Presentation by Managing Director
Cabinet received a presentation by the Managing Director, Mr McDiarmid and Mr Caddy.
The Managing Director explained it was a crucial stage of development of the scheme. The Watford Health Campus was about building a new community with high quality space and multiple uses, the council wanted to adopt a new brand and place name to reflect this.
Mr Caddy introduced the presentation and summarised the strategy as ‘Welcome to Wellbeing’ as the development would be welcoming people whether residents, patients, businesses or investors. The word wellbeing encompassed the concept of health, prosperity and happiness.
Mr Caddy continued that the name Health Campus had just implied something to do with the hospital exclusively whereas the site would have a mixed use with a high proportion of residential and business development. The name Riverwell was intended to reflect the importance of the river and link to neighbourhoods such as Holywell and Brightwell. They were currently creating a film to be part of the new website which would reflect the Watford community.
Mr McDiarmid explained that Riverwell would not be just a marketing name but was about creating a place. There was a corporate brand identity in final draft form. The new website to be built would be about community engagement including what was going on and how the community could be involved.
Mr McDiarmid continued that the opening of Thomas Sawyer Way was a real milestone and the communications team at West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust (WHHT) had reported that the infrastructure had improved emergency services response times. Riverwell would continue to improve facilities, particularly the car parking. At present there was a congested and difficult to manage car park.
Mr McDiarmid highlighted that there would be an exhibition in July which would be the first community event to display the expanding master plan. The community website would be launched in conjunction with the website. There would also be an activity to clean up the river which would be delivered with Watford on the Water and Veolia alongside local community groups. They would host a community day with a local school to do a river clean up event.
Within the site, Mr McDiarmid explained that there would be, subject to planning permission, a space for events or exhibitions for the duration of the project. This would be in place for the first community sales in 2018. The development would be for people currently living in Watford to move into Riverwell and use the facilities; it would not be aimed at commuters. There would be fitness routes running throughout the site for walking or running clubs and the design teams for the different areas of the site were working closely together.
The Mayor explained that councillors had been part of the discussions around changing the name. The site had originally been called Health Campus as it was a strong signal to potential developers that the site was not just about regeneration but also the hospital. Members had always envisaged changing the name as it was about creating a new community.
In response to a question from Councillor Taylor regarding tying in with Oxhey Park, the Managing Director explained that there was collaboration between Kier and Oxhey Park North. Oxhey Park would be a new gateway and would help to improve connectivity.
The Managing Director then gave a presentation on the Riverwell business case.
Willow Lane would be the first residential zone, 95 units with 29 affordable homes. There were discussions with Watford Community Housing Trust about providing the affordable element. The planning application had been submitted and it was expected to be determined this year. The first homes would be built towards the end of 2017 with the first residents moving-in the following year.
The employment zone, ‘trade city’, comprised 12 light industrial units. All were under construction to be completed this summer. Three units were already under offer which demonstrated an encouraging level of demand. These would be some of the first permanent jobs created on the health campus.
The Managing Director then explained the Mayfield development concept of a retirement village. There would be 250 retirement units with a mix of two and one bedroom units. Located on Riverside by the Colne, adjacent to Willow Lane it would be at the heart of the residential community. It would provide good connectivity to the public square and retail facilities. According to Mayfield’s analysis there was an ageing population in Watford which would mean 46% of the community by 2030 would be over 65. It would be necessary to ensure that retirement homes were affordable, based on Watford price levels.
The Managing Director continued that the Mayfield development was targeted for the local community and it was Mayfield’s experience that the majority of residents were local people, who lived within 10 miles of site with families in the area. The development would also include Mayfield’s own academy within the retirement village to upskill their staff. They would create 70 full time jobs by employing carers, maintenance staff, catering staff etc. It would generate £2m for the local economy. Mayfield worked with hospital trusts to provide support for care needs e.g., transitional care beds. Staff would accompany residents to hospital appointments. Mayfield could also provide support to care homes and supplement social services. They would open up their development for local people who were not residents to use e.g., hydrotherapy, yoga.
The Mayor commented that it would encourage people who wanted to down-size from a large family home into high quality retirement accommodation. It was a concept which was common in Australia and America for active older people but with packages available as more support was required.
The Managing Director explained that residents of Mayfield would have the right to sell with the only criterion that it went to someone in the right age category (minimum age 55). The Heads of Terms with Mayfield had been agreed and there was now preparation for the next steps e.g., planning application. The first phase would be delivered 18 months thereafter.
The Managing Director continued to the masterplan for north of the link road, this was in early stages. In terms of the hospital requirements, their big first issue was transforming the car park as the current car parks and way they were spread also occupied parts of land which the hospital wanted to use for clinical facilities. Therefore, within phase 1, there would be a multi-storey car park with 1,200 spaces. The car park would be designed so that it fitted into the topography and backed onto the football club, so it should not become a strong physical presence. WHHT had engaged their own advisers. The National Health Service Improvement (NHSI) would have to sign off a strategic outline case. With regards to timescale the NHSI would approve the final business case in June 2018, contract at the end of 2018 including contracting the developer, with the car park ready in 2019.
Within this area which included the allotments land there would be 85, 3-bed homes these would be detached/semi-detached units with their own gardens. There would be a primary school site and there were discussions with West Herts Free Schools Trust (currently operating Lanchester and Ascot Road schools) with a multi-use games area. There were also discussions with Hertfordshire County Council on Section 106 and their requirements for the school.
A hotel would have 160 rooms, a restaurant and roof top garden. There would be plenty of green open space and new pathways with access to the river.
Cabinet discussed hospital car park charges and the need for them to be affordable for people visiting the hospital and to eventually generate a return to the partnership.
Following comments regarding the proposed community centre, it was explained that it was not intended for the council to operate the facility but to find an appropriate partner as was currently done with the council’s community centres e.g., Meriden community centre.
Councillor Sharpe commented that the original vision of the health campus had been to maintain the hospital in Watford and to have the aspiration of complementary uses e.g., teaching facilities etc. The masterplan had evolved over time but had not lost sight of the vision therefore, the Mayfield development was positive to meet a need in Watford with a complementary relationship with the hospital. It was good that the Mayfield development embraced the community as part of a neighbourhood. The development overall would be making the most of the river as it guided the open space. It would also help the football club to stay in Watford. Riverwell was a scheme which had evolved considerably but held onto health as a driving feature.
The Mayor explained that opening up the river had been a political aspiration for some time. It was a bold project, particularly for a district council. By developing the land with the Local Asset Backed Vehicle (LABV), rather than just selling the land, the benefit to the town would be greater. It would be up to the new Mayor to make sure it was delivered.
That Cabinet notes the presentation