FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a Local Plan?


A Local Plan is a statutory document that is used to guide new development and determine planning application. This ensures that new development is co-ordinated and reflects the aspirations of the local community.




Why do we need a Local Plan?


Without an up-to-date Local Plan the Council and local people will have less say over how the borough will change in the future. With the government setting challenging targets for new homes and jobs in Watford, the Local Plan enables the local community to have a greater say over how these targets are achieved so that we get the right development in the right place.

We are required to allocate sites for housing or employment as well as to specify areas that are protected as open space or green belt and our approach to tackling climate change, protecting heritage assets etc.

It is important that Watford keeps its Local Plan up-to-date and consistent with national planning policy. Existing planning policies have less weight when making planning decisions if they are inconsistent with national planning policy. It is important to develop a new Local Plan to ensure that moving forward, we are able to better manage the planning process and deliver the development needed in the area in a sustainable way.




What can the Local Plan control?


The Local Plan can influence how land is used, including whether land is used for housing, employment, open space or other leisure/community facilities. Some of the other issues that planning policies can influence are:

  • The level of affordable housing in a new development
  • The type of housing and the housing mix
  • Cycle and car parking provision in new developments
  • The protection of land for employment, retail, community or leisure uses
  • The Protection of parks and open space
  • Allocating land for residential or commercial development
  • Establishing policies for air quality, noise and contaminated land
  • Flooding and energy efficiency policies
  • Design and the protection of heritage assets

Issues regarding the road network, highways, public transport, schools and health facilities are not in the remit of the Local Plan. Infrastructure is provided by a number of different public and private organisations. Although the council cannot directly provide new infrastructure, the council discusses these issues regularly with the relevant providers.




What is the purpose of the consultation?


This final draft Local Plan reflects the responses the Council received from residents, the business community and other organisations during the first two stages of consultation in 2018 and 2019. At this stage representations are invited on the legal compliance and ‘soundness’ of the document, comments can be made on the interactive document or using the Representation Form, both available at www.watfordlocalplan.co.uk

Following the consultation period, the Council will submit the Proposed Submission documents, consultation responses and accompanying documents to the Secretary of State for Examination by an independent Planning Inspector who will consider the legal compliance and ‘soundness’ of the Plan.




Can we stop building so many new homes in Watford?


No, national planning policy requires us to seek to achieve the targets set by government and doesn’t offer any opt out clause.

There is also a demonstrable need for more housing in Watford. With great schools, open spaces and quick transport links to central London, many people want to live in Watford. Addressing the housing crisis is a topic high on the agenda of national government and they have a target to build 300,000 new homes a year across the country. This means that every local authority across the country has been given a tough housing target to meet. The government’s emphasis on maximising development within existing towns and cities provides a particular challenge for Watford.

If the Council does not plan positively for the new homes that Watford needs, development will continue to happen anyway in line with the National Planning Policy Framework. Without an up-to-date Local Plan, the Council and local people would have less say on what type of housing is built and where. We will also have less say over new open space, good design, high sustainability standards and a good mix of housing that includes family homes and accommodation for the elderly.

In a worst case scenario, the government could even write the Local Plan for us. This means that they would make the decision about where new housing would go instead of the community and the Council.




What issues can the Local Plan influence?


The Local Plan can influence how land is used, including which land is used for housing, employment, open space or other leisure/community facilities. Some of the other issues that planning policies can influence are:

  • The level of affordable housing in a new development
  • The type of housing and the housing mix
  • Securing infrastructure to support new development
  • Cycle and car parking provision in new developments
  • The protection of land for employment, retail, community or leisure uses
  • The protection of parks and open space
  • Allocating land for residential or commercial development or infrastructure
  • Establishing policies for air quality, noise and contaminated land
  • Flooding and energy efficiency policies
  • Achieving high-quality design in new development
  • Protection and enhancement of heritage assets, including conservation areas and listed buildings.




What is legal compliance?


At examination, the Inspector will first check that the Plan meets the legal requirements with which plan-making should accord as set out in legislation including:

Any comments relating to legal compliance should be specific, stating how and why the respondent believe the Plan is, or is not, legally compliant and support this with evidence and justification in the context of the legislation.




What is soundness?


The Tests of Soundness against which the Plan will be assessed are set out at Page 11, Paragraph 35 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The Inspector has to be satisfied that the Plan has been:

  • Positively Prepared: The Plan should be prepared based on a strategy which seeks to meet objectively assessed development and infrastructure requirements. This includes accommodating unmet requirements from neighbouring authorities where it is reasonable to so do and consistent with achieving sustainable development. Where an authority has not met development needs in full, a Plan, supported by evidence, must justify why needs are not met and what steps were taken in seeking to meet them.
  • Justified: The Plan should be the most appropriate strategy when considered against reasonable alternatives, based on proportionate evidence.
  • Effective: The Plan should be deliverable over its period and based on effective joint working on cross-boundary strategic priorities.
  • Consistent with national policy: The Plan should enable the delivery of sustainable development in accordance with the policies in the NPPF. Comments relating to soundness must be specific in terms of how and why they believe the plan is, or is not, sound referencing the tests relevant to the comment. Comments must be supported by evidence and justification.




