Up and down the High Street, there are exciting things happening in Watford town centre. Works have begun on this part of the town, all the way from Rickmansworth Road to Clarendon Road. In June last year, our design team asked residents and businesses for their views on some ideas for this area. Since then they have been working through the detailed aspects of the design.

The improvements include a large outdoor events space, new street furniture, trees, landscaping and paving, a raised area by Rickmansworth Road will provide a grassed area with new tree planting and informal seating. Street lighting throughout the Parade will be upgraded and complemented with additional feature lighting. Enhancements to the pond include a new bridge, fountains, planting and a filtration system.

We will be publishing regular updates on the project here: https://whatifwatford.wordpress.com/news-and-updates/

Site Plan:

Site area revised

30 Responses to “THE PROJECT”

  1. 1 John Dowdle January 8, 2012 at 5:48 pm

    I think a covered area at the top end of The Parade would be a good idea for various kinds of public performances during the year. One possible way to achieve this would be to move the existing band stand next to the Library to the top end of The Parade. This would provide cover for events in the event that inclement weather makes it difficult to stage something. It should have a separate electrical supply provided (as is the case with Charter Place) so that bands and public address systems can have a power source. One other possibility might be to consider covering the entire area of The Parade, though this would have significant cost implications. There were also proposals at one time to consider having a small train running from the Lower High Street station up to the end of The Parade, which would be useful for elderly or disabled people who might want to visit different venues along the route. Perhaps this can be re-considered now?

    • 2 Cant Cope January 13, 2012 at 8:04 pm

      Where would the small covered area be and what size?
      The bandstand seems to be returning to Cassiobury Park.
      To cover the entire area is the thing to do- like the Eden Project.
      Would the train be double tracked? How would it negotiate the ring road and the High Street and the flyover?

      • 3 John Dowdle January 17, 2012 at 6:04 pm

        Can’t Cope: The bandstand could be moved to the open area between Rickmansworth Road and the top end of The Parade. If, as is currently planned, it were to be moved to Cassiobury Park, with current scrap metal prices, it would probably disappear one night and be found it bits in some dodgy scrap metal dealers site somewhere or another next day. Far better to place it at the top end of The Parade, where it will be under constant scrutiny. It will also provide a very useful venue for public entertainment, such as bands: brass, acoustic, electric and even small orchestras, to be provided, thus enhancing the desire to make the area more family-friendly. It is possible to have a small train like the one currently running in The Harlequin, which does not require actual rails. It could run between the lower ring road (i.e. from the traffic lights opposite the Lower High Street Rail Station) all the way up the High Street to the end of The Parade by Rickmansworth Road (opposite the Town Hall). People along the High Street could just flag it down to board it. It would easily be low enough to be able to operate underneath the flyover [though removal of the flyover is something which has been talked about for years?]. The Eden Project is something along the lines I am thinking of for providing cover for the High Street and The Parade areas, though I imagine this would be quite costly. Still, it might be worth obtaining quotations for, just to be able to see what sort of amount of funding it would require?

  2. 4 Hannah January 11, 2012 at 9:32 pm

    This is a very exciting opportunity. My thoughts are we are a family of 4 – two adults aged over 35 and two children under 5. There is nothing at this top part of town for us. The two Italian restaurants welcome us but the rest just isn’t for us or even aimed at us. I don’t know what to ask for – what would bring us there? An outdoor cafe/eating zone with fences & play things so kids can run around and play without ending up on the road? Some kind of adventure playground for kids of all ages? The pond should stay as part of some wildlife feature as they are so very important in terms of habitat – maybe more green – a sort of innercity oasis/ park area? However with the clubs and bars in this part of town I suspect the cost of keeping this area clean and safe after each and every friday and saturday night makes me wonder if this money should be spent there at all?

  3. 5 John Dowdle January 17, 2012 at 6:10 pm

    I meant to add that the bandstand should be located between The Pond and Rickmansworth Road. The train would run in both directions up and down the High Street, which would entail re-thinking vehicles being allowed to access the High Street from off the ring road going northwards up to Market Street. This could mean the whole of the town centre area becoming a pedestrian-only area, except when the train is not running, so that deliveries can be made to local businesses and residences.

