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 will provide:
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 (WHHT) 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 26.5 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 the urban environment, in many ways the existing facilities are detrimental to the viability and vitality of the area. Much of the surrounding residential area suffers from traffic congestion and Watford General Hospital has traditionally been seen as an introspective series of buildings, facing in on itself and turning its back on the local community.
At the heart of the Health Campus is, obviously, a hospital, whose primary focus is to tend to people’s health needs and make them better.
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 deisgning a masterplan that allows for the future much-needed new hospital, which can be used to support and promote healthy living and well-being for the wider community.
We are planning for the Health Campus to provide new employment opportunities, and sufficient leisure, recreation, housing and education to generate a vibrant and sustainable community.Back to top
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 a new hospital 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 modern, 21st century health facilities for the local community and beyond.
There will also be upgraded and increased 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, which will help create 1,600 new jobs locally. . New transport links with two new stations planned in the area as part of the Croxley Rail Link and a new link/access road will improve public and hospital access to the area, reducing congestion.Back to top
The 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 £7m towards the construction of a new road, but this is way short of the total cost required of about £16m By working with a LABV the road is achievable, but the timing of this is crucial as the £7m is only available if the road is delivered by 2014/15. Also, the road needs to be built to cross over the Croxley Rail Link before the link goes live in 2015/16 otherwise it will be far more expensive to build the road over a live railway line.
After an open and thorough international procurement process, the Health Campus partnership (Watford Borough Council and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust) appointed Kier Property Investments Ltd 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.Back to top
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. Given the current economic situation, 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.Back to top
One of the main reasons the site has been allocated within the council’s Core Strategy as an area for development (including new homes) is its excellent link to public transport. The much-longed for Croxley Rail Link (CRL) will run to the south of the Health Campus, so a new tube station will be within 5-10 minutes walking distance. The CRL 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 the 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 provide new parking facilities for visitors to the hospital and services and facilities to improve the patient experience and environment. Any new homes will be allocated parking in line with current parking requirements for new developments in the borough.Back to top
The homes will be a mixture of houses and flats including much-needed affordable homes for families and key worker homes for hospital staff. 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, such as a doctor’s surgery and a nursery.Back to top
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 90,300 people in 2011. 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.
The council has developed a strategy to ensure 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 developed land, close to neighbourhood centres and with good transport links. The Health Campus is one of these locations. We hope to see around 600 homes at the Health Campus site over a 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 1,500 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.Back to top
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 1,600 new jobs will be created in a wide variety of occupations or trades including retail, leisure, light industrial and of course at 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 phase will create significant opportunities for new jobs in construction.
The current hospital is an important provider of local jobs. Many people who work for the hospital live locally.Back to top
It was agreed by all the Health Campus partners that including Farm Terrace allotments, which is owned by the council, would:
Professor Thomas Hanahoe, Chairman of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, has said: "...it will be imperative that the option of additional land is available to provide for the facilities required by our patients and in my view it will be difficult to achieve this without the contribution of part of the land presently allocated to the farm terrace allotments. In light of this, I would wish to support the council in giving full consideration to the patients' needs in reaching its decision to consider this for hospital use."Back to top
Allotment holders at Farm Terrace will be relocated to alternative plots nearby at either Holywell or Paddock Road . Watford Borough Council’s Cabinet has agreed to prioritise the councils new allotment investment plan which will see over £800,000 of improvements carried out at all allotment sites across the town. This will include things like new fencing, toilets, compost bins; vacant plot clearance and access improvements.Back to top
No. There will be no change to the overall level of allotment provision within the borough. 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 3.4m2 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.Back to top
No – absolutely not. There has been some inaccurate information circulated by others which has understandably caused confusion and concern, but the claims are totally unfoundedBack to top
We have listened to allotment holders and agreed to their suggestion of providing a community garden at the Health Campus.
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.Back to top
Enhancing the access to the green space being improved 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.
A substantial strip of land along this bank will be made accessible to the public. Cycle and footways will be introduced with a dedicated ‘sky bridge’ over the Croxley Rail Link and river. Current plans also include a lake, new children and adult play areas and places for wildlife and nature to flourish.
Kier will involve residents, local groups and other stakeholders to evolve these green proposals.Back to top
The Health Campus partnership will submit a planning application to Watford Borough Council for the new road and the Health Campus masterplan in the spring 2013, on which residents and others will be asked their views. Separately, an application will be made to the Secretary of State for the decommissioning of the allotment land.Back to top
Various parts of the Health Campus will be completed at different times.
It is anticipated that the new road will be one of the first things to be delivered. Work should begin on this in late 2013. The building of a bridge over the planned Croxley Rail Link (CRL) is scheduled to be completed by 2014. If this is delayed until after the CRL is opened, the costs increase substantially and would have a detrimental impact on the overall viability of the scheme. This will help reduce the impact of construction traffic on the existing roads and provide the necessary improvement in access for emergency vehicles at the earliest possible opportunity.Back to top