A report of the Mayor had been circulated with the agenda.
a) Councillor Brandon noted that Cabinet had confirmed the proposal to introduce Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in Callowland would not be going ahead. He said that he was pleased to see the Council had listened to residents, but it did not remove the problem. He hoped that ideas for any small restrictions in the area were from residents. He asked the Council to look at the matter more holistically, including the reduction in the number of flat conversions and ensuring sufficient parking spaces were available in new developments. In addition the Council needed to look at wider issues, for example Park and Ride schemes. He requested that discussions were held before any further decisions were made.
The Mayor said that she understood the concerns for his residents. Residents had identified that there were too many residents’ cars and not sufficient road space for them. It had been recognised that a CPZ would not resolve the issues. Those residents in two or three roads closer to Watford Junction had some desire for a scheme due to commuter parking, but the displaced cars would move on to the next roads. She explained that the suggestions within the Cabinet report had come through the consultation process with residents. She agreed that there would have to be discussions about any further proposals and there would be a formal consultation. She suggested that the Callowland Ward Councillors should appraise themselves of the proposals and ensure that the residents had their voices heard and submitted their suggestions.
The Mayor referred to Councillor Brandon’s comments about flat conversions, she explained that the Council inherited planning policies from the previous Government which had set out maximum parking standards. The Council had been unable to reject a planning application on the grounds of parking provision. The planning committee had tried on a number of occasions but the decision was always turned over on appeal. The current Government had changed the rules and the Council could now insist on minimum parking standards. The Council’s policies would be changing to reflect this. The planning committee had already used this as a reason for refusing an application in Diamond Road.
b) Councillor McLeod referred to a tweet the Mayor had made about the allotment improvement programme. She asked if the Mayor could explain what was happening.
The Mayor responded that whilst a lot of attention was quite rightly on Farm Terrace allotments, it was important not to forget that the Council had committed £800,000 for improvements to all allotments across the whole town. She explained some of the improvements that would be taking place, including new toilet facilities, footpaths and access to water. Discussions took place with each allotment site and detailed proposals were produced for each site. She understood that the site hut had already appeared at Callowland and that works would be commencing soon.
c) Councillor S Williams commented that the Mayor’s report mentioned plans to upgrade the Town Centre. He asked if this was the same plan that was reported in the Watford Observer on 11 June and whether it included investment in North Watford.
The Mayor advised that the investment for the Town Centre was specifically for the Town Centre. She explained that it was not possible to invest it in other areas, for example St Albans Road. Works had been carried out in St Albans Road and as mentioned in the budget process it was suggested that the Labour Group looked at the St Albans Road Study. The proposals that had been suggested by the Labour Group could not be carried out by the Council as it did not have the relevant powers. The Council had different authority in the Town Centre and was therefore able to carry out any work. In St Albans Road the Council was circumscribed by Highways. She stated that if the Labour Group was aware of things that would improve footfall, encouraging people to stop at the shops, they should put them forward. The Mayor added that the Council would be talking to businesses to discuss the parking arrangements and how they might be tweaked. The current parking regime had been implemented a few years ago at the request of the shops; making it easier for people to stop and shop. Currently though the Council felt it had done everything it could do in St Albans Road that was within its powers.
d) Councillor Mauthoor asked the Mayor if she could elaborate on the local issues raised by pupils when she had visited the schools.
The Mayor informed Council that one issue raised by pupils was about Leavesden Green Centre and Leavesden Green Park. They had asked for different equipment in the park to suit different ages. They had explained how they felt about the presence of a group of young people wearing hoodies walking on to the park. The pupils wanted to be involved in selecting new equipment. They were appreciative of the new centre in the middle of the estate. They wanted the area around it to be brought up to the same standard.
The Mayor said that an issue raised by another school was parents’ parking badly outside the school. They wanted to talk about how they could get ‘pester power’ to make the area outside their school safer. She explained that her assembly was about being proud of Watford and the pupils are then invited to talk about matters that bother them. She said the assemblies were always interesting.
e) Councillor Joynes said that she was pleased to see the fall in the unemployment figures. She asked how many people were on zero hours contracts or self-employed.