  4. 6 Martin January 17, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    In a perfect world the underpass wouldn’t exist. It would have been lovely if the cars went under rather than the people. The whole space could have been opened up, right from the town hall down to past the pond. I’m a realist of course, and appreciate that to change this now would be way beyond budget.

    What do people think of the pond?
    I do always enjoy stopping there with my children to see the ducks, but I do think that the space would be better without it. We could have a very open square for use by restaurants, concerts, a real family space. Encourage current bars to drift further down the high street and create a cafe culture of family friendly restaurants & activities. Of course this would all have to be separated somehow from the busyness of Rickmansworth Road. And please get rid of that standalone urinal. I’m sure it gets used after-dark on a weekend, but if we’re thinking family friendly it really doesn’t fit.

  5. 7 AM January 18, 2012 at 10:02 am

    The pond must remain as there are no other natural areas in the town centre aside from a few trees.
    TJ Hughes should become a live music venue/arts centre.
    No more licences should be granted to chain bars/pubs/restaurants and favourable rates should be given to independently owned businesses who will actually have an interest in the area. There should also be favourable rates for daytime venues such as cafes rather than fast food places so the area has day time appeal too.

  6. 8 jamieparkins January 20, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    I emailed them the following – never heard anything back so sharing here instead

    1) what you think about the existing space;

    Not a great deal to be honest. Too many shops fronts closed, too many charity shops, too much litter swirling about and a pond that is far from attractive. The space looks old, tired and suffers from his distance from The Harlequin.

    The one positive reason to visit the area is to go to the Colosseum or Bodagas.

    2) what you like and not like about the space;

    There is little space to sit or take in any attractions that you may think of adding

    Too many bars. The council has successfully created a beehive for teenagers on Friday and Sat nights that make the area a no go one. Too many late licences and too much focus on teenage drinking rather than older, more mature drinking (the only nice bar remains Bodaga – albeit an expensive one).

    The outdoor drinking (seats etc) always look under used and messy rather than creating the cafe quater feel that I think is intended. Remove them and use the space more productively. We don’t have the weather for outdoor cafe culture. Don’t try and force it.

    3) what you would like to see.

    Close some of the bars. Drop rental rates and offer short term rent to interesting pop up shops/eateries to make use of vacant space

    Create more of an adult buzz for the area so that people talk about and that people want to go there

    Clean up the litter and the pond

    Add more greenery to the space

    Encourage more responsible adults to visit during the day and the night

  7. 9 Lorna Cunningham January 20, 2012 at 5:47 pm

    I very much agree with Jamie Parkins.I am optimisitc about the Colosseum re-launch and would like there to be a wider range of businesses. I am wary of venturing along this area on a Friday or Saturday eve when it is full of drunks.
    It is very sad that local residents can’t enter the front entrance of their impressive town hall, but have to sidle around the back like some sort of “supplicant”.
    The pond is a nice idea and it’s great to see ducks, but it needs a lot of maintenance. A covered zone might be good to eat in when the weather is cold or wet…

  8. 10 Myrtle and Walter January 22, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    An oasis of peace and beauty would greatly enhance our town centre, so
    we would like to see a formal garden area with the pond greatly reduced.
    (we have plenty of natural countryside and wildlife in the nearby Cassiobury Park.)
    Some of the many empty shops could be cafes, encouraged to extend into the garden area. The bandstand could be put there for concerts as it might go walking from the park.
    Knowing our weather, Having it partially glazed over would make it more suitable for all year use. The Eden idea is great.
    Only problem —would it be respected by some of our night-life ??

  9. 11 Richard Ahrens February 8, 2012 at 11:48 pm

    For some reason that I don’t understand there is another set of comments on the same subject. Go to the top of this page and click on ‘Feedback’ to see them.

  10. 12 Paul Jackson February 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    I agree with all of AM’s points (January 18th). I think the pond must be kept but returned to a more natural state. Probably many people don’t realise that it is a natural pond and has been a feature of Watford for at least a couple of hundred years. Watford has lost so many of its historic features over the years – we don’t have many left.

    Get rid of the pigeons and fine the idiots who feed them – a lot of the public seating is covered in pigeon mess.