What have we done already?


The preparation of the final draft Local Plan has been informed by:

  • National policy, guidance and legislation
  • Extensive evidence gathering and technical assessments
  • Ongoing liaison with neighbouring authorities, statutory bodies and infrastructure providers
  • Consultation feedback

Two rounds of public consultation have already been undertaken in accordance with Regulation 18 of the Town and Country Planning (Local Panning) (England) Regulations 2012 and the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement. A summary of the comments and responses is available on our website watford.gov.uk/localplan




What types of new homes are we likely to see?


Watford has limited land available for new development and to deliver the homes we need it has to be used effectively. This is one of the main reasons the growth strategy is based on sustainability. The Plan requires new housing development to provide a minimum of 20% family-sized homes (3-bedrooms or more, 35% affordable housing with an emphasis on social housing which are in greatest demand, 10% of new homes on sites of more than 10 units to be wheelchair accessible, and 2% of new homes on large developments to be designed to support people with dementia. The Plan also requires new homes to have larger internal living areas and access to private amenity space to support high quality living standards.




How will building heights be managed?


With tightly-constrained boundaries, Watford does not have large areas of undeveloped land on which to build. Therefore achieving the targets set by government requires some taller buildings within the town.

To better understand where taller buildings may be appropriate in the town an independent study was undertaken. The Tall Buildings Study is available on the Council’s website. This has helped to inform the building height policy set out in the final draft Local Plan which will help us to better manage the height of new buildings.




Is employment land protected to support jobs in the future?


Yes, existing employment areas in the borough have been protected. The area of Clarendon Road is protected for office employment and other uses where these are compatible and support this area will be acceptable. The same principle applies to areas currently used for industrial uses such as the Watford Business Park and the Greycaine Road areas. Policies in the Plan also encourage local investment in supply chains and the creation of apprenticeships so the local community can benefit from economic investment in the town.




Will the allocated sites automatically get planning permission?


No, any planning application to develop a site will still be subject to a planning application and assessed accordingly. The purpose of allocating sites is to guide future development to the most suitable locations. Sites are allocated because they are




Will Watford’s infrastructure be able to cope with the scale of growth planned?


The Local Plan is not just about new homes and jobs; we also need new infrastructure including schools, GPs, public transport, roads, utilities, parks and leisure facilities to support that growth. New development can contribute towards new infrastructure through the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 Agreements.




What about Watford’s Climate Emergency?


In July 2019, Watford Borough Council declared a Climate Emergency. Key elements of the declaration included integrating climate change into planning policy and the Local Plan having a focus on greener homes and buildings, taking into account climate impacts within Council decision making processes with the overall objective to be carbon neutral by 2030.




What will the Plan do to address traffic congestion?


South West Hertfordshire is growing. More new residents in the area will mean more people needing to travel. The Climate Emergency means it’s important that people can get around in ways other than by car. This is why the Local Plan tries to make it easier to walk, cycle and use public transport. This includes providing car clubs, more secure cycle parking and controlling the amount of parking provided in new developments. In sustainable areas, less parking will be allowed in new developments, as these areas are located closer to essential facilities, such as shops, employment areas and public transport hubs. This makes it easier to get around without using a car.




Has the Green Belt been amended?


Small changes have been made to the Green Belt boundary in the borough. These mainly reflect where development has taken place or where Green Belt does not perform the functions as effectively as it is supposed to. The functions the Green Belt is to perform are set out on Page 40, Paragraph 134 of the National Planning Policy Framework. The Council has undertaken an independent study to assess the Green Belt and determine how effectively it is performing against these criteria. The Green Belt reviews are on the Council’s website.

Most development will take place on brownfield, or previously developed land. Only in exceptional circumstances will development on greenfield land be supported. Development in the Metropolitan Green Belt will not be supported unless it can be demonstrated that exceptional circumstances apply.




Where can I view and comment on the Final Draft Local Plan?


Visit watfordlocalplan.co.uk to read and have your say on the Final Draft Local Plan.




What happens next?


Following consideration of your feedback and any amendments that are required, we will submit the Local Plan to the government for approval. An independent Planning Inspector will be appointed to consider the Plan and comments from the consultation on behalf of the Secretary of State.

If you wish to take part in the hearing session(s) you must outline why you think this is necessary, in your representations at this time. The Inspector will decide the most appropriate procedure to hear from members of the public who would like to participate in hearing(s). This may be in writing, or they may invite you to attend and speak at the hearing sessions.

It is vital that you express your wish to engage in the examination at this stage. Not doing so may mean that you do not have the ability to write to or speak at the hearings. You can always change your mind later but without indicating a potential wish now, there is no way for the Inspector, or their Programme Officer, to know to contact you.