The Mayor replied that she was unsure whether that information was available and whether it was collected by the Department for Work and Pensions. She would however try and find out for the Councillor. She advised that zero hours contracts suited some people. She had recently spoken to a young man who worked in a care home. He had explained that he had a zero hours contract and that it suited him, as he was also studying and trying to do other things. She agreed with the Councillor’s concerns about these contracts, for example whether it was a substitute for paying someone properly; but there were also benefits to it. She said that she would try to find the answer to the Councillor’s question.
f) Councillor Mills referred to Farm Terrace allotments and that the Council had engaged with willing tenants. She asked how many were there and how long would they get free rent.
The Mayor said that she recognised that most people would have preferred to stay, but it was right to say that some people had already made the decision to move. One person had made the decision to move when she had seen the plans and the new road which would have ambulances going back and forth and that the site would be a building site for many years. It was noted that the details of the rent free period were contained in the Cabinet report which was available online. She added that she would ensure the report was forwarded to Councillor Mills.
g) Councillor Turmaine said that he had noted the Mayor’s comments about the link road plans. He asked whether she agreed with him that the best way to relieve traffic congestion in West Watford was the construction of the West Watford Relief Road.
The Mayor suggested that the Councillor should speak to his County Council colleagues, as she believed there had been all party agreement that the West Watford Relief Road would not do what was expected of it and should be deleted from the list of schemes. There were also concerns that there could be serious ramifications. She recommended that he speak to the relevant officer at the County Council. The view by environmentalists, and now through proof, was that more road building led to more traffic. This was the reason the link road was the lowest grade road possible. She added that Members would not want all the traffic from the link road going on to Vicarage Road.
h) Councillor Mehta asked the Mayor whether Richard Harrington MP’s initiative of the Watford Jobs Fair should be applauded.
The Mayor said that any effort to get jobs was good. She would also want to applaud this Council for attracting companies into the town, bringing hundreds of jobs. The Council had invested in an Inward Investment Officer. She received regular updates on which companies were moving into the town and those who were not moving out. She said that a jobs fair could be held, advertising jobs that were already available and being advertised. She said a jobs fair did pull all the companies together into one place. It was more important to ensure that when companies looked at the town, they considered it to be a place they could relocate to.
i) Councillor Lynch commented that the planning condition requirements imposed by the Environment Agency, the County Council and others had substantially increased the costs of the relocation of the Glen Rovers Hurling Club to the Radlett Road Playing Fields. She asked the Mayor whether she was able to give assurance that officers would look at alternative sites both inside and outside the Borough. She requested a report was prepared detailing a full comparative cost benefit analysis and other related information for consideration by the Major Projects Board or another relevant committee, prior to the works starting at the Radlett Road site. She also asked that, given public safety concerns about big match day parking arrangements on the fields next to the site, proposals were discussed with local ward members.
The Mayor congratulated the Councillor on being fully informed. It was important that Members listened to their residents and then apprised themselves of the circumstances.
The Mayor explained that the requirements had been imposed by Section 106 obligations for the Health Campus and the new link road. Sport England had required the relocation of the sports club and the Council had the responsibility to do this. The Council would be writing to Sport England to ask for financial support in the relocation if the organisation felt it was important the Gaelic Football Club was located in the town. The Council would also be writing to the Gaelic Football Association to seek funding. She informed Council that the Radlett Road Playing Fields had been playing fields, but had been disused for a few years.
The Mayor said that Glen Rovers were one of the unsung treasures of Watford. They were a top class club and were one of the few that worked with young people in the town. They had several hundred young people on their books from Watford and attracted others from a wider area. They were a club that the Council should want to have in its area and keep in the town.
The Mayor acknowledged that local Councillors had gained concessions on parking and enforcement. The Council had to make sure that this was followed through. She added that the Councillor was right to raise the issue of value for money. She was sure that officers would have already considered other uses. She noted the Councillor had suggested outside the Borough. She agreed that there would be further work carried out which would then be presented to the most appropriate committee and placed in the public domain. Match day parking would also be reviewed.