    Does the council own the old Clements/T.J.Hughes building? If so, then it could be used as an arts/craft/music centre and cheap space for start-up businesses.

    More public art would be good and more seating.

    I think the council has put a cap on alcohol licences at this end of town – it’s a shame some of the existing bars can’t be closed down. I’m not against drinking but they add little or nothing to the daytime experience and contribute to late-night problems.

    I think the bandstand would be better used if it was by the pond.

    Let’s have more street art like the excellent Imagine Watford last year. There were some very good acts – the only problem was that although an excellent printed programme was produced, the whole event didn’t seem to be very well publicised, and this is something the council has been bad at for many years. Walk down the High Street and you wouldn’t know there was a covered market tucked at the back of Charter Place, or that as of this month, there are several new, different stalls popping up in the market, including arts, crafts, food, bric-a-brac, etc. The council definitely needs to improve its marketing department (no pun intended).

    It would be lovely to get rid of the hideous flyover, which definitely acts as a psychological barrier preventing people moving up to The Parade – I suppose the £4million-plus assigned to tarting up the Parade wouldn’t be enough to demolish the flyover – if it was, that would be the biggest improvement that could be made.

  11. 13 John Dowdle February 9, 2012 at 5:54 pm

    Paul: I agree with your comments above. Watford Council does not own the former Clements building, though I agree with your proposed uses for the building. The Council might be able to buy the building but that would involve a very large capital outlay and the building (which is listed) would require very costly upkeep expenditure – which, in turn, means that it would require a large amount of regular revenue income to sustain the building.
    The Imagine Watford project is run by Watford Palace Theatre and will be running again this year from 18th June to (I think) 7th July; I believe they have secured funding for a further year’s project in 2013. Check their web site http://www.imaginewatford.co.uk/ to see if there are details for 2012.
    I am co-ordinating the Watford Live! 2012 Community Fair on 2nd of June in Charter Place. If you would like to see further details of the Fair and the Festival please visit http://www.watfordlive.org.
    It seems there is an emerging consenus for retaining the pond and for moving the bandstand to the area between the pond and Rickmansworth Road so that concerts can be put on by the pond – Concerts By The Pond?
    The overall idea of putting the Rickmansworth Road underground so that there can be a continuous line of walk between the Lower High Street and Hempstead Road – combined with the removal of the flyover – is a really good one but it would be very complex to plan and construct, as well as hugely expensive. Removal of the flyover would require the installation of a set of traffic lights at the Upton Road/Cassio Road junction, in order to permit traffic coming off the cul-de-sac end of Exchange Road to turn down Upton Road and then turn right to go to either to Rickmansworth Road East/South or Rickmansorth Road West/North – if you know what I mean ? !!
    Perhaps another possibility would be to have a road ramp over the Town Hall roundabout between St Albans Road and Rosslyn Road? There would still be localised traffic (running round from Albert Road South/Beechen Grove and Hempstead Road) but the road traffic volume would be considerably lower and it might then be possible to have a street-level pedestrian crossing to link the end of The Parade with the walk-through section by the side of the Town Hall, Horns and Library up to the Leisure Centre and West Herts College?
    Can someone let us know when this consultation exercise ends, and when and where any proposals resulting from it will be put on display?

  12. 14 Mark Scruton March 31, 2012 at 1:44 pm

    The pond should definitely be kept and cleaned up. It should be made more integral to the area. For instance, a pavilion & performance area that jetties out over the water or maybe a bridge half way along to link the two sides together more.
    Certainly the seamier bars and clubs should be encouraged to improve there image if they can’t be removed altogether. The period buildings should be made more of. Maybe a financial incentive should be offered to shops to make there signage more appropriate to the buildings (I’m thinking of the kebab shops etc.) More planting & greenery to give the area a less baron feel. What ever is done to the area it shouldn’t be too “faddy” that will look dated & tired in a few years time. 4.3m does not buy much these days it shouldn’t be wasted.

  13. 15 Helen Burtt June 5, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    The illustrations in the paper seem to vastly exaggerate the actual amount of space available.

    I have enjoyed the formal permission to cycle the length of the high street that the cycle path has afforded and would be loth to see it go, as it will once again cause argument if pedestrians do not recognise the right of cyclists.

