Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, has written to the MP for Watford, Dean Russell, to express disappointment and frustration at the MP’s apparent lack of concern for the interests of his residents. This follows a letter sent from the MP to all councillors less than 2 hours prior to a Full Council meeting where councillors were asked to vote on the final submission of the borough’s Local Plan to be sent to the Planning Inspectorate.
The letter sparked outrage among councillors from both parties present, with heavy criticism of the MP for waiting to raise concerns on the issue until such a late stage of the process.
Watford Council have been working on the current iteration of the local plan for the last 7 years after a change to housing targets set by government in 2017 tripled Watford’s target and forced the council to return to the drawing board on the plan.
Elected Mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor, said “I fail to see why Mr Russell has not shared with us his concerns about the plan and risk of overdevelopment of Watford before this week. I have been campaigning on the arbitrary planning regulations and unrealistic targets since becoming Mayor in 2018 and have made my position clear. So to receive the letter we did from Mr Russell on Monday evening was a huge insult to all those who have worked tirelessly on this for the last 7 years.
“The claims made by Mr Russell within the letter are disingenuous. He knows, as well as we do, that if the council did not account for the government’s housing target within the local plan we would be penalised. We have seen this happen to all other councils who have tried to circumvent the targets. We have already been punished by the government who believe we should have built twice as many new homes over the last three years.
“The facts speak for themselves. The Conservatives have tripled our housing target, attacked us for not building enough and taken away local decision-making powers to punish us for this. The Conservative MP for Watford has now suggested that his government's own housing targets can somehow be ignored. Councils up and down the country have had their Local Plans rejected by the government because they do not meet their housing targets. Why won't he just say that Watford's target is too high and make the case effectively to ministers for it to be cut?
“Having a local plan which delivers on the targets set by the government, ensures we can retain some control over where development occurs and in what form. In the future, I suggest Mr Russell gets his act together and raises his concerns earlier if he really cares about what happens in our town.”
- Full letter sent to Dean Russell MP here.