Watford Borough Council effectively sentenced itself to dozens of sites in the town being built upon over the coming years.
The local plan has been seven years in the making and by earmarking land for residential and employment use, provides the clearest indication of where to expect redevelopment over the next 15 years.
If councillors and officers cannot secure lower housing targets, then the list of sites in the plan are almost certainly primed to be redeveloped, including car parks at supermarkets and retail parks.
This is because although schemes will still need to be considered appropriate and go through the official channels, the council has publicly accepted that development in these locations is acceptable.
There is no doubt that development riles people in Watford. The size of some of the buildings that have been passed in recent years is staggering. When they are built, Watford will no longer be the market town some fondly refer it to.
So the apparent lack of engagement from residents in the local plan consultation is strange. Even the Exchange House development, which was rejected, received just eight objections.
There were just 82 responses to the local plan consultation, and many of these are from landowners, developers, and businesses with interests. There was just a smattering of residents standing up against the housing targets and inevitable tower blocks.
This is despite many articles published by the Observer about sites under threat of development receiving thousands and thousands of views. There is clearly an interest.
Why is a mystery. Was it because of Covid? Were people aware of the consultation? Have residents become disillusioned and think their opinions don’t matter? Or do we have a silent majority in Watford who are not as concerned about housing as the complaints would suggest?
Compare this to Three Rivers district, where there are petitions, concerns about households not receiving leaflets, and many responses to the local plan consultation.
Residents are fighting to protect their surroundings in Three Rivers. Despite all of the groans on social media and in our comments section, it’s difficult to say those living in Watford are doing the same.