    Steps leading to the waters edge invites the people into the water itself, if that is not the purpose then something needs to delineate that. This needs to be a very clear delineation during the evening/night when those addled by alcohol occupy the area, otherwise the pond will just become a receptacle for the detritus of the evening occupiers.

    All the seating seems to be directly on the concrete, which is much colder than the benches presently available and will not appeal to older people so much, which will be a shame as at present the benches are quite well used.

    The pond is not a ‘water feature’, it has historic connections to the town as the place where live stock were watered on the way to sale in the high street, and as such is one of the few historic locations left in Watford.

    I personally have new memories of that part of the town as the location of the 2011 live events and already you are messing with these memories by proposing changes to the location. It seemed to function very well during that time, the sculpture located at the top of the pond integrated into the performance of one of the groups.

    • 16 trt1968 June 9, 2012 at 12:12 pm

      They got rid of the “double step” outside Charter Place, which was a common feature in towns with cattle markets, as it dissuaded cattle from straying from the road and protected pedestrians from the, erm, “leavings” of the animals. They don’t care about heritage, it seems.

  14. 17 trt1968 June 9, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    Hm. Where’s the History page? How long ago was it that this area was last tackled? I’ve lived in Watford for just over 20 years now, and I’ve seen the high street remodelled twice at least, more if you count the Harlequin, Charter Place etc. as well as the smaller changes.
    Are lessons never learned here? There were fountains in Charter Place, removed due to safety concerns, then some were built outside McDonalds, which were removed 2 years later because of foamers and excessive maintenance as well as safety concerns (there were gaps in between the “Scrabble Stones” where a child caught her foot, IIRC) and turned into seating.
    Then there was the invisible cycle path which meant posts going up everywhere and white painted symbols along the path. The water pumps that were outside the old Co-op building? Vandalised and abused, now removed. The raised planters? Modified due to damage by skateboarders. The restricted access to the roads by way of rising bollards? Bollard broken within 6 months and signage ignored by motorists – not enforced by patrol.

    Pointless, pointless, pointless. Leave it as it is.

  15. 18 Phil June 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    It all seems pretty useless and a waste of money.

    Whilst there are clubs and pubs turning out violent drunks into Watford of an evening you could pave the streets with gold (it may even be a cheaper option?) and still good people wouldn’t go there.

    The reason there are cafe quarters abroad are because they have better weather and do not have the drunks problem we have in this country.

    Therefore all talk of attracting people after shopping hours is fruitless.

    I would say save the money and use it more wisely somewhere else. The Parade is blighted and currently beyond any meaningful redemption.

    Also, the proposed scheme is very poor value for money. I read it included a bridge across the pond – what’s that all about?

  16. 19 Jimeva June 19, 2012 at 10:54 am

    What nobody has mentioned so far is the necessity to have a noise barrier at the Rickmansworth Road end. No one wants to hang around there at present unless they actually like traffic fumes and noise.

    And what has happened to the cycle track? Is it to remain? It has been one of the most welcome parts of the oft-updated High Street, but it definitely needs to be better demarcated from the pedestrian areas. (And don’t all you pedestrians, most of whom arrived by car, ever forget that for every cyclist there is probably one less motorist!)

  17. 20 Peter Hutchinson June 20, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    The Parade area is already the most pleasant part of Watford High Street. It received a lot of funding in the not too distant past resulting in the current arrangement and is seems wasteful to spend a whole load more money on it. The main thing required is to replace the horrible gungy green water in the pond with clean water and to have an bold, exuberant gushing fountain to reflect how we would like to think of the town in general. So what if people choose to jump in the pond or get a soaking under the fountain? Many towns in mainland Europe have gushing fountains and it would be a sad reflection on the intelligence of our population if such a fountain cannot be allowed for ‘health and safety reasons’ or because people cannot be trusted to not interfere with it.

    If the council have money to spend it would be much more usefully spent on the other end of the high street between the Harlequin and Market Street. A vast improvement would be to make it properly pedestrianised by getting rid of most of the traffic. A good start would be to implement measures to enforce the existing restrictions on vehicular access which generally seem to be blatently ignored. Perhaps money could be usefully spent on installing a rising bollard at the entry point which can only be lowered by means of a swipe card. Swipe cards are only issued where there is an essential need for access. Towns such a Cambridge have implemented such a scheme with great success. The same scheme would also be applied to the now defunct rising bollard next to Yates in Albert Road South. Money spent on this practical exedient would be far more useful than another shuffle-round of the bricks, blocks and concrete in The Parade.

