Petitions presented under Council Procedure Rule 12.0
A petition in the following terms has been received. At the time of agenda publication the petition contained 105 signatures of Watford residents.
“We, the undersigned, call on Watford Council to immediately cease work on destroying St Mary’s historic Town Square. The One Bell Pub extension is taking almost half of our historic Town Square and needs urgently to be stopped, and St Mary’s Square fully reinstated.”
A petition in the following terms has been received. At the time of agenda publication the petition contained 34 signatures of Watford residents.
“We the undersigned petition the council to make Northfield Gardens a safer place for children, parents and carers who are crossing the road to and from school before someone gets seriously hurt.”
Council received two petitions from the public. It was noted that the second petition, submitted about Northfield Gardens, had been withdrawn from the agenda. The petitioner had agreed to present the petition to the Highways Liaison Meeting later in the week.
A petition, signed by 105 Watford residents, had been received in the following terms
“We the undersigned, call on Watford Council to immediately cease work on destroying St Mary’s historic Town Square. The One Bell Pub extension is taking almost half of our historic Town Square and needs urgently to be stopped, and St Mary’s Square fully reinstated.”
Mr John Dowdle was invited to present the petition to the council.
Mr Dowdle said that he was attending the meeting to address council on the development of the One Bell public house and the impact it would have on a locally listed building and St Mary’s Square which were located in the St Mary’s Conservation Area. He referred to the petition and asked that all works were stopped on the redevelopment of the One Bell. The proposed extension would permanently take away almost half of the historic town square.
Mr Dowdle informed council that he lived near the development in the conservation area. The extent of the development was immediately apparent to him. All residents in the alms houses had signed the petition and had confirmed that they had not been informed about the development, even though it had a major impact on their view of the town centre. The failure to consult local residents was one of many flaws. He felt the planning application process had been questionable and referred to the planning application. He showed council the planning applications’ advert printed in the Watford Observer. Mr Dowdle raised questions about the honesty and probity of the planning application. The Managing Director invited Mr Dowdle to provide evidence so that the matter could be investigated or withdraw the inference.
Mr Dowdle asked council to call-in the application for scrutiny in order to understand the entire saga. In addition, all work on the One Bell and St Mary’s Square should be halted immediately. Work should start in removing the hoarding. If the current owners were not prepared to undertake the work then the council should exercise its powers to compulsory purchase the One Bell and create a town centre visitor’s centre, community centre and arts and culture centre for the people of Watford and visitors.
Councillor Sharpe acknowledged receipt of the petition. The application had gone through the normal consultation processes and comments were received about the proposal. Many issues the council had to consider gave rise to different opinions. He disagreed with those views put forward by the residents. The plans for restoring and extending the One Bell public house were a proactive piece of conservation; giving a historic local landmark a new lease of life. He referred to listed properties in Watford that had lain empty for some time and the work being done to bring them back into use. Smaller licensed establishments were struggling to survive and either closed down or had to undergo alterations. It was in this context the One Bell should be judged. It was a locally listed building and not nationally listed. Prior to the closure it was in a bad condition and did not have a universally positive reputation. The current hoardings were deemed necessary to ensure public safety. The council was keen to ensure there was engagement with the applicant to ensure it did not become empty and derelict. Detailed negotiations took place about the proposal. The current building was not suitable for modern occupiers with limited internal space. A derelict building in the area for a prolonged period would run the risk of attracting further anti-social behaviour and detract from the Grade one listed St Mary’s church and conservation area. He acknowledged that not everyone would like the design.
Councillor Sharpe added that he disagreed about the claims regarding the impact on the neighbouring historic space. The space between St Mary’s church and the One Bell had only been created in 1999 after the demolition of a row of shops. The extension did not take up half of the square as claimed in the petition. The important thing was to get the building back into use. It would be awful if it continued to be boarded up. The principle of getting the One Bell back into use was a positive contribution to the town centre and ought to be regarded as a good thing.
The Chairman invited other councillors and the Mayor to debate the petition. Following the debate the Chairman thanked Mr Dowdle for attending and presenting the petition.