Plans to replace a Watford car park with an eight-storey block of flats have been turned down. The Hertfordshire borough council debated the proposal for 89 flats, which was originally due to feature a maximum height of 12 storeys, at a meeting on Tuesday, May 16.
The authority ruled the height and scale of the building, between the A411 Watford Ring Road and Wellstones, would “appear dominant” and “visually compete” with Grade I-listed Holy Rood Church. It would also have caused “significant harm” to residents in The Clock House, a nearby block, due to loss of daylight and outlook.
Speaking in favour of the plans, an advisor representing the developer told councillors: “The scheme put forward to you for consideration is the result of 16 months of active and fruitful engagement with officers, Watford’s Place-Shaping Review panel, members and the public. Until very recently, the applicant was working with officers on the basis of the application being recommended for approval, subject to negotiations for an affordable housing offer which officers would consider acceptable.
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“The applicant has been willing to include affordable housing in the proposals, despite the council’s independent viability consultant agreeing it is not viable to do so. We were therefore surprised and disappointed to learn that the scheme is recommended for refusal, given that the reason for refusal have not been raised by officers.”
The advisor added the scheme is designed to be “sensitive” to the needs of surrounding residents, but said “as the allocated site does not already feature built form, any proposals will have an impact on the light received to some of those apartments”. She said reducing the height of part of the building, the applicant had reduced the scheme by a total 50 flats.
The advisor said benefits include “redevelopment of an allocated site in a sustainable town centre location” and a “high-quality” scheme which goes beyond sustainability policies. She warned of “good grounds” for an appeal.
The applicant’s own heritage assessment, completed by a consultant, identified “less than substantial harm” to a grade I-listed landmark. The site is earmarked for approximately 40 homes in the Watford Local Plan – 49 fewer than in this proposal.
Watford Borough Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to refuse permission because it did not fulfil the council’s heritage and amenity requirements. The decision notice sets out: “The height and scale of the proposed development would appear dominant and visually compete with the Grade I-listed Holy Rood Church and associated group of Grade II-listed buildings in views [in] Percy Road, and from the northwest in Exchange Road.
“This would cause less than substantial harm to the setting of the designated heritage assets which would outweigh the public benefits of the proposal. The proposed development owing to its scale and siting would cause significant harm to the living conditions of the occupiers of The Clock House in respect of substantial loss of daylight and outlook.”