  18. 21 Rodney June 21, 2012 at 10:22 am

    When the Liberal Democrats took control of Watford Borough Council, one of the first things they did was to rip up about two acres of boring, sterile looking tarmac, laid in The Parade area by the previous Labour administration. This was a good thing to do, and it seems to me that that the variegated paving is wearing well and is still more attractive than the surface it replaced—-leave it alone!

    Speaking as both a cyclist AND a pedestrian, do not remove the delineated cycle route. Instead, it should be more clearly marked in order to prevent pedestrians straying into the path of cyclists, who at present, generally speaking, stick to their marked route. If the cycle route is removed, but no prohibition is placed on cyclists travelling through The Parade, cyclists will, of necessity, slalom through the pedestrians like white water canoeists! A dangerously bad situation!!

    Remove the publicity pictures from the wall of the subway, alongside the designated cycle track. These pictures encourage pedestrians to stand in the cycle track, to the detriment of their own safety and that of cyclists going about their lawful occasions.

    Find some way of filling the empty properties in The Parade and Pond areas–‘The Artichoke’ has stood empty for longer than I care to remember and even the Polish grocery has shut up shop long since.

    Clean out the pond and keep it clean. At the present time, it is a disgusting colour and has every appearance of being a serious health hazard–perhaps it is! Do not under any circumstances build a bridge over it; at no time have I ever felt the need to cross the pond in this fashion and I don’t think you could find anyone in Watford who has. Building a bridge equals wasting money.

    And finally, but still on the subject of money; in these days of austerity and straitened financial circumstances—-from where is the £4,000,000 cost to be found please?

    • 22 andrewh3@hotmail.co.uk October 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      All the tarmac friom the parade was removed in 1999 – 3 years before the Liberal Democrats gained control of the council with the election of the Mayor. The previous Tarmac design was agreed in 1973 when the Conservatives ran the council and built the town hall underpass, that closed off the Parade, and the Exchange road flyover (the same Conservative 1970’s scheme saw the demolition of the park gates with the widening of Rickmansworth road).

      • 23 trt1968 October 2, 2012 at 2:05 pm

        Talking about money… wasn’t one of the first things Dorothy did arrange for a team of gum busters to removed all the chewing gum from the streets? Does this team still operate?

  19. 24 Masteryates June 23, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Whilst there seems to be nothing but negativity here regarding upper town and the pond, I think its a really nice space currently. How many other town centers are so distinctive? (Even used by the BBC.) The council do a great job of cleaning up after the Friday & Saturday nights.

    The proposals from BDP look cramped and a bit too like the 70’s in which Watford largely escaped unlike other town centers. They also look costly to build & maintain. Why not take 25% of the money to clean up the pond and use the rest for more important things like Schools, Hospitals, Police etc.

  20. 25 Jill Cox June 25, 2012 at 9:04 am

    Peter Hutchinson should be Mayor!! He makes a damn sight more sense and would probably spend less money to do the things that require to be done!!

  21. 26 john whatling June 26, 2012 at 10:50 am

    I appreciate that this project is full of good intentions but will this part of town ever be used as a family area in the evening when all the clubs are open and for about two weeks of sun during the day which is our summer?We are stuck with the clubs (you can’t just revoke their licences).I,therefore think that this money would be better spent from the flyover down to the High Street station.This makes a lot of sense given the future developments of Charter Place and the Croxley rail link.That part of the High Street could be provided with some cover to extend the shopping experience from the Harlequin to that part of the High Street.Family friendly cafes and restaurants should be encouraged here NOT bars.By deliberately seperating the club culture from the family area it would be easier to police and would ultimately encourage families into town.If the investment in the pond area means we will get a four star Charter Place instead of a five star one which the town needs,I know which one I would choose.Finally,the development I have suggested is more likely to attract another large departmental store desperately needed to increase the footfall in the town and protect the businesses already there.

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