject to over the duration of the Health Campus building works.
In May 2016, the Secretary of State agreed that Watford Borough Council could appropriate the allotment land. This decision was upheld by Judicial Review in November 2016.
All those who wanted to have been relocated to other allotment sites in the borough.
Watford Borough Council’s Cabinet has prioritised the councils new allotment investment plan which has delivered over £850,000 of improvements at allotment sites across the town. This has included things like new fencing, toilets, compost bins, vacant plot clearance and access improvements. The has also set aside £750,000 for the re-provision of Farm Terrace; this includes support for Farm Terrace tenants to help them with relocation.
No. There will be no change to the overall level of allotment provision for Watford residents. For every square metre of Farm Terrace that is affected there will be a square metre replaced – albeit at a different location in the borough. This is what is expected of councils who change the use of land designated for allotments but it is also something that the council firmly believes should happen.
We are very fortunate in Watford, which is a very small borough (in fact we are the smallest district council in terms of area in the country), that we have an excellent level of allotment provision – well above what national guidelines suggest should be provided.
In number terms, Watford has over 28 hectares of allotment land, equivalent to 3m2 per person. The National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners suggests that there should be 1.25m2 per person, based on an average plot size of 250m2. So we do really well and this isn’t going to change.
The idea of a community garden arose during discussions with allotment holders. It is not the same as an allotment garden in so far as it is open to all the community to manage and enjoy – it is not based on individual tenancies like a traditional allotment.
Other successful community-managed gardens exist across the UK, run by enthusiastic and committed volunteers. A community garden on the Health Campus site could include fruit and vegetable growing areas, raised beds and facilities for training sessions and workshops. It could be used to promote healthy living, working in conjunction with the hospital, to encourage patients to eat well and take gentle exercise.
What it means for local people is that anyone who wants to grow fresh produce in west Watford will have the opportunity to do so – right on their doorstep. Our hope is that this will introduce new, and more, people to the benefits of gardening than can presently be offered on the site.
Enhancing the access to green space is of critical importance. Much of the site is currently inaccessible, especially the water’s edge along the River Colne and the Power Station Loop. We are looking to provide new routes under the railway line to significantly improve access to the wider Colne valley.
Within the site itself, new riverside walks are being created along with pocket parks and children’s play areas. ‘Colne Island’ will be the focal point for amenity space next to the river.
There will be a new wildlife and wetland area adjacent to the new commercial units.
Various parts of the Health Campus will be completed at different times.
The new road is one of the first things to be delivered. Work begun on this in summer 2015. The next phase of the scheme to be delivered is the zone known as Industrial Zone South; this will start in summer 2017. Then it will be the first new homes at Willow Lane in 2018.